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Yvor Winters Portrait

Arthur Yvor Winters was born in Chicago. His first publications were as an imagist poet, and his work was much admired in the 1920s. The Magpie's Shadow (1922) is composed entirely of one-line poems, six syllables to the line. But even as a young poet he thought about critical matters. His 1924 essay, "The Testament of a Stone," about the poetic image, was important enough for the editors of Secession to devote an entire issue to it. Hart Crane was a contemporary and a friend, but one whose excess Winters found disturbing. He felt Williams's free verse was erratic. Poetry, he believed, should aspire to an almost epigrammatic clarity. Some of the seriousness and intensity Winters brought to the act of critical judgment is evident in "Sir Gawaine and the Green Night," a poem that teases out and complicates some of the moral implications of the medieval romance of the same name. At Stanford, he was mentor to a number of young poets, including Philip Levine and Robert Hass.