Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

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of his fame, he would go around the country, reading with his
father, a poet who had never quite ‘made it ’ (though he had
published some volumes) and was as conventional in his tech-
nique as his son was the opposite. Ginsberg has also done much
to spread the good word about Reznikoff, whom he seems to
regard as a poetic sire, though it is difficult to conceive of two
poets whose styles seem to differ more radically from each other.
Harvey Shapiro is perhaps better known as an editor (most
recently of
The New York Times Book Review)
than he is as
a poet. But in the estimation of at least one academic critic
writing in
he may be more than a match for the
better known Karl Shapiro (no relation). Ranking and hier-
archies of talent in the arts are, in the long run, I suppose, un-
avoidable. But those who like to play the game of making lists
should be cautioned that it is harder than they suppose. ‘Quick
deciders’ and premature judges abound and generally leave
little trace on the opinion of the future. It is enough if we are
able to recognize those contemporaries worthy of being ranked
at all and avoid jumping to conclusions .The right way to go
about the matter may be not to attempt to amass a broad but
superficial knowledge of the field but, as T. S. Eliot once put it,
“to ask for a poem." Names of poets are many; real poems
are few.
About Harvey Shapiro at this time, it may be sufficient to
note that he has long been a serious practitioner of his art and
that he has brought intelligence and sensitivity to it. He inter-
ests us particularly because Jewish themes, though not an ex-
elusive preoccupation, are a noticeable feature in many of his
poems. He is not a prolific writer (or, it may be that he has
published less of his work than he could have), but he is
a careful and accomplished one. A short poem may serve to
illustrate this:
“The word moves a bit of air,
And this the next, until it reaches
The man who receives the word of his friend