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Shapiro, Karl

Shapiro, Karl

Shapiro, Karl, 1913-2000, American poet and critic, b. Baltimore, studied Univ. of Virginia, Johns Hopkins. His interests in the aesthetics and artifice of modern poetry and the role of the poet as cultural spokesperson are expressed in his poems and his criticism. Shapiro's early volumes of verse—Person, Place, and Thing (1942), Place of Love (1943), and V-Letter and Other Poems (1944; Pulitzer Prize)—were written while he was a soldier in World War II and contain much of his best-known work. Later volumes include Trial of a Poet (1947), Poems of a Jew (1958), Adult Bookstore (1976), Collected Poems, 1940-1977 (1978), and Poet: Volume One: The Younger Son (1988). His critical essays were published in such volumes as Essay on Rime (in verse, 1945), In Defense of Ignorance (1960), The Bourgeois Poet (1964), To Abolish Children and Other Essays (1968), and The Poetry Wreck (1975). His only novel, Edsel, appeared in 1971. Shapiro also edited Poetry magazine (1948-50) and until 1985 taught at various colleges.

See his autobiography, Reports of My Death (1990).

Shapiro is a Yiddish surname which occasionally is said to be derived from the medieval name of Speyer, Germany. However, the word Shapiro is Aramaic (probably derived from the Hebrew word sapir (ספיר), usually translated as "sapphire" but which refers not to the sapphire gemstone but to the lapis lazuli and reputed to be the stone which represented the tribe of Issachar on the breastplate of the high priest of Israel and thus identifying the Shapiro family with that tribe) and appears, for example, in the 11th Century Aramaic-language Jewish religious poem Akdamus a/k/a Akdamuth (line 45) and in Onkelos' commentary on Genesis 29:17. Onkelos' commentary, believed to have been written around 110 CE, long predated the naming of Speyer (as Spira) in approximately 500 CE, and therefore has given rise to a family tradition that the city was renamed for the family and not vice-versa.

Notable people with the surname include:

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