Witter Bynner Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Harold Witter Bynner was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 10, 1881. His early childhood was spent in New York; Norwich, Connecticut; and, after his father died in 1891, Brookline, Massachusetts, where Bynner completed high school. From 1898 to 1902, he attended Harvard University, where fellow student Wallace Stevens recruited him for the staff of the Harvard Advocate. Upon graduation from Harvard, Bynner secured a semieditorial position with McClure’s magazine, where he remained for four years, during which time he associated with a number of professional writers, including O. Henry, and resolved to pursue a writing career. Eventually, Bynner left New York and McClure’s and moved to New Hampshire to write. He also began giving lectures on literature and supporting the movement for women’s suffrage.

Bynner began publishing volumes of his poetry in 1907 with An Ode to Harvard, and Other Poems. He also experimented with drama and engaged in some translation during this early period. Being both annoyed and amused by the pretensions of trendy literary movements in this period, Bynner and his friend Arthur Davison Ficke created a bogus movement based on ludicrous aesthetic principles. This supposed movement, Spectrism, was a satirical takeoff on the 1912 London movement called Imagism, and to Bynner’s delight, it actually duped a number of writers and critics who should have known better but who could not resist associating themselves with the latest fad. In the course of developing this hoax, Bynner adopted the nom de plume of Emanuel Morgan, a name he often employed even after the hoax had been recognized for what it was.

After some publications that were part of his Spectric joke, Bynner’s next publication was a volume titled Grenstone Poems....

(The entire section is 746 words.)