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Poet E. E. Cummings, who famously avoided uppercase letters in his writings, declared that "poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality." Believing that poetry was visual as well as verbal, Cummings defied rules of punctuation, capitalization, and arrangement of words on the page in his poems of the 1920s and 1930s, offering a new literary experience for Americans. For some, he demonstrated the rich possibilities for self-expression; others he left feeling uncomfortable and annoyed. In either case, his radicalism made an indelible mark on twentieth-century letters and, in the words of one critic, extended "the capabilities of poetry" well beyond its traditional limits. As this self-portrait indicates, Cummings was also a competent painter. After serving in World War I, he studied painting in Paris and exhibited his work in New York.
(Gotham Book Mart and Gallery, Inc., New York); purchased 1973 NPG