LOUIS UNTERMEYER Louis Untermeyer was born October 1, i885, in New York City, where he lived, except for brief intervals, until 1923. His education was sketchy; his continued failure to comprehend geometry kept him from entering college. He intended to be a composer-pianist, but he kept music for his diversion instead of a profession. In 1923 he went abroad and, after two years in Europe, returned to devote himself entirely to literature. In 1928 he acquired a farm in the Adirondack Mountains, where he lived until the Second World War, when he became Senior Editor at the Office of War Information and was associated with the Armed Services Editions. Returning to New York and the lecture platform, he admitted that he enjoyed editorializing, loved to talk, and listened with difficulty.
It is not easy for the present compiler to consider this writer as severely as he deserves, the editor not having attained toward the poet that strict detachment which is the goal of criticism. However, it is evident that his work is divided into four kinds: his poe his parodies, his translations, and his prose. His initial volume of verse, First Love (1911), was a sequence of some seventy lyrics in which the influences of Heine and Housman were not only obvious but crippling; it is significant that when his Selected Poems appeared, just three of the seventy poems were included.
It was with Challenge (1914) that the author first declared himself with any sort of definiteness. Although the ghost of Henley haunts many of the pages, poems like " Prayer," " On the Birth of a Child," and " Caliban in the Coal Mines" show "a fresh and lyrical sympathy with the modern world.... His vision " (thus The Boston Transcript) " is a social vision, his spirit a passionately energized command of the forces of justice." These T@mes (1917), The New Adam (1920), Roast Leviathan (1923), and Burning Bush (1928) were a mixture of fantastic imagination and mere facility. Food and Drink (1932) was a riper collection; many of the poems, such as " Long Feud " and " Last Words Before Winter," express serious emotions in a light tone of voice. The best of his work was gathered in one volume, Selected Poems and Parodies (1935), and his early translations from Heine were revised and amplified to form the second volume of his analyrical biography, Ifeinrich Heine: Paradox and Poet (1937). By the time he was sixty he had written, compiled, and edited more than fifty volumes, several of which were adopted as textbooks in high-@chools and universities. The critical Anthologies (This Singing World, Modern American Poetry, Modern British Poetry, and Yesterday and Today) were issued in various editions. When the Encyclopedia Britannica was revised he was chosen to furnish the article on Modern Poetry.
The poet also wrote several volumes of fiction, of which he considers his "novel" Moses the best, and several travel books, one of which (The Donkey of God) won an award in 1934 for the best book on Italian backgrounds in any language by a nonItalian. His Treasury of Great Poems (I942) was followed by A Treasury of Laughter (1946) and The Inner Sanctum Wait Whitman (1949), which was hailed as a comprehensive reappraisal of "the good gray poet."