The Return of Janet Lewis

The Dear Past (1994)

by Janet Lewis
Robert L. Barth, 48 pp., (out of print)

The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941)

by Janet Lewis
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, 109 pp., $7.95 (paper)

Goodbye, Son (1943)

by Janet Lewis
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, 221 pp., $10.95 (paper)

The Invasion (1932)

by Janet Lewis
Michigan State University Press, 356 pp., $21.95 (paper)

The Trial of Soren Qvist (1947)

by Janet Lewis
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, 256 pp., $12.95 (paper)

The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1959)

by Janet Lewis
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, 378 pp., $11.95 (paper)


In 1922 the printer-typographer Monroe Wheeler, who would go on to have a long and distinguished career with MoMA, set off to be a young-man-about-Europe. He was determined to publish poetry and publish it elegantly, to which end he established (first in Germany) an imprint called Manikin, under which he issued three booklets of verse. The first, The Indians in the Woods, was by a young Midwestern poet named Janet Lewis; William Carlos Williams’s Go Go was the second; the third and last was Marriage, by Marianne Moore.

Not long before he left Illinois, Wheeler had got his feet wet typographically, so to speak, by publishing two books of verse now not easily secured: The Bitterns, by his friend Glenway Westcott, and The Immobile Wind, by a young teacher of languages named Arthur Yvor Winters, who had, not long before, been released from the Sunmount Sanatorium in Santa Fe, where he recovered from a serious bout with tuberculosis. Young Winters was soon to go off to Moscow, Idaho, to take the only teaching job he could get, but, on a trip to Chicago, he met Janet Lewis. Monroe Wheeler was one link, poetry a second, and tuberculosis a third, for Janet Lewis too was soon forced to go off to Sunmount, where—after nearly five years—she also recovered. Hers was a close call. The two married in 1926—Janet Lewis was still in Sunmount and Yvor Winters still teaching in Idaho, from whence he carried on an intense correspondence, largely about poetics, with Hart Crane, Allen Tate, and others. Once Janet Lewis was well, the young couple moved to California and Winters took up the professorship at Stanford that he was to hold for the rest of his life.

Together the two writers raised children (two), Airedales and goats (many), and—one might say—poets: ranks upon ranks of poets who came to learn from Winters; in their memoirs he is still legend. He wrote his books, Janet wrote hers. To his enemies in criticism—at various times they included the Agrarians (particularly John Crowe Ransom), Eliot, Pound, R.P. Blackmur, and many others—Yvor Winters was a bruiser, a kind of absolutist gladiator who struck often and with considerable accuracy at flaws in a poem or a critical system. To poets—from Hart Crane on to J.V. Cunningham, Donald Justice, Donald Hall, Thom Gunn, Ann Stanford, Robert Haas, and many others—he was a kind of Apostle, though of course they felt varying degrees of allegiance to his beliefs about poetry and of attachment to the man himself; but to Janet Lewis he was, for forty-two years, a much-treasured husband, as she makes clear in an audiotape made twenty years after his death. The cut of that grief went very deep; his name, A. Yvor Winters, is still on the mailbox of their modest house in Los Altos.

Of all the above mentioned, Wheeler and Westcott, Crane, Tate, Williams, Marianne Moore, and Yvor Winters are gone, but Janet Lewis lives on, for the most part happily,…

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