David Shapiro

1947 –

David Shapiro was born on January 2, 1947, in Newark, New Jersey. He grew up in Deal, New Jersey, in a family of noted artists: cantors, composers, classical singers, pianists, poets, and sculptors. A violin prodigy, Shapiro began performing for large audiences at the age of five and, during the next eleven years, performed with several noted orchestras. Shapiro was also exposed to poetry at a young age, having read and memorized significant excerpts of the writings of William Blake, T. S. Eliot, John Milton, and William Shakespeare by the age of ten. At nine years old, Shapiro wrote his first poem and, for the next seven years, spent up to three hours a day writing poetry. He began publishing his poetry overseas at the age of ten, and in 1960 he published his first poem in the United States, in the Antioch Review.

By the time he turned fifteen, Shapiro had self-published several poetry collections. That same year he became exposed to many first-generation members of the New York School who would serve as mentors and influences on his work. He met Frank O’Hara, corresponded with John Ashbery, and worked closely with Kenneth Koch, who recommended Shapiro for undergraduate enrollment at Columbia College, where Shapiro was accepted at the age of sixteen. After taking a year off to play music and write, Shapiro enrolled in Columbia College and published his first book of poems, January (Holt, Rinehart and Winston), in 1965, at the age of eighteen. In the spring of 1968, several weeks before graduation, Shapiro took part in a campus student uprising. Another student photographed him in the office of the university’s president, Grayson Kirk. The photo later ran in Life magazine and other publications. 

Shapiro graduated from Columbia with a BA in English and studied Greek tragedy and English literature at Cambridge University for two years under the Kellett Fellowship, earning an MA. He then returned to Columbia for his PhD in English and comparative literature.

Shapiro has authored eleven volumes of poetry, including New and Selected Poems, 1965–2006 (Overlook Press, 2007); A Burning Interior (Overlook Press, 2002); and After a Lost Original (Overlook Press, 1994). He has also published works on literary criticism and art history. His manuscript “You Are You: Writings and Interviews on Poetry, Art and the New York School” is set to be released in fall 2024. 

Shapiro’s honors include a poetry grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the 1977 Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Graham Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Shapiro taught English and comparative literature at Columbia University from 1972 to 1981, and taught poetry and literature at the Cooper Union School of Architecture. He has also taught at Brooklyn College, Princeton University, and William Paterson University, in Wayne, New Jersey, where he was a tenured art historian.

Shapiro died on May 4, 2024, in the Bronx, New York.