Then he saw the Armory Show, the groundbreaking 1913 exhibition of painting and sculpture that brought abstract art, and especially Cubism, to the public's attention. Innovation in one artistic field influences trends in others, so while Picasso and Duchamp were experimenting on canvas, Stravinsky was composing The Rite of Spring and Stein was applying the ideas of abstraction to literature with mixed success.
Exposure to modernism opened a world for Cummings and set him on the path of innovation, yet throughout his career he drew on his traditional background. For example, when writing his prose work The Enormous Room, which chronicles his experiences in a French prison during World War I, he chose as his model The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan's seventeenth-century Christian allegory. Later in his career, he found the title of his book on the Soviet Union, Eimi (promounced A-mee, and meaning "I am"), in classical Greek. He also continued to write in established verse forms. (The poem that begins, "the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished soul"s is a sonnet--check it out.) In fact, traditional cadences and rhymes are often a signal that Cummings is about to deliver a powerful emotional punch.
Cummings loved the poetry of John Keats, the great English Romantic who died in 1821, on the brink of life. Keats's ringing vowels inspired Cummings to write lines such as "mOOn Over tOwns mOOn." And it was in one of Keats's letters that Cummings found what might be termed his world view, at least as it pertains to his writing. Keats wrote, "I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's affections, and the truth of the Imagination." When Cummings read these words, "an unknown and unknowable bird began singing," he said. For Cummings, "the holiness of the Heart's affections" translated to the need to follow his heart, particularly as an artist. It meant believing that if he were honest with himself, then his feelings were true and good and deserved to be expressed honestly through his art. Being certain of the truth of the imagination indicated a great respect for and dedication to the creative process. Keats's statement would serve any writer well.