E. E. Cummings

From Quotes
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge—that myth is more potent than history. I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts—That hope always triumphs over experience—That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.
Robert Fulghum
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E. E. Cummings, self-portrait (c. 1920) Poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality....poetry is being, not doing....if poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities . . .

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-10-141962-09-03) was a noted American poet. Because of the typography used in many of his works it has become a widespread tradition for his name to be presented in lower case as e. e. cummings, though he himself continued to use uppercase letters in signing his own name.


The typography of some of these quotes may seem incorrect: it probably isn't. Outside of some bolding for emphasis of well noted or notable statements, and a few marks of ellipsis "…" for gaps, the author's often odd original typograpy has been retained, so much as possible, in many of the quotes.

  • Writing...is an art; and artists...are human beings. As a human being stands, so a human being is....
    • The Enormous Room (1922)
  • All in green went my love riding
    on a great horse of gold
    into the silver dawn.
    • Tulips and Chimneys (1923) IV
  • it's spring when the world is puddle-wonderful
    • Tulips and Chimneys (1923) in Just-
  • So, ungentle reader, (as you and I value what we should ashamed—after witnessing a few minor circus-marvels—to call our "lives,") let us never be fooled into taking seriously that perfectly superficial distinction which is vulgarly drawn between the circus-show and "art" or "the arts." Let us not forget that every authentic "work of art" is in and of itself alive and that, however "the arts" may differ among themselves, their common function is the expression of that supreme alive-ness which is known as "beauty." This being so, our three ring circus is art—for to contend that the spectacle in question is not an authentic manifestation of "beauty" is as childish, as to dismiss the circus on the ground that it is "childish," is idiotic.
    • "The Adult, the Artist and the Circus." Vanity Fair (October 1925)
  • somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
    any experience, your eyes have their silence.
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near

    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you always open petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

    nothing that we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:

    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens;only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
    nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
    • W [ViVa] (1931) LVII
  • My theory of technique, if I have one, is very far from original; nor is it complicated. I can express it in fifteen words, by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer of burlesk, viz. "Would you hit a woman with a child?— No, I'd hit her with a brick." Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of that precision which creates movement.
    • EIMI (1933)
  • I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
    than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.
    • Collected Poems (1938) New Poems 22
  • Art is a mystery.
    A mystery is something immeasurable.
    In so far as every child and woman and man may be immeasurable, art is the mystery of every man and woman and child. In so far as a human being is an artist, skies and mountains and oceans and thunderbolts and butterflies are immeasurable; and art is every mystery of nature.
    Nothing measurable can be alive; nothing which is not alive can be art; nothing which cannot be art is true: and everything untrue doesn’t matter a very good God damn...
    • "Foreword to an Exhibit: I" (1944)
  • Why do you paint?
    For exactly the same reason I breathe.
    That’s not an answer.
    There isn’t any answer.
    How long hasn’t there been any answer?
    As long as I can remember.
    And how long have you written?
    As long as I can remember.
    I mean poetry.
    So do I.
    • "Forward to an Exhibit: II" (1945)
  • Your poems are rather hard to understand, whereas your paintings are so easy.
    Of course—you paint flowers and girls and sunsets; things that everybody understands.
    I never met him.
    Did you ever hear of nonrepresentational painting?
    I am.
    Pardon me?
    I am a painter, and painting is nonrepresentational.
    Not all painting.
    No: housepainting is representational.
    And what does a housepainter represent?
    Ten dollars an hour.
    In other words, you don’t want to be serious—
    It takes two to be serious.
    • "Forward to an Exhibit: II" (1945)

is 5 (1926)

  • There are certain things in which one is unable to believe for the simple reason that he never ceases to feel them. Things of this sort— things which are always inside of us and in fact are us and which consequently will not be pushed off or away where we can begin thinking about them— are no longer things; they, and the us which they are, equals A Verb; an IS.
    • Foreword
  • a man who had fallen among thieves
    lay by the roadside on his back
    dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
    wearing a round jeer for a hat
    • One XXVIII
  • wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world

    my blood approves,
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    • Four VII
  • life's not a paragraph
    And death i think is no parenthesis
    • Four VII

