The Selected Poems of Yvor Winters


Yvor Winters (1900-1968) was a friend, colleague, and teacher to poets of several generations from Hart Crane and Allen Tate to J. V. Cunningham, Turner Cassity, and Edgar Bowers to Robert Hass, Philip Levine, and Robert Pinsky. This retrospective of one hundred poems, edited by the poet and publisher R. L. Barth, is compiled from Winters's published and unpublished work and features an introductory overview of his life and career by Helen Pinkerton Trimpi, a former student of Winters's and a distinguished ...
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Yvor Winters (1900-1968) was a friend, colleague, and teacher to poets of several generations from Hart Crane and Allen Tate to J. V. Cunningham, Turner Cassity, and Edgar Bowers to Robert Hass, Philip Levine, and Robert Pinsky. This retrospective of one hundred poems, edited by the poet and publisher R. L. Barth, is compiled from Winters's published and unpublished work and features an introductory overview of his life and career by Helen Pinkerton Trimpi, a former student of Winters's and a distinguished scholar of American literature.
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Editorial Reviews

Kristine Morris
The Selected Poems of Yvor Winters provides the reader with in-depth background on the poet and his style.... For those who seek scholarly analysis, the introduction by Helen Pinkerton Trimpi is worth their study. Lovers of poetry will take pleasure in the works presented in this well-designed volume.
ForeWord Magazine
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Thirty years after his death, Winters (1900-1968) is still known primarily as the American poet-critic who gave up on "experimental" poetry to defend the resources of "traditional form." Critics point to Winters' early poems to portray him as an expert in these modes he later renounced, but like the later poems written under the sign of Ben Jonson they are uneven in quality. The very early "Two Songs of Advent" kicks off the book with its blend of Imagist technique and western, quasi-Native American thematics, and "The Cold" and "Jos 's Country" deserve to be better known. But much of the early Winters can seem inconsequential as well as belated next to the canonical modernist poetry it imitates. Early and late, the poems ceaselessly wrestle with ontological singularity and a hostile nature--Winters's one certainty was death--and are rife with the screams of children and dogs, and images of a bleak American West. One appreciates the moments when the struggle against emotional excess is most at risk, as in "Song of the Trees" (with its exclamatory opening: "Belief is blind! Bees scream!") or "The Realization." Some better known poems such as "A View of Pasadena from the Hills" or "The Slow Pacific Swell" seem to have wrinkled--to use a word strangely persistent in these poems--as have the pastoral settings and conventions. But there is enough that is still surprising in Winters, especially in his efforts to find a poetry adequate to public event, to urge that he be read by those beyond the faithful in his now-dwindling, Stanford-based circle. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804010139
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Selected Poems of Yvor Winters

By Yvor Winters

Swallow Press

Copyright © 1999 Yvor Winters
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0804010137

Chapter One

Two Songs of Advent


On the desert, between pale mountains, our cries--
Far whispers creeping through an ancient shell.


Coyote, on delicate mocking feet,
Hovers down the canyon, among the mountains,
His voice running wild in the wind's valleys.

Listen! Listen! for I enter now your thought.

One Ran Before

I could tell
Of silence where
One ran before
Himself and fell
Into silence
Yet more fair.

And this were more
A thing unseen
Than falling screen
Could make of air.

Song for a Small Boy
Who Herds Goats

Sweeter than rough hair
On earth there is none,
Rough as the wind
And brown as the sun.

I toss high my short arms
Brown as the sun,
I creep on the mountains
And never am done.

Sharp-hoofed, hard-eyed,
Trample on the sun!--
Sharp ears, stiff as wind,
Point the way to run!

Who on the brown earth
Knows himself one?
Life is in lichens
That sleep as they run.


I, one who never speaks,
Listened days in summer trees,
Each day a rustling leaf.

Then, in time, my unbelief
Grew like my running--
My own eyes did not exist,
When I struck I never missed.

Noon, felt and far away--
My brain is a thousand bees.

Winter Echo

Thin air! My mind is gone.

Spring Rain

My doorframe smells of leaves.

The Aspen's Song

The summer holds me here.

God of Roads

I, peregrine of noon.

A Deer

The trees rose in the dawn.

The Precincts of February

Steely shadows,
Floating the jay.
A man,

Heavy and ironblack,
Alone in the sun,
Threading the grass.
The cold,

Coming again
As spring
Came up the valley,
But to stay

Rooted deep in the land.
The stone-pierced shadows
Trod by the bird
For day on day.

Jose's country

A pale horse,
Mane of flowery dust,
Runs too far
For a sound
To cross the river.

Swept by far hooves
That gleam
Like slow fruit
In the haze
Of pondered vision.

It is nothing.
Beyond a child's thought,
Where a falling stone
Would raise pale earth,
A fern ascending.

The Upper Meadows

The harvest falls
Throughout the valleys
With a sound
Of fire in leaves.

The harsh trees,
Heavy with light,
Beneath the flame, and aging,
Have risen high and higher.

