Early life 
Bynner was born in Brooklyn, New York, and brought up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1902. Initially he pursued a career in journalism, and edited McClure's Magazine. He then turned to writing, living in Cornish, New Hampshire until about 1915.
In 1916 he was one of the perpetrators, with Arthur Davison Ficke, a friend from Harvard, of an elaborate literary hoax. It involved a purported 'Spectrist' school of poets, along the lines of the Imagists, based in Pittsburgh. Spectra, a slim collection, was published under the pseudonyms of Anne Knish (Ficke) and Emanuel Morgan (Bynner). Marjorie Allen Seiffert, writing as Elijah Hay, was roped in to bulk out the 'movement'.
In early 1917 he traveled to Japan with Ficke.
Bynner had a short spell in academia in 1918-1919 during World War I, at the University of California, Berkeley as Professor of Oral English. There, he composed Canticle of Praise and taught classes in poetry and verse writing. He was forced to leave after serving alcohol to freshmen during Prohibition.
He then traveled to China, and studied Chinese literature. He subsequently produced many translations from Chinese. His verse showed both Japanese and Chinese influences, but the latter were major. Bynner became more of a modernist in consequence, where previously he had been inclined to parody Imagism, and dismiss the orientalist pronouncements with which Ezra Pound was free.
- Herringshaw, Thomas William. American Elite and Sociologist Bluebook, p. 387. American Blue Book Publishers, 1922.
- William Jay Smith, The Spectra Hoax (1961).
- University of California web site, Hidden History of the Berkeley Campus project page. Accessed November 25, 2007.
Longer texts 
- Witter Bynner: a Bibliography (1967) Robert Lindsay, University of New Mexico Press.
- Who Was Witter Bynner? (1995) James Kraft, University of New Mexico Press.