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Karl Shapiro (Karl Jay Shapiro) Biography

(1913–2000), (Karl Jay Shapiro), Poetry, Person, Place and Thing, V-Letter

American poet, born in Baltimore, educated at the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, and the Pratt Library School, Baltimore. He held a succession of appointments at American universities until his retirement as Professor of English at the University of California, Davis, in 1984. From 1950 to 1956 he was the editor of Poetry. His early publications as a poet include Person, Place and Thing (1942) and V-Letter (1944), which received a Pulitzer Prize; the latter volume was strongly informed by his experiences as a soldier during the Second World War, which were occasionally subject to ironic qualification by Shapiro's ambivalent sense of his Jewishness. His numerous subsequent collections, which sustain an unsettlingly witty critique of the cultural pretensions of post-war America in verse of supple virtuosity, include Trial of a Poet (1947), Poems of a Jew (1958), White-Haired Lover (1968), Adult Bookstore (1976), Collected Poems (1978), Love and War, Art and God (1984), New and Selected Poems, 1940–1986 (1987), and The Old Horsefly (1992). The prose poems of The Bourgeois Poet (1964), which explore the human capacity for embodying absurd contradictions, form the culmination of the experimental tendencies in his verse of the 1950s. Among his other works is the novel Edsel (1971), a satire of American academic life. His highly regarded collections of essays include Beyond Criticism (1953), To Abolish Children (1968), and The Poetry Wreck (1975). The Younger Son: Poet (1988) and Reports of My Death (1990), which are written entirely in the third person, are the first two parts of a projected autobiographical trilogy.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas; Septem contra Thebas) to Sir Walter Scott and Scotland