The clustered
Fur of bees,
Above the gray rocks of the uplands.

The hunter deep in summer.
Grass laid low by what comes,
Feet or air--
But motion, aging.


The branches,
jointed, pointing
up and out, shine
out like brass.

Upon the heavy
lip of earth
the dog

moments is
possessed and screams:

The rising moon draws
up his blood and hair.

The Cold

Frigidity the hesitant
uncurls its tentacles
into a furry sun.
The ice expands
into an insecurity
that should appal
yet I remain, a son
of stone and of a
commentary, I, an epitaph,
astray in this
oblivion, this
inert labyrinth
of sentences that
dare not end. It
is high noon and
all is the more quiet
where I trace
the courses of the Crab
and Scorpion, the Bull,
the Hunter, and the Bear--
with front of steel
they cut an aperture
so clear across the
cold that it cannot
be seen: there is no
smoky breath, no
breath at all.

Digue Dondaine, Digue Dondon

Sun on the sidewalk
for the corpse to
pass through like the
dark side of a leaf

in the immobile
suddenness of spring
he stood there
in the streetlight
casting a long shadow
on the glassed begonias
madness under
his streaked eyelids

miles away the
cold plow in veined earth

the wind fled hovering
like swarming bees
in highest night

the streets paved with
the moon smooth to
the heels

and he whirled off in


and pale and small
children that run shrieking
through March doorways
burst like bubbles
on the cold twigs
block on block away


Moonlight on stubbleshining
whirls down upon me finer than geometry
and at my very
eyes it blurs and softens like a dream

In leafblack houses
linen smooth with sleep
and folded by cold life itself for limbs so definite

their passion is
persistent like a pane of glass

about their feet the clustered
birds are sleeping
heavy with incessant life

The dogs swim close to earth

A kildee rises
dazed and rolled amid the sudden blur of sleep
above the dayglare of the fields
goes screaming
off toward darker hills.


Excerpted from The Selected Poems of Yvor Winters by Yvor Winters Copyright © 1999 by Yvor Winters. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

The Dedication
Introduction: Yvor Winters as Critic and Poet
Two Songs of Advent 1
One Ran Before 2
Song for a Small Boy Who Herds Goats 3
Alone 4
Winter Echo 5
Spring Rain 5
The Aspen's Song 5
God of Roads 5
A Deer 5
The Precincts of February 6
Jose's Country 7
The Upper Meadows 8
Moonrise 9
The Cold 10
Digue Dondaine, Digue Dondon 11
Nocturne 13
"Quod Tegit Omnia" 14
Song ("Where I walk out") 15
April 16
The Cold Room 17
The Barnyard 18
The Rows of Cold Trees 19
Prayer beside a Lamp 20
Vacant Lot 21
The Deep: A Service for All the Dead 22
Demigod 23
Orange Tree 24
Song of the Trees 25
The Goatherds 26
The Vigil 27
Simplex Munditiis 28
Sonnet ("This God-envenomed loneliness, the stain") 29
The Moralists 30
The Realization 31
To William Dinsmore Briggs Conducting His Seminar 32
The Invaders 33
The Castle of Thorns 34
Apollo and Daphne 35
The Empty Hills 36
Moonrise 37
Inscription for a Graveyard 38
The Last Visit 39
For Howard Baker 40
The Slow Pacific Swell 41
The Marriage 43
On a View of Pasadena from the Hills 44
The Journey 47
A Vision 49
Anacreontic 52
To a Young Writer 53
For My Father's Grave 54
By the Road to the Air-Base 55
Elegy on a Young Airedale Bitch Lost Some Years Since in the Salt-Marsh 56
Midas 57
Sonnet to the Moon 58
Before Disaster 59
The Prince 60
Phasellus Ille 61
Orpheus 62
On the Death of Senator Thomas J. Walsh 63
Dedication for a Book of Criticism 64
A Leave-Taking 65
On Teaching the Young 66
Chiron 67
Heracles 68
Alcmena 70
Theseus: A Trilogy 71
Socrates 76
John Day, Frontiersman 78
John Sutter 79
The California Oaks 81
On Rereading a Passage from John Muir 83
The Manzanita 84
Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight 85
An October Nocturne 87
Much in Little 88
The Cremation 89
An Elegy 90
Time and the Garden 92
A Prayer for My Son 93
In Praise of California Wines 94
A Summer Commentary 95
On the Portrait of a Scholar of the Italian Renaissance 96
A Winter Evening 97
Summer Noon: 1941 98
To a Military Rifle 99
For the Opening of the William Dinsmore Briggs Room 101
At the Site of the Murphy Cabin 102
Moonlight Alert 103
To the Holy Spirit 104
A Song in Passing 106
At the San Francisco Airport 107
To Herbert Dean Meritt 108
Bibliography of Yvor Winters's Books of Poetry 109
Notes 111
Index of Poem Titles and First Lines 125
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