Benét, William Rose (1886-1950) by Covington, Jeffrey

William Rose Benét While regarded mainly as an essayist and magazine editor with connections to several major writers of the early twentieth century, was also a minor poet whose work appeared throughout the early decades of the twentieth century. Between 1915 and 1950 he published over thirty books including poetry collections, a novel in verse form, children’s books, and collections of essays on literature. Benét is perhaps most well known for founding and editing several well-respected literary magazines during the first half of the century, including the and the . William Rose Benét Literary Review Saturday Review of Literature Born in 1886 in Fort Hamilton, New York, Benét was the first of three children and his siblings– and –all later become poets. Initially wishing to follow the career path of his military officer father, Benét graduated from the Albany Academy in 1904 and applied for admission at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He decided, however, to enroll in the School of Science at Yale University, graduating in 1907. While at Yale he dabbled in numerous literary activities, serving as chairman of the and editor of the , and befriending and . After his time at Yale, Benét married in 1912, with whom he would have three children before her death in 1919 from influenza. Her death inspired the poems he later collected in . Stephen Vincent Benét Laura Benét Yale Courant Yale Record Henry Seidel Canby Sinclair Lewis Teresa Frances Thompson Perpetual Light Benét moved to New York in 1911 and began working at starting as an office boy and working towards the position of assistant editor, which he held from 1914 to 1918. His first book of poetry, , was well-received when it appeared in 1913: the called it while the described Benét as a poet with Some critics also compared his poetry to work by and because of its exotic and fantastic nature. Benét later acknowledged that readers deemed his poetry writing, arguing that Benet’s work first appeared in with in 1914, followed by in 1915, and then with what many consider to be his best poem, in 1916. Benét would continue to publish several other works in through 1919, his poems often appearing alongside those of , and . Although his connections with brought Benet more attention, he was generally overlooked during literary discussions within the magazine. He published his second collection, , in 1914, toning down some of the thematic concerns of his first book; however, readers noticed Benét’s continuing reliance upon and commitment to Victorian literary traditions. Benét’s next collection, 1918’s , demonstrated his efforts to make his poetry more Century Magazine Merchants from Cathay New York Times a book of real poetry, magical, imaginative, vigorous, North American Review a quaint originality and a definiteness of point of view that win respect and give pleasure. Samuel Taylor Coleridge William Butler Yeats mystic, any one who deals at all with the thing called poetry is necessarily and inexorably a mystic… The present day poets who would most abjure and deny the word “mystic” are mystics… Critics with scalpel intellect are mystics in that sense when confronted by the art that moves them. (Preface xiii) Poetry Magazine The Falconer of God, On a Window Display in a Western City The Horse Thief, Poetry Harriet Monroe Ezra Pound Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry The Falconer of God and Other Poems The Burglar of the Zodiac and Other Poems modern. Benét left his position at in 1918, volunteering to serve in World War I where he moved his way up the ranks to second lieutenant; however, in the end he saw only ground service in Florida and Texas. Following the war, Benét moved to New York City working odd jobs at several magazines before founding the supplement to the with , and in 1920. In 1923, Benét married poet , whose he later edited. In 1924, he and his collaborators founded the , with Benét serving as editor until his death in 1950. During his tenure, Benét continued to publish numerous books of poetry, culminating in , his Pulitzer-Prize-winning autobiography in verse published in 1942. Critics lauded the book for its American spirit in the midst of World War II, comparing it to other popular works by and Benét’s own brother, . Benét’s last book of poetry, , was published posthumously in 1951. Century Literary Review New York Evening Post Canby Amy Loveman Christopher Morley Elinor Wylie Collected Poems Literary Review Saturday Review of Literature The Dust Which is God patriotic Carl Sandburg Stephen Vincent Benét The Spirit of the Scene —Jeffrey Covington Selected Works by William Rose Benét . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1918. The Burglar of the Zodiac and Other Poems . New York: Dodd and Mead, 1941. The Dust Which is God . 4.3 (June 1914): 96 The Falconer of God Poetry , , , . 14.2 (May 1919): 82-84. Green and Gray Gray Information Solid Earth Poetry . 8.1 (April 1916): 17 The Horse Thief Poetry . 10.5 (August 1917): 232. Kites Poetry . New York: Doran, 1927. Man Possessed: Being the Selected Poems of William Rose Benét . New York: Century, 1913 Merchants from Cathay . 6.5 (August 1915): 234. On a Window Display in a Western City Poetry . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1919 Perpetual Light . 11.1 (October 1917): 6. The Price Poetry Further Reading . . Ed. . Detroit: Gale, 1986. 35-39. Griffith, John William Rose Benét. American Poets, 1880-1945: First Series Peter Quartermain . . New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1944. 249-50 Millett, Fred B Contemporary American Authors: A Critical Survey and 219 Bio-Bibliographies . . New York: Dial, 1979 Olson, Stanley Elinor Wylie: A Life Apart . . New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939. 229-53. Untermeyer, Louis From Another World . . 2.5 (1941): 415-27. Winwar, Frances Two Poets: Stephen Vincent and William Rose Benét College English

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