Yvor Winters (Arthur Yvor Winters) Biography
(1900–68), (Arthur Yvor Winters), The Immobile Wind, The Magpie's Shadow, The Bare Hills
American poet and critic, born in Chicago, educated at the Universities of Chicago and Colorado. In 1928 he began his career at Stanford University, where he became Professor of English in 1949. His early work as a poet, collected in The Immobile Wind (1921), The Magpie's Shadow (1922), and The Bare Hills (1927), formed a highly disciplined extension of Imagism; poems of as few as five words made plain his experimental tendencies, while longer lyrics used free verse with classical precision and restraint. A collected edition of The Early Poems appeared in 1966. Among his subsequent collections, in which strict traditional metres predominate, are The Proof (1930), Before Disaster (1934), Poems (1940), and To the Holy Spirit (1947). Collected Poems of 1952 was revised in 1966. Much of his austerely controlled later verse draws on the landscapes and history of California. His principal publication as a critic is In Defense of Reason (1947), which collects Primitivism and Decadence (1937), Maule's Curse (1938), and The Anatomy of Nonsense (1943); these studies jointly amount to a penetrating and often destructively witty critique of the adverse effects of Romanticism on nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. Following Irving Babbitt and the New Humanism, Winters viewed the moral and aesthetic dimensions of poetry as inseparable. His closely reasoned antagonism to Modernism, which he also regarded with constructive interest, led him to advance contentiously high claims for the verse of Robert Bridges, Elizabeth Daryush, T. Sturge Moore, and others. His other works as a critic include The Functions of Criticism (1957), which contains important studies of G. M. Hopkins and Robert Frost, and Forms of Discovery (1967), a sustained consideration of the short poem; Uncollected Essays and Reviews, edited by F. Murphy, appeared in 1973. Winters was married to the novelist Janet Lewis.