Wednesday, November 24, 2004

On Karl Shapiro

Not more than a month ago, and it feels like maybe half that, Garrison Keillor posted in the Writer's Almanac that it was the birthday of Karl Shapiro. Last Saturday in a library in a neighboring county, I found a copy of his The Bourgeois Poet. The first printing was in 1962, by Random House of New York, one year before the assassination of J.F.Kennedy.

Here's just one of the stanzas, if you want to call them that, which I like:

( 7
The bourgeois poet closes the door of his study and lights his
____pipe. Why am I in this box, he says to himself (al-
____though it is exactly as he planned). The bourgeois
____poet sits down at his inoffensive desk --a door with legs,
____a door turned table --and almost approves the careful
____disarray of books, papers, magazines and such ar-
____ticles as thumbtacks. The bourgeois poet is already out
____of matches and gets up. It is too early in the morning
____for any definite emotion and the B.P. smokes. It is
____beautiful in the midlands: green fields and tawny fields.
____sorghum the color of red morocco bindings, distant
____new neighborhoods, cleanly and treeless, and the
____Veterans Hospital fronted with a shimmering Indian
____Summer tree. The Beep fells seasonal, placed as a
____melon, neat as a child's football lying under the tree,
____waiting for whose hands to pick it up.


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