Janet Lewis was born on August 17, 1899, in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Edwin Herbert Lewis, a poet, novelist, and English teacher. In the summer, the family lived in northern Michigan, where Lewis came to know the Ojibwa Indians, the subjects of her first book. She published her first poem in Poetry when she was twenty-one, and a book when she was twenty-three. Earning an A.A. at the Lewis Institute in 1918 and a Ph.B. at the University of Chicago in 1920, Lewis worked for the American consulate in Paris, for Redbook magazine in Chicago, and finally, for the Lewis Institute in Chicago, where she taught until stricken with tuberculosis in 1922. She moved for her health to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and became a friend of Yvor Winters, another Chicago poet convalescing in the West. On June 22, 1926, when Lewis was still in frail health, they were married, and in 1927 they moved to Stanford University in California, where her husband pursued his doctorate and began teaching in 1928.
The direct effect of Winters, Janet Lewis’s famous husband, on her career is not easy to assess. They remained devoted to each other until his death from cancer in 1968, and her poetic style evolved in a way harmonious with his published critical stance. Both strict Imagists in the 1920’s, Winters and Lewis began, in the 1930’s, to work in traditional verse forms and with paraphrasable morals—a position hostile to the high modernist mode of T. S....
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