Nebraska Authors

Karl J. Shapiro

Born 1913-11-10 Baltimore, MD (USA)

Died 2000-06-18
New York City, NY (USA)

Pulitzer Prize winning poet Karl Shapiro taught at the University of Nebraska from 1956 to 1966. Shapiro exerted immense influence on the Nebraska literary community during the ten years he spent in Lincoln. It was Shapiro's presence at the University of Nebraska that brought the young Ted Kooser to Lincoln in 1963.

When Shapiro arrived in Lincoln, he was already a Pulitzer Prize winner, he had won the Jeannette S. Davis prize (1942), the Levinson Prize and the Contemporary Poetry Prize (1943), the Shelley Memorial Prize (1945) and a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Rome (1945-1946). He had been U.S. "Poet Laureate" --Poet Consultant to the Library of Congress, 1946-1947. Thus distinguished, Shapiro was brought to the University of Nebraska to be the editor of Prairie Schooner. This was at the instigation of Mari Sandoz, according to Sandoz's biographer, Helen Winter Stauffer. Sandoz knew that Lowry Wimberly, Prairie Schooner's founding editor was ill, and she had met Shapiro and been impressed. As an urban creature and as a poet with "radical sympathies" Shapiro did not fit into Lincoln society or the University very comfortably. Shapiro resigned abruptly from the editorship of Prairie Schooner after the university administration forced him to censor a story. He soon left Lincoln.

Shapiro was a deeply learned scholar of modern poetry and a no-nonsense creative spirit. His students greatly valued his editorial skill. Shapiro's students at the University of Nebraska included Ted Kooser and Roy Scheele.

Reviewers have suggested that Shapiro's career after he left Nebraska may have been stunted by his abrasiveness. His novel Edsel, as well as his second volume of autobiography, Reports of My Death (1990) reveal his thoughts about Lincoln. Ted Kooser reviewed Shapiro's autobiography in LJS, April 15, 1990.


Places Lived

Lincoln, NE 1956-1966
Chicago, IL
Davis, CA

Author Of

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry


Poetry; Fiction; Essays; Criticism


Johns Hopkins


Professor of English
Editor of POETRY
Editor of Prairie Schooner

Places Worked

Johns Hopkins University
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
University of California, Davis


Consultant in Poetry at LC
Pulitzer Prize for V-Letter and Other Poems, 1945
Regents Professorship at Nebraska
Levinson Prize from Poetry Magazine
1969 Bollingen Prize
Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress
American Academy of Arts and Letters


Poems. 1935.
Five Young American Poets. 1941. (contributor)
Person,Place, and Thing. 1942.
The Place of Love. 1942.
V-Letter. 1944.
Essay on Rime. 1945.
Trial of a Poet. 1947.
Poems, 1940-1953. 1953.
Beyond Criticism. 1953.
Libretto for the Tenor: Opera in One Act. 1957.
Poems of a Jew. 1958.
American Poetry. 1960. (editor and contributor)
In Defense of Ignorance. 1960.
The Bourgeois Poet. 1964.
A Malebolge of 1400 Books. 1964.
Primer for Poets. 1965.
Prose Keys to Modern Poetry. 1962.
Prosody Handbook. 1965.
Wild Card. 1998.
Selected Poems. 1968.
To Abolish Children and Other Essays. 1968.
White-Haired Lover. 1968.
Edsel. 1971.
The Poetry Wreck: Selected Essays, 1950-1970. 1975.
Adult Bookstore. 1976.
Collected Poems, 1940-1978. 1978.
Love and War, Art and God. 1984
New and Selected Poems, 1940-86.1987.
Younger Son. 1988
The Best American Poetry. 1989. (Includes Shapiro's poem 'Tenneyson')
Reports of My Death. 1990.

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Karl J. Shapiro

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(e.g. Author is buried in Fremont, not in David City / Also wrote for the Daily Nebraskan during her time as a student)