Karl Shapiro

(10 November 1913 – 14 May 2000 / Baltimore, Maryland)

Karl Shapiro
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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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Best Poem of Karl Shapiro

Manhole Covers

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.

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