Born in Baltimore, Shapiro studied at the University of Virginia until he enlisted in World War II. While still in service, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He immediately became Poet Laureate upon his return to the United States in 1946 and 1947.
Shapiro’s poetry often utilizes traditional poetic forms with great professionalism and polish, but also incorporating everyday American subjects–like cars, house flies, and drug stores–as well as vernacular language. His influences range from Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams to W. H. Auden and D. H. Lawrence.
In addition to poetry, Shapiro also wrote the libretto for Hugo Weisgall’s opera The Tenor (1950).