Article image
13 Lovely Lines From E.E. Cummings’ Poetry

Edward Estlin Cummings, better known as E.E. Cummings, was a standout American poet of the 20th century who is remembered for his inventive use of language and poetic form. He often wrote of love, nature, and the importance of individuality, while playing with syntax, punctuation, and word arrangement. At times, Cummings used verbs as nouns or invented new terms by combining words. While his avant-garde work was not consistently well-received during his lifetime, he was eventually widely read and recognized as a gifted and eloquent wordsmith.

Cummings decided to become a writer during his childhood, and between the ages of eight and 22 he wrote a poem every day. He practiced traditional poetic forms while also experimenting with the more organic and unique poetry that would become his trademark. A pacifist, he volunteered with an ambulance service during the First World War. He wound up imprisoned in a French internment camp, and the experience inspired his first book, The Enormous Room, in 1922. His first poetry book, Tulips and Chimneys, was published in 1923, followed by several other volumes of poetry. As his works were more widely read, Cummings was recognized as a poignant and inventive writer, and received critical acclaim.

In the 1950s, Cummings gave a series of what he called “nonlectures” on his life and work at his alma mater, Harvard University. In these talks, he upheld the centrality of love and artistic freedom. He stated, “So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be, strictly and distinctly, a question of individuality.” These 13 lines of poetry give us a glimpse of his poetic precision, passion, and imagination.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in. my heart)

completely dare / be beautiful

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing / than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.

the axis of the universe –love

trust your heart / if the seas catch first / (and live by love / though the stars walk backward)

twice i have lived forever in a smile

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

The whole truth… sings only —and all lovers are the song

love is a deeper season / than reason

'since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you

on forever's very now we stand

Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear

lovers alone wear sunlight

Photo credit: MixPix / Alamy Stock Photo

Author image
About the Author
Julia Travers
Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
What poet wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"?

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

separator icon
Mary Oliver
motivation theme icon

Champions keep playing until they get it right.

separator icon
Billie Jean King
hope theme icon

Nothing is inherently and invincibly young except spirit.

separator icon
George Santayana
love theme icon

If the risk is fully aligned with your purpose and mission, then it’s worth considering.

separator icon
Peter Diamandis
wisdom theme icon

We need men who can dream of things that never were.

separator icon
John F. Kennedy
happiness theme icon

Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

separator icon
Henry Miller
motivation theme icon

Success is the process itself.

separator icon
Matt Damon
hope theme icon

Fashion goes in only one direction — forward — and I am a firm believer in thinking that way too.

separator icon
Anna Wintour
love theme icon

Write relentlessly, until you find your voice. Then, use it.

separator icon
David Sedaris
wisdom theme icon

What you think about day and night forms your character and personality.

separator icon
Masami Saionji
happiness theme icon

I'm doing many different things to prepare for the inevitable failure of one of them.

separator icon
Jesse Eisenberg