Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Alan Shapiro has confined his work mostly to poetry and poetic prose, but his 1993 collection of essays In Praise of the Impure: Poetry and the Ethical Imagination, Essays, 1980-1991 includes discussions of his poetic theory concerning the narrative element in lyric poetry and the way imaginative literature can test the reader’s moral certitude. The collection also includes some discussion of poetsJ. V. Cunningham,Robert Hass, James McMichael, Robert Pinsky, andJohn Berryman, as well as some discussion of New Formalism, a poetic school that particularly affected Shapiro’s early work.

The Last Happy Occasion (1996) is a collection of essays, partly biographical, mixed with literary criticism. In it, Shapiro uses individual poems as starting points for discussing literary theory as well as for discussions of the poems’ impact on his life. His memoir Vigil (1997) chronicles the death of his sister Beth from breast cancer. The death is agonizing for the whole family, and Shapiro examines the various ways individual members deal with it, ranging from her African American husband’s self-imposed isolation to her brother’s dark humor.