Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 257

“i was sitting in mcsorley’s” appeared in cummings’s first collection of poetry, Tulips & Chimneys, published in 1923. Cummings initially put together a collection of his poems in 1919 but had no success in finding a publisher. In 1922, after Cummings had revised the contents of the collection, his friend, writer John Dos Passos, convinced Liverlight publisher Thomas Meltzer to publish the book. The book that appeared contained only sixtysix of the original 152 poems in the manuscript.

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Its critical reception was mixed. Reviewing the collection for New York World, Robert E. Wolf writes: “It is extraordinarily good . . . it contains, in its own individual style, as beautiful poems as have been written by any present-day poet in the English language.” Herbert Gorman of the New York Times Book Review is not as effusive, claiming that “Cummings is immensely derivative in a large part of his work,” although “often he reaches a high and concentrated pitch of emotion that even his mannerisms cannot hide.” Poetry founder Harriet Monroe writes that cummings’s typography is “irritating” but that “there is a grand gusto in him, and that is rare enough to be welcomed in any age of a world too full of puling pettifoggers and picayunes.” Praising the book’s musicality and penchant for image-making, James Oppenheim says that cummings’s poems “fill out the picture started by the prose. Open Tulips & Chimneys at any page, and somewhere upon that page there will be traces, oftentimes thrilling ones, of an inner musical state playing exuberantly with the materials of life.”

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Essays and Criticism