On This Day in History, February 2: Prize-Winning Poet, Editor and Critic
William Rose Benét was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 2, 1886. After attending the U.S. Military Academy, he graduated from Yale University in 1907. He became a writer as did his younger brother Stephen Vincent Benét. His collection of colorful, romantic poems entitled The Falconer of God and Other Poems (1914) juxtaposed images of the streets of New York City with others of visionary dreamlands.
Benét worked as an assistant editor at Century Magazine before joining with Henry Seidel Canby, Amy Loveman and Christopher Morley to establish the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post in 1920, where he was the chief contributor, and the Saturday Review of Literature in 1924, where he was the poetry critic, author of the column “The Phoenix Nest” (1924-50), and editor until the end of his life.
Benét’s poetry, generally in extended narrative form, is romantic and spirited. It includes the volumes Merchants from Cathay (1913), Moons of Grandeur (1920), With Wings as Eagles (1940), and The Dust Which is God (1941), an autobiographical narrative in verse for which he received the 1942 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
He also wrote a novel, First Person Singular (1922); a novel in verse, Rip Tide (1932) and a volume of essays, Wild Goslings (1927). He also edited The Reader’s Encyclopedia (1948), a reference work on world literature, and was a translator and children’s storyteller.
Benét died in Manhattan on May 4, 1950.
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