Him (1927)

  • Here life is, moves; faintly. A wrist. The faint throb of blood, precise, miraculous . . . And they talk of dying! The blood delicately descending and ascending: making an arm. Being an arm. The warm flesh, the dim slender flesh filled with life, slenderer than a miracle, frailer . . . These are the shoulders through which fell the world. The dangerous shoulders of Eve, in god's entire garden newly strolling.
  • A distinct throat. Which breathes. A head: small, smaller than a flower. With eyes and with lips. Lips more slender than light; a smile how carefully and slowly made, a smile made entirely of dream. Eyes deeper than Spring. Eyes darker than Spring, more new . . . These, these are the further miracles . . . the breasts. Thighs. The All which is beyond comprehension — the All which is perpetually discovered, yet undiscovered: sexual, sweet, Alive!
  • It may take two people to make a really beautiful mistake

50 Poems (1940)

  • ye!the godless are the dull and the dull are the damned
    • 13
  • Women and men (both little and small)
    cared for anyone not at all
    they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
    sun moon stars rain…
    all by all and deep by deep
    and more by more they dream their sleep
    • 29
  • my father moved through dooms of love
    through sames of am through haves of give
    singing each morning out of each night
    my father moved through depths of height
    • 34
  • and nothing quite so least as truth
    —i say though hate were why men breathe—
    because my father lived his soul
    love is the whole and more than all
    • 34
  • love is the every only god
    • 38
  • love is more thicker than forget
    …it is more sane and sunly
    and more it cannot die
    than all the sky which only
    is higher than the sky
    • 42
  • measureless our pure living complete love
    whose doom is beauty and its fate to grow
    • 50
  • on forever's very now we stand
    • 50

1 x 1 (1944)

also known as One Times One

  • a politician is an arse upon
    which everyone has sat except a man
    • X
  • —when skies are hanged and oceans drowned, the single secret will still be man
    • XX
  • what if a dawn of a doom of a dream
    bites this universe in two,
    peels forever out of it's grave
    and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?
    • XX
  • no sunbeam ever lies
    • XXX
  • true wars are never won
    • XXX
  • 'and liars kill their kind
    but' her,my 'love creates love only' our
    • XXXII
  • nothing false and possible is love
    (who's imagined, therefore limitless)
    love's to giving as to keeping's give; as yes is to if, love is to yes
    • XXXIV
  • true lovers in each happening of their hearts
    live longer than all which and every who;
    • XXXVI
  • yes is a pleasant country…
    love is a deeper season
    than reason
  • —tommorow is our permanent address
    and there they'll scarcely find us(if they do,
    we'll move away still further:into now
    • XXXIX
  • nothing except the impossible shall occur
    • XLII

A Foreword to Krazy (1946)

First published as the Foreword to a collection of Krazy Kat comic strips (1946), later published in A Miscellany Revised (1965)

