Alan Shapiro was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 18, 1952 and graduated from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he studied poetry with Galway Kinnell and J. V. Cunningham.
Shapiro has published over ten poetry collections, including Life Pig (University of Chicago Press, 2016); Reel to Reel (University of Chicago Press, 2014); Night of the Republic (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), a finalist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize and National Book Award; and Old War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), winner of the Ambassador Book Award. Shapiro’s poetry is steeped in the drama and loss of domestic life, traversing the line between the public and private spheres.
Of Shapiro’s work, poet Tom Sleigh has written, “[Shapiro’s] risk-loving swiftness of perception and his affinity for stories that up-end convention and taboo have enabled him to reclaim, for poets of my generation, areas of feeling and linguistic virtuosity that originated with William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, J. V. Cunningham, and Ivor Winters. It is hard for me to see how an ideal anthologist of the future will be able to include their names without gratefully including his.”
A memoirist, essayist, translator, and novelist, as well as a poet, Shapiro has also authored the memoirs Vigil (University of Chicago Press, 1997) and The Last Happy Occasion (University of Chicago Press, 1996). He published his first novel, Broadway Baby (Algonquin Books), in 2012.
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.
Since 1995, Shapiro has taught at the University of North Carolina, where he currently serves as the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing.