Janet Lewis Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Janet Lewis is regarded as one of the most important women writers of the twentieth century. She was born just outside Chicago and moved with her family—father Edwin, mother Elizabeth, and brother Herbert—to Oak Park when she was six. On summer vacations in northern Michigan, Lewis met the Johnston family, descendants of white settler John Johnston and his Ojibway wife, Neengay. Their campfire tales about their grandparents provided Lewis with memories she used as sources for future writings.

Lewis attended Lewis Institute and the University of Chicago, obtaining her degree in 1920. She worked briefly at the American consulate in Paris, followed by work at Redbook and teaching at Lewis Institute in 1921. In January, 1922, she was diagnosed as having tuberculosis. That summer she entered Sunmount Sanatorium in New Mexico. Except for short periods, Lewis remained at Sunmount until 1927. During these years Lewis published her first volume of poetry, The Indians in the Woods, and a children’s book, Ollie Ostrich.

She and Yvor Winters met in 1921, were engaged in 1923, and married in June of 1926. She stayed at Sunmount one more year, while he taught in Idaho. In the fall of 1927 the couple moved to California. Lewis published more poetry, The Wheel in Midsummer, while Winters began working toward a doctorate at Stanford University. During this time Lewis wrote short stories which appeared in periodicals and later were collected in Good-bye, Son.

Throughout the 1930’s, Lewis combined motherhood—a daughter, Joanna (born 1930), and a son, Daniel (born...

(The entire section is 669 words.)