Born in Magdeburg, Petry was sent to the front to fight in WWI and upon his return he completed his studies with a doctorate in philosophy. To support himself financially he worked as a journalist, writer, editor and freelance translator. He wrote poems such as Der ewige Rausch (The Eternal Intoxication), Angst und Erlösung (Fear and Redemption) based on a nihilist philosophy but he also wrote about German expressionism. He published Die dadaistische Korruption (The Dada Corruption) in 1920. From 1927 he worked for the Magdeburgische Zeitung.