The famous Winters massage and electric shock treatment


Charmed by smart kids

How’s this for “Letters to a Young Poet”?

“Your poems are pretty rough, and half the time you fall flat on your face. But the piece on the airplane crash has a good deal of power, especially in the second half, and could probably be revised into a good poem. There are good fragments in several others, but you certainly contort yourself like a muscle-bound acrobat. However, we will try the famous Winters massage and electric shock treatment.”


Home sweet home.

The 1955 pep talk was given by Yvor Winters to Calvin Thomas Jr., an incoming Stegner Fellow at Stanford.  The second letter is addressed to Thomas’s father, a very moving endorsement of the son’s gifts, and some strong opinions on the poetic craft, the role of universities, and his own preeminence as a teacher. “I find myself charmed by the intelligent young, just as I am charmed by beautiful puppies,” he concludes.

The eminent Poetry Magazine published a single poem by Thomas in 1955, before he vanished from its crosshairs.

He’s been rediscovered.  According to Poetry Magazine: “Cal still writes poems, and a selection of his work can be found at; his short story, “The Repatriate,” about a German veteran returning to civilian life, appeared in Stegner’s Stanford Short Stories series. He now lives in New Delhi.”

Read the Winters-Thomas correspondence here.  

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