Enormous Smallness

Longlisted for the Poetry Category of the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award

Book Title: Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Author: Matthew Burgess

Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

ISBN: 9781592701711

‘It takes courage to grow up to become who you really are’

‘Enormous Smallness’ is the poetic story of the life of Edward Estlin Cummings, one of America’s best loved poets. It charts the course of E. E. Cummings’ life from his childhood to later life as poet. As a child, E. E. grew up surrounded by a supportive family who nurtured his circus of an imagination. At an early age, he showed a gift for language and words and this was encouraged by teachers at school too.

Cummings studied language and the rules of poetry at university and at the end of his time there was inspired to courageously find his own voice. He broke all the rules he had been taught and developed a style all of his own where he played with punctuation, removed capital letters and made words dance across the page.

Some said his poetry was ‘too strange’, others ‘too small’ and some said it was ‘no good at all’. However, E. E. continued to write his inspired poems, which many found new and insightful and reflected the impressionistic arts movement of the time period.

This beautiful book presents the story of Cummings’ life alongside beautiful decoupaged illustrations and the poet’s own work. An insightful and inspiring look at the life and work of a beloved poet who painted with words.

‘who are you, little I

(five or six years old)

peering from some high

window; at the gold

of november sunset

(and feeling: that if day

has to become night

this is a beautiful way)’

This beautiful book of poems would be an excellent text to use in the classroom. Children might be inspired to look at nature and develop their own poems. They could play with the words and punctuation of their poems in the same way E. E. Cummings did. One needs to know the rules of punctuation, before they can be broken; writing a poem in Cummings’ style would help reinforce SPaG.

Children could research the lives of other modern English poets - Roger McGough, Brian Moses and Benjamin Zephaniah- and write their own stories about what inspired these poets as children and adults and create time lines, similar to the one found at the back of the book.

Readers could use the poems in the book as a model for their own work, in particular, ‘Who are you, little I’. They could explore the language used by Cummings and the power of using the right words- one word can say so much.