Karl Shapiro 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 for Poetry in 1945, while Shapiro was still in the military. Shapiro was American Poet Laureate in 1946 and 1947. (At the time this title was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress which was ... more »
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Karl Shapiro Poems
The beauty of manhole covers--what of that? Like medals struck by a great savage khan, Like Mayan calendar stones, unliftable, indecipherable, Not like the old electrum, chased and scored,
It is winter in California, and outside Is like the interior of a florist shop: A chilled and moisture-laden crop Of pink camellias lines the path; and what
A Garden In Chicago
In the mid-city, under an oiled sky, I lay in a garden of such dusky green It seemed the dregs of the imagination. Hedged round by elegant spears of iron fence
The Olive Tree
Save for a lusterless honing-stone of moon The sky stretches its flawless canopy Blue as the blue silk of the Jewish flag Over the valley and out to sea.
Going to School
What shall I teach in the vivid afternoon With the sun warming the blackboard and a slip Of cloud catching my eye?
The Conscientious Objector
The gates clanged and they walked you into jail More tense than felons but relieved to find The hostile world shut out, the flags that dripped
The Piano Tuner’s Wife
That note comes clear, like water running clear, Then the next higher note, and up and up And more and more, with now and then a chord,
As a sloop with a sweep of immaculate wing on her delicate spine And a keel as steel as a root that holds in the sea as she leans,
O hideous little bat, the size of snot, With polyhedral eye and shabby clothes, To populate the stinking cat you walk
Sunday: New Guinea
The bugle sounds the measured call to prayers, The band starts bravely with a clarion hymn, From every side, singly, in groups, in pairs,
It stops the town we come through. Workers raise Their oily arms in good salute and grin. Kids scream as at a circus. Business men
To hurt the Negro and avoid the Jew Is the curriculum. In mid-September The entering boys, identified by hats,
The letters of the Jews as strict as flames Or little terrible flowers lean Stubbornly upwards through the perfect ages,
The Dome Of Sunday
With focus sharp as Flemish-painted face In film of varnish brightly fixed And through a polished hand-lens deeply seen,
Comments about Karl Shapiro
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
The beauty of manhole covers--what of that?
Like medals struck by a great savage khan,
Like Mayan calendar stones, unliftable, indecipherable,
Not like the old electrum, chased and scored,
Mottoed and sculptured to a turn,
But notched and whelked and pocked and smashed
With the great company names
(Gentle Bethlehem, smiling United States).
This rustproof artifact of my street,
Long after roads are melted away will lie
Sidewise in the grave of the iron-old world,
Bitten at the edges,
Strong with its cryptic American,
Its dated beauty.