Yvor Winters

Arthur Yvor Winters (October 17, 1900 - January 26, 1968) was an American poet and literary critic, whose criticism was often embroiled in controversy

As modernist

His early poetry, which appeared in small avant-garde magazines alongside work by writers like James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, was written in the modernist idiom, and was heavily influenced both by Native American poetry and by Imagism. His essay "The Testament of a Stone" gives an account of his poetics during this early period.

Around 1930, he turned away from modernism and developed an Augustan style of writing, notable for its clarity of statement and its formality of rhyme and rhythm.

As critic

His critical style — dogmatic, moralising, dismissive —Facts|date=January 2008 was comparable to that of F. R. Leavis, and in the same way he created a school of students (of mixed loyalty). His affiliations and proposed canon, however, were quite different: Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence above any one novel by Henry James, Robert Bridges above T. S. Eliot, Charles Churchill above Alexander Pope, Fulke Greville and George Gascoigne above Sidney and Spenser.

He attacked romanticism, particularly in American manifestations, and set about Emerson's reputation as that of a sacred cow.Facts|date=January 2008 (Ironically, his first book of poems, "Diadems and Fagots," takes its title from one of Emerson's poems.) In this he was probably influenced by Irving Babbitt. Winters was sometimes and questionably associated with the New Criticism, largely because John Crowe Ransom devoted a chapter to him in his book by the same name.


He was born in Chicago, Illinois and brought up in Eagle Rock, California. He attended the University of Chicago where he was a member of a literary circle including Glenway Wescott, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, and his future wife Janet Lewis. He suffered from tuberculosis in his late teens, and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. There he recuperated, wrote his early published verse, and taught. In 1925 he became an undergraduate at the University of Colorado.

In 1926 he married the poet and novelist Janet Lewis, also from Chicago and a tuberculosis sufferer. After graduating he taught at the University of Idaho, and then started a doctorate at Stanford University. He remained at Stanford until two years before his death, from throat cancer. His students included the poets Thom Gunn, Donald Hall, Jim McMichael, N. Scott Momaday, Robert Pinsky, John Matthias, and Robert Hass and the critic Gerald Graff. He was also a mentor to Donald Justice and J.V. Cunningham.

He edited "Gyroscope", a literary magazine, with his wife, from 1929 to 1931; and "Hound & Horn" from 1932 to 1934.

He was awarded the 1960 Bollingen Prize for Poetry for his "Collected Poems".


*Diadems and Fagots (1921) poems
*The Immobile Wind (1921) poems
*The Magpie's Shadow (1922) poems
*The Bare Hills (1927) poems
*The Proof (1930) poems
*The Journey and Other Poems (1931) poems
*Before Disaster (1934) poems
*Primitivism and Decadence: A Study of American Experimental Poetry (1937)
*Maule's Curse: Seven Studies in the History of American Obscurantism (1938)
*Poems (1940)
*The Giant Weapon (1943) poems
*The Anatomy of Nonsense (1943)
*Edwin Arlington Robinson (1946)
*In Defense of Reason (1947) collects Primitivism, Maule and Anatomy
*To the Holy Spirit (1947) poems
*Three Poems (1950)
*Collected Poems (1952, revised 1960)
*The Function of Criticism: Problems and Exercises (1957)
*On Modern Poets: Stevens, Eliot, Ransom, Crane, Hopkins, Frost (1959)
*The Early Poems of Yvor Winters, 1920-1928 (1966)
*Forms of Discovery: Critical and Historical Essays on the Forms of the Short Poem in English (1967)
*Uncollected Essays and Reviews (1976).
*The Collected Poems of Yvor Winters; with an introduction by Donald Davie (1978)
*Uncollected Poems 1919-1928 (1997)
*Uncollected Poems, 1929-1957 (1997)
*Yvor Winters: Selected Poems (2003) edited by Thom Gunn

As editor
*Twelve Poets of the Pacific (1937)
*Selected Poems, by Elizabeth Daryush (1948); with a foreword by Winters
*Poets of the Pacific, Second Series (1949)
*Quest for Reality: An Anthology of Short Poems in English (1969); with, and with an introduction by, Kenneth Fields


*The Complex of Yvor Winters' Criticism (1973) Richard J. Sexton
*Hart Crane and Yvor Winters (1978) Thomas Francis Parkinson
*An Introduction to the Poetry of Yvor Winters (1981) Elizabeth Isaacs
*Language as Being in the Poetry of Yvor Winters (1980) Grosvenor Powell
*Wisdom and Wilderness: The Achievement of Yvor Winters (1983) Dick Davis
*In Defense of Winters (1986) Terry Comito
*cite news | first=Rafe | last=Champion | coauthors= | title=Winters: A Man For All Reasons | date=2002 | publisher= | url =http://www.the-rathouse.com/YWinters_essayRC.html | work = | pages = | accessdate = | language =

ee also

*Yvor Winters's alternative canon of Elizabethan poetry

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