Untermeyer, Louis (1885-1977) by Gilbert, Lindsey

Louis Untermeyer was the editor of (1919–1969), an anthology that aimed to between the publication of new kinds of poetry and their entrance into college classrooms (). He was also a poet, parodist, critic, and translator. Over six prolific decades, Untermeyer attached his name to more than one hundred books, of which his anthologies were the most successful. went through eight editions and served thousands of students, fulfilling Robert Frost’s early prediction that it would be (). Louis Untermeyer Modern American Poetry shorten the gap 327 From Another World Modern American Poetry a hard book to displace from the schools 131 Letters Born in 1885, Untermeyer lived in or near New York City for much of his life. By the age of seventeen, he had studied piano with prominent New York musicians, discovered the overtures of and the poetry of , and dropped out of high school. Failing marks at the Boy’s High School in Manhattan made his future there uncertain, and Untermeyer went to work for the jewelry-manufacturing firm owned by his father and uncles. During his twenty-two years with the Untermeyer-Robbins Company, he devoted evenings and weekends to literary projects. He held editorial positions at the , the socialist magazine headed by , and at the short-lived . His first book of poetry appeared in 1911, and his poems and parodies were accepted at magazines large and small, including , , , , the , and . Felix Mendelssohn Heinrich Heine Masses Max Eastman Seven Arts Vanity Fair Harper’s Smart Set Broom New Age Poetry Untermeyer contributed to despite differences with the magazine’s editor, . Theirs was a feud between rival tastemakers. Untermeyer and Monroe disputed the talents of a young as well as the merits of Chicago and New York, but they agreed that the poetry produced by their contemporaries deserved wide dissemination. When Untermeyer emerged as an anthologist in 1919, he challenged editors such as and , who had already begun to compile the work of living poets. He also jostled Monroe and , who issued their anthology, , in 1917. Like Monroe and Henderson, Untermeyer hoped to chronicle the of a new era in American poetry (). Yet Monroe and Untermeyer each thought the other only dubiously qualified to interpret tendencies in modern verse. In her autobiography, Monroe remembers Untermeyer’s (). In his memoir, Untermeyer suggests that although Monroe styled herself the instigator of literary movements, she followed more often than she led (). Untermeyer sent poems to Monroe’s magazine in 1916, 1919, and throughout the 1920s, but relations between the two editors never warmed. Poetry Harriet Monroe T. S. Eliot Jessie Rittenhouse William Stanley Braithwaite Alice Corbin Henderson The New Poetry flux and diversity xliv Modern American Poetry surprising dexterity in climbing on to the band wagon when fashions in the arts seemed to be changing 394 A Poet’s Life 171 From Another World Untermeyer anthologized many of his own poems, presenting himself as a practitioner of the new poetry as well as its observer. An active poet, he produced six collections before 1930, including (1914), (1917), and (1920). Selections from these appear in and in anthologies such as (1920) and (1923), both edited by Untermeyer. Among those who thought themselves upstaged by their anthologist was , who wrote of : As cummings made light of Untermeyer’s anthologies, he also took aim at Untermeyer’s parodies, mimicking the witty epigrams for which the older poet was known. Between 1916 and 1923, Untermeyer completed four books of parody, offering poems such as by (). He lampooned both friends and rivals, and he did not exempt the poet who comes in for his share of ridicule in (1922). Challenge These Times The New Adam Modern American Poetry A Miscellany of American Poetry This Singing World e. e. cummings mr u mr u will not be missed who as an anthologist sold the many on the few not excluding mr u. () 1 x 1 xi Einstein Among the Coffee Cups T. S. Eli-t 147 Heavens Lou-s Unterm-yer, Heavens Untermeyer’s submissions to reflect the diversity of his literary interests. Poems such as and are the work of an earnest poet, while a short parody that appeared in the magazine’s correspondence section, plays on the names of the and ( 109). Two submissions signal Untermeyer’s interest in German-language poetry, particularly that of . In 1916, Untermeyer sent a letter to Poetry recommending a few lines from Heine’s Book of Ideas. In 1922, he contributed a long poem that imagines Heine’s dying words. In the interim, Untermeyer published a book of his translations, (1917). Poetry Magic End of the Comedy The Retort Courteous, lady poets Muna Lee Mina Loy The Retort Courteous Heinrich Heine Monologue from a Mattress, The Poems of Heinrich Heine In his later years, Untermeyer lectured at universities, consulted for the Library of Congress, and worked briefly in radio and television. During the second world war, he scripted radio programs for the Office of War Information. Ten years later, he lost a spot on the television game show when producers received complaints about his early ties to John Reed and other socialists. Throughout his life, he maintained a correspondence and close friendship with , although Frost did not always approve of Untermeyer’s volatile romances. Married four times, Untermeyer relied on divorces obtained in Mexico to sever ties with his first wife, , and his second wife, . In 1948, he divorced his third wife, , to marry , with whom he edited the . Untermeyer continued to revise and its counterpart, , until 1969. What’s My Line? Robert Frost Jean Starr Virginia Moore Esther Antin Bryna Ivens Golden Treasury of Children’s Literature Modern American Poetry Modern British Poetry —Lindsey Gilbert Selected Works by Louis Untermeyer 14.2 (May 1919): 72–73 The Beloved, Conquest, End of the Comedy. Poetry . New York: Century, 1914 Challenge . New York: Harcourt, 1939. From Another World: The Autobiography of Louis Untermeyer . New York: Harcourt, 1922. Heavens , 8.3 (June 1916): 128–132. Magic Beauty. Poetry . 1st ed. New York: Granger, 1920. A Miscellany of American Poetry . 2nd ed. New York: Harcourt, 1921. Modern American Poetry . 19.6 (March 1922): 318–323. Monologue from a Mattress Poetry . New York: Harcourt, 1920. The New Adam . 9.2 (November 1916): 109. The Retort Courteous Poetry . New York: Holt, 1917. These Times Further Reading . New York: Holt, 1944. cummings, e. e. 1 x 1 . . Ed. Louis Untermeyer. New York: Holt, 1963. Frost, Robert The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer . In . Ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986. Louis Untermeyer Contemporary Authors . . New York: Macmillan, 1938. Monroe, Harriet A Poet’s Life: Seventy Years in a Changing World

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