Born in the first year of the twentieth century, Arthur Yvor Winters spent his earliest years in Chicago and in Eagle Rock (a district of Los Angeles), California. The landscape of Southern California near Pasadena provides the setting for two major poems in heroic couplets, “The Slow Pacific Swell” and “On a View of Pasadena from the Hills.” Later, he returned to Chicago, graduated from high school, and for one year attended the University of Chicago, where, in 1917, he became a member of the Poetry Club, which, in his own words, “was a very intelligent group, worth more than most courses in literature.” By then, he had begun to study his contemporaries—Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Stevens, William Butler Yeats—and the diverse poetic styles appearing in the little magazines.
In 1918, having contracted tuberculosis, he was forced to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and confined to a sanatorium for three years. The debilitating fatigue and pain, the resultant hypersensitivity to sound and sight and touch, and the sense of death hovering were experiences indelibly etched in his poetry, then and later. In 1921, Winters began teaching grade school—English, French, zoology, boxing, basketball—in a coal-mining camp called Madrid, and he taught high school the following year in Cerrillos. These five years in the southwestern United States were a slow period of recovery in isolation, a time when his own study of poetry continued and his correspondence with many contemporary poets was active. It was also the time of his earliest publications. The landscape of...
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