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Yvor Winters


On October 17, 1900, (Arthur) Yvor Winters was born in Chicago, Illinois. While studying at the University of Chicago he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and decided to relocate to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the sake of his health. His early poems, published in 1921 and 1922, were all written at a tuberculosis sanitarium. In 1923 and 1924, Winters taught at the grade school and high school in the coal-mining camp towns of Madrid and Cerillo, New Mexico. He enrolled at the University of Colorado in 1925, and there he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees. In 1926, he married the poet and novelist Janet Lewis. He spent two years teaching at the University of Idaho in Moscow before entering Stanford University as a graduate student, receiving his PhD in 1934. From 1928 until his death, he was a member of the Stanford English department.

His books of poetry include The Early Poems of Yvor Winters, 1920-1928 (Swallow Press, 1966); Collected Poems (1952; revised edition, 1960), winner of the Bollingen Prize; To the Holy Spirit (1947); Poems (1940); Before Disaster (1934); The Proof (1930); and The Immobile Wind (1921). Winters was also a prolific and controversial critic who believed that a work of art should be "an act of moral judgement" and attacked such literary icons as T. S. Eliot and Henry James. The chair of the Stanford English department notoriously denounced Winters as a "disgrace to the department." In Defense of Reason (1947), Winters's major critical work, is a collection of three earlier studies—Primitivism and Decadence (1937), Maule's Curse (1938), and The Anatomy of Nonsense (1943).

Winters's honors include a National Institute of Arts and Letters award as well as grants from The Guggenheim Foundation and The National Endowment for the Arts. He died on January 25, 1968 in Palo Alto, California.

A Selected Bibliography


The Immobile Wind (1921)
The Proof (1930)
Before Disaster (1934)
Poems (1940)
To the Holy Spirit (1947)
Collected Poems (1952)
Collected Poems (revised edition) (1960)
The Early Poems of Yvor Winters, 1920-1928 (1966)


In Defense of Reason (1947)
The Function of Criticism: Problems and Exercises (1957)
On Modern Poets: Stevens, Eliot, Ransom, Crane, Hopkins, Frost (1959)
Forms of Discovery (1967)

By This Poet


The Magpie's Shadow

Pale mornings, and 
   I rise. 
     Still Morning
Snow air--my fingers curl.
New snow, O pine of dawn!
     Winter Echo
Thin air! My mind is gone.
     The Hunter
Run! In the magpie's shadow.
     No Being
I, bent. Thin nights receding. 
I walk out the world's door.
Oh, evening in my hair!
     Spring Rain
My doorframe smells of leaves.
Why should I stop
   for spring?
Pale bees! O whither now?
I did not pick
   a flower.
     At Evening
Like leaves my feet passed by.
     Cool Nights
At night bare feet on flowers!
Like winds my eyelids close.
     The Aspen's Song
The summer holds me here.
     The Walker
In dream my feet are still. 
     Blue Mountains
A deer walks that mountain.
     God of Roads
I, peregrine of noon. 
Faint gold! O think not here.
     A Lady
She's sun on autumn leaves. 
I saw day's shadow strike.
     A Deer
The trees rose in the dawn.
     Man in Desert
His feet run as eyes blink. 
The tented autumn, gone!
     The End
Dawn rose, and desert shrunk.
     High Valleys
In sleep I filled these lands.
     Awaiting Snow
The well of autumn--dry.