Karl Shapiro was a celebrated American poet, born on November 10, 1913, in Baltimore, Maryland. He achieved fame for his exceptional works of literature during the Second World War era and went on to become the fifth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States. His life journey was filled with accomplishments and struggles, and he’s remembered as a talented and influential figure in American literature.

Early Life:

Karl Shapiro grew up in Baltimore, surrounded by books and an intellectually curious family. His parents were Jewish immigrants, and he attended the University of Virginia, where he first began writing poetry. After graduating, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a book reviewer and started publishing his first poems in magazines.

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War Time:

Karl Shapiro’s literary career took a significant turn during World War II, where he was drafted and served as a soldier in the U.S. Army. He sent his wife, Evalyn Katz Shapiro, a group of poems he had written while serving in Africa and Italy, which later became his best known work, “V-Letter and Other Poems.”

Post-war Writing:

After the war, Shapiro continued to write, publishing several collections of poetry, including “Trial of a Poet,” “Poems of a Jew,” and “The Bourgeois Poet.” He was also an editor and translated the works of various European poets into English.

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Rabbit’s Foot:

In 1947, Shapiro published “The Place of Love,” a novel that later became known under the title “Rabbit’s Foot.” The novel is an autobiographical account of his experiences in the army, including the shock of war, racial tensions, and sexuality. “Rabbit’s Foot” was a groundbreaking work, often considered the first war novel of the 20th century.

Pulitzer Prize:

In 1945, Karl Shapiro’s collection of poems, “V-Letter and Other Poems,” won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The collection incorporated his letters written to his wife, which detailed his wartime experiences and the emotions he felt. The Pulitzer Prize was a significant accomplishment, and it highlighted Shapiro as a talented and thoughtful poet.

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Karl Shapiro left a legacy as one of the most influential poets of his era. He was one of the first writers to openly discuss war experiences and social issues such as race and sexuality in his work. His writing style was known for being straightforward and easy to understand, yet still profound and emotional.


Q1. What was Karl Shapiro best known for?

Karl Shapiro was best known for his poetry, particularly the collections “V-Letter and Other Poems” and “Trial of a Poet.”

Q2. Did Karl Shapiro serve in the military?

Yes, Karl Shapiro served in the U.S. Army during World War II and wrote several poems during his deployment.

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Q3. What was Karl Shapiro’s writing style?

Karl Shapiro’s writing style was straightforward and easy to understand, yet still profound and emotional.

Q4. Was Karl Shapiro’s work influential?

Yes, Karl Shapiro’s work was influential and established him as one of the most talented poets of his era.

Q5. What did Karl Shapiro write after World War II?

After World War II, Karl Shapiro published several collections of poetry, edited various literary works, and wrote the novel “Rabbit’s Foot.”

Q6. Did Karl Shapiro ever receive any awards for his work?

Yes, Karl Shapiro won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1945 for his collection “V-Letter and Other Poems.”

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Q7. What is Karl Shapiro’s legacy in American literature?

Karl Shapiro is remembered as a talented and influential poet who discussed war experiences and social issues in his writing.


In conclusion, Karl Shapiro’s life and legacy continue to inspire many individuals in various fields of literature. His writing style was known for being simple yet profound, an approach that allowed him to make an impact on his audience. From his time as a soldier to his days as a poet and editor, Shapiro demonstrated remarkable resilience and creativity throughout his journey. Reading his work is a testament to the power of the written word to tell compelling stories that captivate and engage its readers. As such, one can learn a lot from Karl Shapiro’s experiences and works, and his legacy will undoubtedly continue to influence literary circles for years to come.

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