  • What concerns me fundamentaly is a meteoric burlesk melodrama, born of the immemorial adage love will find a way.
  • A humbly poetic, gently clownlike, supremely innocent, and illimitably affectionate creature (slightly resembling a child's drawing of a cat, but gifted with the secret grace and obvious clumsiness of a penguin on terra firma) who is never so happy as when egoist-mouse, thwarting altruist-dog, hits her in the head with a brick. Dog hates mouse and worships "cat", mouse despises "cat" and hates dog, "cat" hates no one and loves mouse.
  • If you're a twofisted, spineless progressive (a mighty fashionable stance nowadays) Offissa Pupp, who forcefully asserts the will of socalled society, becomes a cosmic angel; while Ignatz Mouse, who forcefully defies society's socalled will by asserting his authentic own, becomes a demon of anarchy and a fiend of chaos. But if — whisper it — you're a 100% hidebound reactionary, the foot's in the other shoe. Ignatz Mouse then stands forth as a hero, pluckily struggling to keep the flag of free will flying; while Offissa Pupp assumes the monstrous mien of a Goliath, satanically bullying a tiny but indomitable David. Well, let's flip the coin — so: and lo! Offissa Pupp comes up. That makes Ignatz Mouse "tails." Now we have a hero whose heart has gone to his head and a villain whose head has gone to his heart.
  • This hero and villain no more understand Krazy Kat than the mythical denizens of a two dimensional realm understand some three dimensional intruder. The world of Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mouse is a knowledgeable power-world, in terms of which our unknowledgeable heroine is powerlessness personified. The sensical law of this world is might makes right; the nonsensical law of our heroine is love conquers all. To put the oak in the acorn: Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Puppers all. To put the oak in the acorn: Ignatz Mouse and Offissa Pupp (each completely convinced that his own particular brand of might makes right) are simple-minded — Krazy isn't — therefore, to Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mouse, Krazy is. But if both our hero and our villain don't and can't understand our heroine, each of them can and each of them does misunderstand her differently. To our softhearted altruist, she is the adorably helpless incarnation of saintliness. To our hardhearted egoist, she is the puzzlingly indestructible embodiment of idiocy. The benevolent overdog sees her as an inspired weakling. The malevolent undermouse views her as a born target. Meanwhile Krazy Kat, through this double misunderstanding, fulfills her joyous destiny.

XAIPE (1950)

  • out of the mountain of his soul
    comes a keen pure silence
    • 19
  • blossoming are people…
    all the earth has turned to sky
    …and i am you are i am we
    • 32
  • i feel that(false and true are merely to know)
    Love only has ever been,is,and will ever be,So
    • 33
  • i thank You God for most this amazing
    day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
    and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
    which is natural which is infinite which is yes
  • i who have died am alive again today,
    and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
    day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
    great happening illimitably earth
    • 65
  • how should tasting touching hearing seeing
    breathing any — lifted from the no
    of all nothing — human merely being
    doubt unimaginable You?
    • 65
  • now the ears of my ears awake and
    now the eyes of my eyes are opened
    • 65
  • —the great my darling happens to be
    that love are in we, that love are in we
    • 66
  • completely dare
    be beautiful
    • 68
  • more each particular person is(my love)
    alive than every world can understand
    and now you are and i am now and we're
    a mystery that will never happen again, a miracle which has never happened before—
    and shining this our now must come to then
    • 69

i : six nonlectures (1953)

  • poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality....poetry is being, not doing....if poetry is your goal, you've got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about selfstyled obligations and duties and responsibilities . . .
    • "i & their son: Nonlecture Two"
  • The one...thing which mattered about any poem (so ran my second poetic period's credo) was what the poem said; it's socalled meaning.... Thus it will be seen that, by the year 1900, one growing American boy had reached exactly that stage of "intellectual development" beyond which every ungrowing Marxist adult of today is strictly forbidden...ever to pass.
    • "i & you & is: Nonlecture Four"
  • concerning this selfstyled world's greatest and most generous literary figure: who had just arrived in our nation's capitol, attired in half a GI uniform and ready to be hanged as a traitor by the only country which ever made even a pretense of fighting for freedom of speech
    Re Ezra Pound — poetry happens to be an art;and artists happen to be human beings.
    • Re Ezra Pound (p. 69)
  • An artist doesn't live in some geographical abstraction,superimposed on a part of this beautiful earth by the nonimagination of unanimals and dedicated to the proposition that massacre is a social virtue because murder is an individual vice. Nor does an artist live in some soi-disant world,nor does he live in some so-called universe,nor does he live in any number of "worlds" or in any number of "universes." As for a few trifling delusions like the "past" and "present" and "future" of quote mankind unquote,they may be big enough for a couple of billion supermechanized submorons but they're much too small for one human being.
    • Re Ezra Pound (p. 69)
  • Every artist's strictly illimitable country is himself.
    An artist who plays that country false has committed suicide;and even a good lawyer cannot kill the dead. But a human being who's true to himself — whoever himself may be — is immortal;and all the atomic bombs of all the antiartists in spacetime will never civilize immortality.
    • Re Ezra Pound (p. 69)

