Photo Credit: UNC Dept. of English

Alan Shapiro

b. 1952

Current City, State, Country

Durham, North Carolina, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Boston, Massachusetts, USA


Alan Shapiro is an American poet, essayist, memoirist, and author, whose work has explored family, loss, domesticity, and the daily aspects of people’s lives in free verse and traditional poetic forms. A graduate of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he studied poetry with Galway Kinnell and J. V. Cunningham, he has published over ten books of poetry, including Life Pig ;(2016); Reel to Reel (2014), a finalist for the Pulizer Prize; Night of the Republic (2012), a finalist for the National Book Award and the Griffin Prize; and Old War (2008), winner of the Ambassador Book Award. 

He has written three memoirs that explore his relationship to poetry and his grief around losing his sister, including The Last Happy Occasion (1997), which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle award. His first novel, Broadway Baby (Algonquin Books), was published in 2012, and he is also the author of a collection of essays on poetry, In Praise of the Impure: Poetry and the Ethical Imagination: Essays, 1980–1991 (1993).

“If childhoods have leitmotifs,” Shapiro wrote in an essay called Identity Problem: Belonging, Yet Standing Apart, “mine was the steady, subtle, though sometimes bullying insistence on the unsurpassed importance of my Jewish American identity. On one side of my two-track upbringing, there was the uncontested conviction that Jews were the chosen people, the main players in God’s plan for humanity; on the other side, the daily pledge of allegiance to the American Republic, in all its shining-city- on-a-hill exceptionalism. How it is that my self-importance is not positively Trumpian is as big a mystery as why Muammar al-Qaddafi took over Libya and declared himself colonel, not king, or why, as John Berryman once wondered, cats love fish and hate water.”

Shapiro has received the Kingsley Tufts Award, an Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, two awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, a Guggenheim fellowship, the O. B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., the Sarah Teasdale Award from Wellesley College, and an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Shapiro was invited to read his work at the White House. He read “On Men Weeping,” a poem about Michael Jordan winning one of his six NBA championships. Shapiro has taught at Stanford University, Northwestern University, and, since 1995, Shapiro has taught English and creative writing at the University of North Carolina, and resides in Durham, North Carolina with his dog, Sammy.

(Biography courtesy of the Poetry Foundation, UNC-Chapel Hill, the Academy of American Poets, and The Hedgehog Review)

Published Works

By and By (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2023)
Proceed to Checkout (University of Chicago Press, 2022)
Against Translation (University of Chicago Press, 2019)
Life Pig (University of Chicago Press, 2016)
Reel to Reel (University of Chicago Press, 2014)
Night of the Republic (Houghton Mifflin, 2012)
Old War (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)
Tantalus in Love (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
Song and Dance (Houghton Mifflin, 2002)
The Dead Alive and Busy (University of Chicago Press, 2000)
Selected Poems (London: Carcanet, 2000)
Mixed Company (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
Covenant (University of Chicago Press, 1991)
Happy Hour (University of Chicago Press, 1987)
The Courtesy (University of Chicago Press, 1983)
After the Digging (Elpenor Books, 1981)

Broadway Baby (Algonquin Books, 2012)

Vigil (University of Chicago Press, 1997)
The Last Happy Occasion (University of Chicago Press, 1996)

In Praise of the Impure: Poetry and the Ethical Imagination: Essays, 1980­–1991 (Northwestern University Press, 1993)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Professor at the University of North Carolina


Brandeis University, BA, 1974

Subject Matter


Profile Created By

Shelby Sizemore, Yetzirah Intern