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 studiesPrimitivism 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.