Witter Bynner Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Witter Bynner (bih-NUR) was a man of letters, and he wrote several plays, numerous reviews, and a considerable amount of miscellaneous prose, along with some widely acclaimed literary translations. His plays include Tiger (pb. 1913), The Little King (pb. 1914), and Cake (pb. 1926). Most important among his prose productions are The Persistence of Poetry (1929) and Journey with Genius: Recollections and Reflections Concerning the D. H. Lawrences (1951). Bynner’s translations include, from Greek, Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris (1915); from French, A Book of Love (1923), by Charles Vildrac; and from Chinese, The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology (with Kiang Kang-hu), which appeared in 1929, and The Way of Life According to Laotzu: An American Version (1944).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although many of Witter Bynner’s literary contemporaries left the United States to seek inspiration in Europe, Bynner himself, after visiting Europe, decided to remain in the country of his birth. During his long life, he developed a passion for Chinese culture and for Mexico, but he remained a conspicuous part of the American community of letters from early in the century until his last days in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1910, Bynner was a charter member of the Poetry Society of America. In 1954, the Poetry Society of America awarded Bynner the Gold Medal of the Alexander Droutzkoy Memorial Award, and in 1962, he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1946 to 1966.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Kraft, James. Who Is Witter Bynner? A Biography. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995. A treatment of Bynner’s colorful life supplemented by selections from his poems and letters, along with a number of photographs.

_______, ed. The Selected Witter Bynner: Poems, Plays, Translations, Prose, and Letters. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995. A characteristic selection of Bynner’s writings, introduced by the editor and including a chronology, a bibliography, and a useful index.

_______. The Works of Witter Bynner: Selected Poems, Light Verse and Satires, the Chinese Translations, Prose Pieces, Selected Letters. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978. The main source of primary materials and an essential work for Bynner studies.

Lindsay, Robert O. Witter Bynner: A Bibliography. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1967. This detailed descriptive bibliography of Bynner’s publications is valuable, although the list of secondary sources is out of date.

Wilbur, Richard. “The Poetry of Witter Bynner.” American Poetry Review 6, no. 6 (November/December, 1977): 3-8. A perceptive commentary on some specific poems and Bynner’s poetry in general, written by a distinguished poet.