SELECTED POEMS by Karl Shapiro


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The key to Shapiro is in his prose poems, The Bourgeois Poet, where he disowns the craft of poetry for the real thing, the poet addressing mankind in the raw, in process, writing without guidelines, being Beat with a halo. How did this come about, how did the Shapiro of the Forties who composed such carefully ironic, Eliotic cadenced, masterly Audensque landscapes of the American scene (""Buick,"" ""Drug Store,"" ""University"") decide in the late Fifties that this was a ""trap,"" that he was the ""man who begins at the beginning--all over again"" and that ""posterity is a literary racket""? Reading the first half of the Selected Poems in the light of Shapiro's subsequent change, we can now see that the modernist persona he used was too cramped, exacting, and ""symbolic"" to ever really contain the robust, romantic temperament that has always lurked in Shapiro's work. But can we then say that his later Whitmanesque excursions or aesthetic manliness (""I feel ashamed when I write meter and rhyme, or dirty, as if I were wearing a dress"") have resulted in a fully fleshed self-identity, or is it merely another wrong turning, another mask? The latter, unfortunately, is the truer assessment: hampered by form in the past, today he is hampered by formlessness. Despite enormous gifts, he has yet to achieve a sustained breakthrough. The next turn of the wheel should be eventful indeed.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1968
ISBN: 081952252X
Publisher: Random House