An acclaimed American poet, he is best known for his autobiographical work, The Dust Which Is God (1945), which received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His other works include Starry Harness (1933) and The Stairway of Surprise (1947).
He studied at Yale University's Sheffield Scientific School. In 1924, he established The Saturday Review of Literature, a publication that he edited for the rest of his life.
He published The Reader's Encyclopedia, a reference guide to world literature.
His son, James Walker Benet, also wrote several popular books.
He was married four times. Two of his wives, Elinor Wylie and Marjorie Flack, were also poets.