Yvor Winters Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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...

(The entire section is 649 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Arthur Yvor Winters was a poet, literary critic, college professor, and breeder of airedale terriers. Born in Chicago, as a child he also lived in California and Oregon, returning with his family to Illinois in 1913. Although his parents hoped Winters would be a doctor, they underwrote his efforts to earn degrees in languages and literature. Winters’s dedication to writing poetry and to the study of literature began when he was a high school student in Chicago, where he read Poetry, a leading monthly publication specializing in new American verse, and corresponded with its editor, Harriet Monroe.

In 1917 Winters entered the University of Chicago, but he was forced to withdraw in 1918 after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He left the Midwest for New Mexico, where he resided in a sanatorium from 1918 to 1922. During this time, he read widely and began writing poetry. Monroe accepted his first efforts in 1920 for Poetry. The next year, Winters published his first book of verse, The Immobile Wind, a collection of nineteen poems on the observation of nature. In his earliest work, it is possible to detect Winters’s preoccupations with formal techniques of verse composition, his interests in the power of evocative language, and his ability to compose poems with strong images. His second book of verse, The Magpie’s Shadow, was published in 1922.

With his health improved, Winters enrolled at the University of Colorado, where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Romance languages. In 1925 he was hired by the University of Idaho as an instructor of languages, and he remained there until 1927. He married the writer Janet Lewis in 1926; in 1927, he published a third book of poems, The Bare Hills, again drawn from his observations of the natural world, especially the landscape of New Mexico.

Winters enrolled at Stanford University in 1927 to study for his doctoral degree. In 1928 he was appointed a lecturer. While teaching, Winters continued to write and study poetry, publishing in 1930 The...

(The entire section is 847 words.)