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CONTACT: John Sanford (650) 736-2151

Yvor Winters Centenary Symposium to be held Nov. 16-18

Renowned poets Kenneth Fields of Stanford University and Thom Gunn of the University of California-Berkeley will join fellow writers and scholars Thursday, Nov. 16, for a reading of poems by the late Yvor Winters.

The event kicks off a three-day symposium, sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the university's longtime English professor and award-winning poet. Winters died in 1968.

"He was always completely serious about the writing of poetry and the criticism of it,'' said Helen Pinkerton, a retired Stanford lecturer who was one of Winters' students. "This isn't to say he was a dour man. He had a marvelous sense of humor. This came over extremely well in his lectures in the classroom.''

Former students of Winters are among the writers who are scheduled to attend the opening event of the Yvor Winters Centenary Symposium to read selections of his poetry, as well as their own, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, in Stanford's Annenberg Auditorium. A reception will follow.

The symposium, which will feature a panel discussion focusing on Winters' poetry, criticism and life, will continue from 10 a.m. through the early evening Friday, Nov. 17, in the Terrace Room of Margaret Jacks Hall and from 10 a.m. to about 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, in the same location. All events are free and open to the public.

Arthur Yvor Winters was born Oct. 17, 1900, in Chicago. He studied at the University of Chicago and taught French and Spanish at the University of Idaho before coming to Stanford in 1927 as a graduate student. The following year he began teaching English at the university, where he later received his doctorate and taught until his retirement in 1965.

Winters has been described by his former colleagues as a fierce -- even "angry" -- critic who was serious about discipline as a writer.

A reviewer who praised Winters' The Anatomy of Nonsense, a book of criticism published in 1943, did not get such a positive review for his own writing: Winters wrote that the reviewer's "method of careless examination, amateur thinking, pretentious pedantry, and aimless innuendo is the method which is rapidly bringing the whole profession of literary criticism into contempt."

Winters' other critical works were Primitivism and Decadence (1937) and Maule's Curse (1938). In 1960, he won Yale University's Bollingen Prize for his Collected Poems, and in 1967 he received $10,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts.

In addition to the symposium, an exhibit of materials from the Yvor Winters and Janet Lewis papers -- Lewis, his wife, was a poet and novelist -- will be on exhibit at Stanford's Green Library Bing Wing from Nov. 13 through Dec. 3.

A portfolio containing a poem by Winters and a poem by Lewis as well as commemorative and interpretive texts and pictures of the writers can be purchased at the symposium for $20. A deluxe edition is available for $42. The portfolio also can also be ordered by writing to the Department of Special Collections, Attn: Lucretia Cerny, Stanford University Libraries, Green Library, Stanford, CA 94305-6004, or by calling (650) 725-1021. If ordering by mail, include California sales tax ($1.65 for the standard edition and $3.47 for the deluxe edition) and $3 to cover postage and handling. Make checks payable to Stanford University.

For more information about the symposium, call (650) 725-1219 or visit the web at For more information about the exhibit or portfolio, call (650) 725-1020.


By John Sanford

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