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Karl Jay Shapiro

critic , educator , essayist , poet

Karl Shapiro was one of the most distinctive American writers of the twentieth century. He was the author of numerous beautifully made poems written in an everyday American idiom, and of provocative and bold criticisms of America’s culture, especially its ruling poetry establishment. He argued passionately for the value of the American experience as subject matter for poetry, and for the use of an authentic American voice to express it.


SHAPIRO, Karl was born on November 10, 1913. Son of Joseph and Sara Shapiro.


Educated at the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins University. Karl Shapiro attended the University of Virginia before World War II.


Shapiro first came to critical attention in 1942 with Person, Place and Thing, a celebration of his world. V-Letter and Other Poems(1944), which was based on his experiences during World War II, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1945. Other volumes of poetry followed, notably Poems of a Jew (1958), White-Haired Lover (1968),Collected Poems, 1948–1978 (1978), and The Wild Card (1998). Shapiro also wrote several works ofliterary criticism, including Beyond Criticism (1953), In Defense of Ignorance (1960), and The Poetry Wreck(1975), and he was harshly critical of poets T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Butler Yeats, and Ezra Pound. A consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (1946–47) and editor of Poetry magazine(1950–56), Shapiro also taught at the universities of Nebraska, Illinois, and California. His autobiography, Reports of My Death, was published in 1990.


  • Karl was many things to poetry over the course of his long career: a skilled practitioner of the art, an iconoclastic critic and gadfly, a teacher, an editor, a mentor and advocate for other writers, a standard bearer. He was a man who believed in the uniqueness of being American and strove to understand its meaning through his work.

    His verse ranges from passionately physical love lyrics to sharp social satire.


  • Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists (international association)

  • National Academy Arts and Letters

  • American Academy Arts and Scis.

  • Bollingen Prize Committee


Openly declared in the early verses of socio-critical pathos, which was not only a tribute to the influence of Auden's early, but the result of their own interest in Marxism, later identified the most important features of the worldview and poetics of Shapiro. The poet acts as a keen chronicler of American everyday life, sometimes sarcastic its commentator of the poems collection "Man, place and thing" and "Letter from the Front".

Collected Poems in Prose "Bourgeois Poet" - a satirical mural, the central idea is the idea of degeneration of poetry in modern society, the strengthening of conformist attitudes among the creative intellectuals, the moral degradation of the artist. The title of the book contains a bitter irony: the modern poet appears ,in Shapiro opinion, like bourgeoisified, bartered independence for obedient service to consumer needs poetry.

  • “Shapiro admits, he experimented "bourgeois poet" with form "in an attempt to create poetry without the traditional poetic fakes. I aspired to write antipoem." But this experience disappointed poet, more and more convinced that poetry is experiencing a protracted crisis in the modern world. These thoughts he formulated in his numerous essays. Programmatic expression of his views was the article "The collapse of Poetry" (1970).”




first wife:
Evalyn Katz

second wife:
Teri Kovach

third wife:
Sophie Wilkins

John J