Essay on Rime

with Trial of a Poet
Karl Shapiro
Foreword by David Lehman, Edited and with an Afterword by Robert Phillips
Now back in print, two brilliant verse-essays on poets and poetry by an American master


This book restores to print two stunning verse-essays on the art of poetry by one of America's most revered poets.

Karl Shapiro wrote Essay on Rime, a 2072-line blank-verse meditation on "the treble confusion / in modern rime" in 1945, while serving a stint with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific---far from any library. Rich in both insight and example, Essay on Rime discusses subjects ranging from prosody and idiom to Freud and Marxism, and confronts the particular approaches of such poets as W. H. Auden, e. e. cummings, Andrew Marvell, and Walt Whitman. Trial of a Poet, also included here, was inspired by Shapiro's service on the jury that selected Ezra Pound as the winner of the first Bollingen Prize for Poetry, and gives voice to Shapiro's moral objection to awarding the prize to Pound.

Karl Shapiro (1913-2000) published over thirty books of poetry, criticism, fiction, and autobiography in his lifetime, taught at a number of universities around the country, and served as the editor of the literary journals Poetry and Prairie Schooner. Winner of a 1945 Pulitzer Prize, Shapiro was also a Guggenheim fellow, a Library of Congress fellow, and a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was himself awarded the Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 1969. Even today, as David Lehman writes in his foreword, Karl Shapiro's poetry "retains its ability to provoke, instruct, and astound."

Robert Phillips is the author or editor of more than thirty volumes of poetry, fiction, and criticism. He is John and Rebecca Moores Scholar and Professor of English, University of Houston, where he directed the Creative Writing Program from 1991 to 1996. His honors include a Pushcart Prize and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature.

David Lehman has authored or edited over a dozen books of poetry and criticism. He serves as editor of The Best American Poetry series and the University of Michigan Press's Poets on Poetry series, and teaches in the graduate writing programs at Bennington College and the New School for Social Research.

Praise / Awards

  • "I read Karl Shapiro's ESSAY ON RIME soon after the end of World War II, when that young American soldier's treatise in verse was a literary sensation. It was a fresh, vigorous poem, and it helped me in my own work. A few years later in 1955-56 I wrote TREATISE ON POETRY, and I believe the idea for that book first came to me when reading the young Shapiro."
    ---Czeslaw Milosz
  • "This new edition of Karl Shapiro's ESSAY ON RIME and TRIAL OF A POET restores two singular and ambitious works to the American canon. Simultaneously learned and streetwise, formal and improvisational, these poems of the World War II era still seem fresh and novel. There is nothing else like them---or Shapiro---in our literature."
    ---Dana Gioia
  • "These two long poems on poesy and poets are like little else in twentieth-century literature. They are oddities but also monuments to the passion and concern once bestowed upon the written word. It is good to have them back in print."
    ---John Updike

Look Inside

Copyright © 2003 by The Estate of Karl Shapiro. Posted July 2003.

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Product Details

  • 5-3/8 x 8.
  • 128pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-09813-2

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  • $54.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06813-5

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  • $19.95 U.S.