Aspens – Brief Poems by Yvor Winters

6713_b_8166Yvor Winters (1900-1968) is one of the great critics of the twentieth century. His judgements on some writers may be perverse and the result of his strict ideological views, but they are always readable. The same is true of his poetry which has had a narrow and dedicated following. I, too, have been entranced at times. His “Collected Poems”, in essence his own selection, is a book I often take down from the shelves. His amazing short story. “The Brink of Darkness”, is a neglected masterpiece. But it is his early poems I am concerned with here. As Donald Stanford noted, Winters is “the only important poet of the century to go from experimental to traditional poetic technique” and “the only critic of the twentieth century who formulated a coherent theory of poetry at the same time he was practicing it” 

Although he is known for a formal and conservative poetic style, he began his career as an experimental poet, influenced by American Indian songs, imagist poetry and Japanese haiku. He told his friend, Kenneth Fields, “I was trying to beat the haiku poets at their own game.” Many of these poems are examples of what has come to be known as monostich, a poem which consists of a single line. Yet in such a short space he can manage great depth of feeling, as the poems below testify. He said of these early poems that they were “just so damned lonely.” And that loneliness is expressed in a quiet solitary voice confronting an austere American landscape.

The early poetry of Yvor Winters may not be popular today when voices are far more expansive, but that poetry deserves a wider audience.


Brief poems by Yvor Winters

Winter Echo

Thin air! My mind is gone.


Spring Song

My doorframe smells of leaves.


God of Roads

I, peregrine of noon.



Did you move, in the sun?


The Shadow’s Song

I am beside you, now.


The Aspen’s Song

The summer holds me here.


A Deer

The trees rose in the dawn.


God of Roads

I, peregrine of noon.



O living pine, be still!



Pale bees! – Oh, whither now?


A Song of Advent

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



Hawk’s Eyes

As a gray hawk’s eyes
Turn here and away
So my course turns
Where I walk each day.



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


The Lie

I paved a sky
    With days.
I crept beyond the Lie.
    This phrase,
Yet more profound,
    Grew where
I was not. I
    Was there.



The Far Voice

Roads lie in dust –
White, curling far away;
And summer comes.




A blog devoted to Yvor Winters.

Helen Pinkerton Trimpi on Yvor Winters as critic and poet.

Reginald Shepherd’s thoughts on Yvor Winters:

The Poetry Foundation essay, biography and bibliography.

A large selection of poems by Yvor Winters.

A memoir by David Levin.

Kenneth Fields writes about the life and the poetry of Yvor Winters.



2 thoughts on “Aspens – Brief Poems by Yvor Winters

  1. Pingback: Slates – One-line poems (Monostich) | Brief Poems

  2. Pingback: моностих - Блог Мор

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