COLLECTED POEMS: 1940-1977 by Karl Shapiro


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This volume is intended to replace the Selected Poems of 1968, now going out of print, so bibliophiles and admirers of Shapiro should get the earlier volume if they wish to assess the poet's later judgment. On occasions such as this, one naturally considers the poet's development, weighs his earlier against his mature work. In a sense one also matches one's own judgment against his, and it is hard for the poet-as-editor to please everybody. Shapiro has left behind the bitterness of the prose poems in Poems of a Bourgeois, so very bourgeois and scarcely poetic: ""Younger I dreamed of being a poet whose trash basket was rifled by scholars. I learned to write trash-basket poems."" Or, as he said in 1968, "". . ./ Frozen poems with an ice pick at the core,/ And lots of allusions from other people's books."" The latest poems are less bitter, but they are flat. Not only is rhyme almost absent, but metaphor as well; what imagination exists takes the form of story-telling: ""A Parliament of Poets,"" ""My Father's Funeral,"" and the concluding ""The Rape of Philomel."" Except for historians of poetry, readers would do better to search out Shapiro's earlier work.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1978
Publisher: Random House