William Rose Benét Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Though William Rose Benét (beh-NAY) dabbled in other literary forms—fiction for adults and children, drama, and essays and other nonfiction—he is mostly remembered for his poetry and his efforts to promote poetry as an associate editor at the Saturday Review of Literature (after 1952, known simply as the Saturday Review) and the editor of several anthologies of verse.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

William Rose Benét’s long tenure as an editor at the Saturday Review of Literature over the first half of the magazine’s sixty-year existence helped make the publication one of the more influential periodicals in providing literary commentary and book reviews. While extolling the virtues of prominent nineteenth century writers, the magazine also helped introduce such twentieth century authors as Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner, Robert Benchley, and Ring Lardner.

Benét also earned a reputation as a competent—if not always inspired—craftsman of traditional rhyming poetry. Benét’s longevity as a poet and his technical abilities in composing verse were eventually recognized toward the end of his life. He received the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1942 for The Dust Which Is God, giving the Benét family a pair of Pulitzer winners: his brother Stephen Vincent Benét won the award twice for his epics John Brown’s Body (1928) and Western Star (1943). He served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1946 to 1950.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Brennan, Elizabeth A., and Elizabeth C. Clarage. Who’s Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1999. This useful reference work—constantly updated on the Pulitzer Web site (http://www.pulitzer.org)—includes information on winners in each category, names of other finalists, and names of jurors. Links to the text of the prizewinning entries are included on the Web site.

Gregory, Horace, and Marya Zaturenska. A History of American Poetry, 1900-1940. 1946. Reprint. New York: Gordian Press, 1969. This classic work contains a chapter on the influence of Benét that shows his importance in the first half of the twentieth century.

Hively, Evelyn Helmick. A Private Madness: The Genius of Elinor Wylie. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2003. A study of the author and her work, with an emphasis on her troubled personal life—which included a marriage of five years’ duration to Benét—that shaped her fiction and poetry.

Mitchell, Ruth Comfort. Narratives in Verse. 1923. Reprint. Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger, 2005. This is a reprint of a volume brought out under a pseudonym by magazine writer Mrs. Sanborn Young, which includes a contribution on the subject of narratives in verse from Benét.