Karl Shapiro. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Karl Shapiro
Born November 10, 1913
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died May 14, 2000 (aged 86)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation poet, essayist
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of Virginia
Johns Hopkins University
Notable award(s) Pulitzer Prize (1945)
Bollingen Prize (1969)
Spouse(s) Evalyn Katz (1945-1967)
Teri Kovach (m. 1967)
Sophie Wilkins

Karl Jay Shapiro (10 November 1913 - 14 May 2000) was an American poet and academic. He was appointed the 5th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1946.

Life[edit | edit source]

Shapiro was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He attended the University of Virginia before World War II, and immortalized it in a scathing poem called "University," which noted that "to hate the Negro and avoid the Jew is the curriculum." He did not return after his military service.

Karl Shapiro wrote poetry in the Pacific theater while he served there during World War II. His collection V-Letter, and other poems, written while Shapiro was stationed in New Guinea, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1945, while Shapiro was still in the military.

Shapiro's interest in formal verse and prosody led to his writing a long poem about the subjects, Essay on Rime (1945), and 2 prose works: A Bibliography of Modern Prosody (1948); and (with Robert Beum) A Prosody Handbook (1965; reissued 2006).

Selected Poems appeared in 1968, and Shapiro published only novel, Edsel (1971) and a 3-part autobiography, 1988-1990..

Shapiro edited the prestigious magazine Poetry for several years. He was also a professor of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he edited Prairie Schooner, and at the University of California, Davis, from which he retired in the mid-1980s.

His other works include Person, Place and Thing (1942), (with Ernst Lert) the libretto to Hugo Weisgall's opera The Tenor (1950), To Abolish Children (1968), and The Old Horsefly (1993).

He died in New York City, aged 86, on May 14, 2000.

More recent editions of his work include The Wild Card: Selected poems early and late (1998) and Selected Poems (2003).

Writing[edit | edit source]

Poems from his earlier books display a mastery of formal verse with a modern sensibility that viewed such topics as automobiles, house flies, and drug stores as worthy of attention. Later work experimented with more open forms, beginning with The Bourgeois Poet (1964) and continuing with White-Haired Lover (1968). The influence of Walt Whitman, D.H. Lawrence, W.H. Auden and William Carlos Williams is evident in his work.

Shapiro's last work, Coda: Last Poems, (2008) was recently published in a collected volume post-mortem by editor Robert Phillips. The poems, divided into three sections according to love poems to his last wife, poems concerning roses, and other various poems, were discovered in the drawers of Shapiro's desk by his wife two years after his death.

Recognition[edit | edit source]

Shapiro won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1945. He was American Poet Laureate in 1946 and 1947. (At the time the title was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, changed by Congress in 1985 to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.)

Shapiro received the 1969 Bollingen Prize for Poetry, sharing the award that year with John Berryman.

Awards and prizes[edit | edit source]

  • Jeanette S Davis Prize and Levinson prize, both from Poetry in 1942
  • Contemporary Poetry prize, 1943
  • American Academy of Arts and Letters grant, 1944
  • Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, 1944, 1953
  • Pulitzer Prize in Poetry , 1945, for V-Letter and Other Poems
  • Shelley Memorial Prize, 1946
  • Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress (United States Poet Laureate), 1946-47
  • Kenyon School of Letters fellowship, 1956-57
  • Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize, 1961
  • Oscar Blumenthal Prize, Poetry, 1963
  • Bollingen Prize , 1968
  • Robert Kirsch Award, LA Times, 1989
  • Charity Randall Citation, 1990
  • Fellow in American Letters, Library of Congress

Publications[edit | edit source]

Poetry[edit | edit source]

  • Poems. Waverly, 1935.
  • Five Young American Poets: Second series (contributor). Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1945.
  • Person, Place, and Thing. Reynal, 1942.
  • The Place of Love. Comment Press, 1942.
  • V-Letter and Other Poems. Reynal, 1944.
  • Essay on Rime London: Secker & Warburg, 1945.
  • Trial of a Poet and Other Poems. Reynal, 1947.
  • Poets at Work (contributor). Harcourt, 1948.
  • Poems: 1940-1953. New York: Random House, 1953.
  • The House. privately published, 1957.
  • Poems of a Jew. New York: Random House, 1958.
  • The Bourgeois Poet. New York: Random House, 1964.
  • Selected Poems. New York: Random House, 1968.
  • White-Haired Lover. New York: Random House, 1968.
  • Adult Book Store. New York: Random House, 1976.
  • Collected Poems: 1948-1978. New York: Random House, 1978.
  • Love and War, Art and God. Stuart Wright, 1984.
  • Adam and Eve (edited by John Wheatcroft). Press Alley, 1986.
  • New and Selected Poems, 1940-1986. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
  • The Wild Card: Selected poems, early and late (edited by Stanley Kunitz and David Ignatow). University of Illinois Press, 1998.

Novel[edit | edit source]

  • Edsel. Geis, 1970.

Non-fiction[edit | edit source]

  • English Prosody and Modern Poetry. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1947; Folcroft Library Editions, 1975.
  • A Bibliography of Modern Prosody. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1948; Folcroft Library Editions, 1976.
  • Beyond Criticism. University of Nebraska Press, 1953.
    • also published as A Primer for Poets, 1965.
  • In Defense of Ignorance. New York: Random House, 1960.
  • Start it with the Sun: Studies in cosmic poetry (with James E. Miller, Jr. & Beatrice Slote). University of Nebraska Press, 1960.
  • The Writer's Experience (with Ralph Ellison). Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1964.
  • Randall Jarrell. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1967.
  • To Abolish Children, and other essays. Quadrangle Books, 1968.
  • The Poetry Wreck: Selected essays, 1950-1970. New York: Random House, 1975.
  • The Younger Son: Poet; An autobiography in three parts; the youth and war years of a distinguished American poet. Algonquin Books, 1988.
  • Reports of My Death: An autobiography. Algonquin Books, 1990.

Edited[edit | edit source]

  • Modern American and Modern British Poetry (with Louis Untermeyer & Richard Wilbur). Harcourt, 1955.
  • American Poetry (anthology), Crowell, 1960.
  • Prose Keys to Modern Poetry. New York: Harper, 1962.
  • Prosody Handbook (with Robert Beum). New York: Harper, 1965.
  • Letters of Delmore Schwartz (with Robert Phillips). Ontario Review Press / Persea Books, 1984.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[1]

See also[edit | edit source]


"The Fly" by Karl Shapiro (poetry reading)


5 poems by Karl Shapiro

References[edit | edit source]

  • Lee Bartlett, Karl Shapiro: A Descriptive Bibliography 1933-1977 (New York: Garland, 1979).
  • Gail Gloston, Karl Shapiro, Delmore Schwartz, and Randall Jarrell: The Image of the Poet in the Late 1940s (Thesis: Reed College, 1957).
  • Charles F. Madden, Talks With Authors (Carbondale: Southern Illinois U. Press, 1968).
  • Hans Ostrom, "Karl Shapiro 1913-2000" (poem), in The Coast Starlight: Collected Poems 1976-2006 (Indianapolis, 2006).
  • Joseph Reino, Karl Shapiro (New York: Twayne, 1981).
  • Stephen Stepanchev, American Poetry Since 1945: A Critical Survey (1965).
  • Sue Walker, ed., Seriously Meeting Karl Shapiro. (Mobile, AL: Negative Capability Press, 1993.
  • William White, Karl Shapiro: A bibliography (with a note by Karl Shapiro) Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1960.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Karl Shapiro 1913-2000, Poetry Foundation, Web, June 23, 2012.

External links[edit | edit source]

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