95 poems (1958)

  • the courage to receive time's mightiest dream
    • 3
  • no evil is
    so worse than worst you fall in hate with love

    —human one mortally immortal i
    can turn immense all time's because to why
    • 7
  • though mankind persuades
    itself that every weed's
    a rose,roses(you feel
    certain) will only smile
    • 72
  • seeming's enough for slaves of space and time
    —ours is the now and here of freedom. Come
    • 73
  • Time's a strange fellow;
    more he gives than takes
    (and he takes all)
    • 78
  • a million thousand hundred nothings seem
    —we are himself's own self;his very him
    • 84
  • exists no miracle mightier than this:to feel
    • 89
  • dreamtree,truthtree tree of jubilee:with aeons of (trivial merely)existence,all when may not measure a now of your treasure
    • 90
  • each ignorant gladness —unteaches what despair preaches
    • 90
  • unlove's the heavenless hell and the homeless home
    • 91
  • lovers alone wear sunlight
    • 91
  • The whole truth…
    sings only —and all lovers are the song
    • 91
  • it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you
    • 92

A Poet's Advice (1958)

"A Poet's Advice to Students" in E. E. Cummings, a Miscellany: A Miscellany (1958), edited by George James Firmage, p. 13
  • Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel
    the moment you feel, you're nobody-but-yourself.
    To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else— means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
  • nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time —and whenever we do it, we are not poets.
  • my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world —unless you're not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.
    Does this sound dismal? It isn't.
    It's the most wonderful life on earth.
    Or so I feel.
—E. E. Cummings

73 poems (1963)

  • follow no path
    all paths lead where

    truth is here
    • 3
  • it's love by whom (my beautiful friend) the gift to live is without until:
    …love was and shall be this only truth (a dream of a deed, born not to die)
    • 4
  • it's so damn sweet when Anybody—
    …makes you feel
    …for once
    -ine) You
    • 7
  • because it's


    dare to do people
    • 10
  • a great

    Tall as the truth was who; and
    wore his
    … life
    like a …
    • 14
  • they flock and they flee through the thunder of seem
    though the stars in their silence
    say Be.
    • 29
  • the cunning the craven
    … they live for until
    though the sun in his heaven
    says Now
    • 29
  • they work and they pray
    and they bow to a must
    though the earth in her splendor
    says May
    • 29
  • without any doubt he was
    whatever(first and last)

    most people fear most:
    a mystery for which iv'e
    no word except alive
    • 30
  • Mostpeople have been heard
    screaming for international
    measures that render hell rational

    —i thank heaven somebody's crazy
    enough to give me a daisy
    • 30
  • we sans love equals mob
    • 31
  • unbeingdead isn't beingalive
    • 31
  • all which isn't singing is mere talking

    and all talking's to oneself alone
    but the very song of(as mountains
    feel and lovers)singing is silence
    • 32
  • hugest whole creation may be less
    incalculable than a single kiss
    • 37
  • now I lay me down to dream of(nothing
    i or any somebody or you
    can begin to begin to imagine) something which nobody may keep.
    • 44
  • the axis of the universe
    • 73


  • The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
  • a salesman is an it that stinks [part of a title of one of his poems, published in 1944)
  • Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
  • Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star... [from "being to timelessness as it's to time," published 1958]
  • I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.
  • Humanity I love you because when you're hard up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink.
  • America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn't standing still.
  • It takes three to make a child.
  • At least the Pilgrim Fathers used to shoot Indians: the Pilgrim Children merely punch time clocks.
  • When god decided to invent everything he took one reath bigger than a circustent and everything began.
  • It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
  • may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as the world and as big as alone

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea

    • Maggie and Millie and Molly and May

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