ters's development runs counter to the usual course of the career of the poet in 20th-century America. Unlike many poets of his generation who broke with traditional poetry to adopt free verse, Winters began his career by following in the footsteps of the great modernists Ezra pound and T. S. eliot, but he later turned against modernism in order to write very traditional verse in regular meter and rhyme (see prosody and free verse). Winters justified his poetic practice in his critical writings, arguing against modernist poetic experimentation in such books as Primitivism and Decadence (1937) and The Anatomy of Nonsense (1943). His early style depended on feeling and rhythm for coherence, and it was often difficult to paraphrase, as in the following couplet from "In Winter" (1922): "No Being / I, bent. Thin nights receding." He later turned against this style in favor of a more formal and direct manner, in which ideas could be expressed explicitly. He has been an influence to many other poets, notably J. V Cunningham, Edgar bowers, and Robert pinsky.
Born in Chicago, Winters was raised in Eagle Rock, California, which was then a rural area. He attended the University of Chicago but had to abandon his studies due to tuberculosis. He later attended the Universities of Colorado and Idaho, and at Stanford University he earned a Ph.D. After his studies he became a member of the Stanford faculty, teaching several generations of students, including such poets as Thom gunn, Robert hass, and John MATTHIAS.
Winters's first book, The Immobile Wind, was published in 1921 and showed the influence of the imagist SCHooL of poetry in its sparse language and careful rendering of precise visual details. Winters's engagement with imagism and with modernism in general was strong during the early 1920s, and his correspondence with the poet Hart crane reflects his misgivings about the modernist movement. By the time The Proof was published in 1930, these misgivings had led Winters to reject his early style. "Inscription for a Graveyard" (1930) and "The Empty Hills" (1930), among other poems from this period, are more traditionally formal than Winters's earlier poetry. They also reflect his new sense that the poet's work does not stop when he has rendered the world: He must also make statements about it and judge his experiences. This tendency to judgment (which is as prominent in Winters's literary criticism as it is in his poetry) has led many readers to view Winters as a moralist.
Much of the pleasure in reading Winters, however, comes not from his strong moralism, but from his powerful sense of the western places he knew so well. This is true of the early imagist poems and also of the later work, such as "A View of Pasadena from the Hills" (1947), a classic poem of the California landscape.
Comito, Terry. In Defense of Winters: The Poetry and Prose of
Yvor Winters. Madison: University of Wisonsin Press, 1986. Powell, Grosvenor. Language as Being in the Poetry of Yvor
Winters. Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1980.
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