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This interview is taken from PN Review 110, Volume 22 Number 6, July - August 1996.

In Conversation with Harvey Shapiro Michael Heller

This conversation with Harvey Shapiro was recorded at Harvey Shapiro's apartment in Brooklyn Heights on Sunday, 28 January 1996.

MICHAEL HELLER: In your work, I sense a radical fault line between your earlier poems and the bulk of your later poetry. In the Oral History Project interview, you say that you 'wanted to treat Jewish subjects in a kind of high Anglican manner', Itake it that you meant something like these line from 'The Talker' in Mountain, Fire, Thornbush (1961):



While all the choiring angels cried
Creation
s crown is set awry
God fabled man before he was
And boasting of his enterprise

Bade angels say the simple names
that mark in place each bird and beast.



There are a fair number of these poems yet what's amazing is that shortly you dropped this mode to write poems in which diction, tone, and prosody are modern - contemporary and American. How do you account for this?


HARVEY SHAPIRO: A change of style, of course, is much more than a change of style. What's involved here is a change in my attitude towards what poetry is and what a poet is. I came out of the '50s, the age of Eliot, in which we were trained to read the metaphysicals, to admire most in poetry a density of rhetoric that one still sees in an English poet like Geoffrey Hill. Years ago, ...


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