Shapiro, Karl. “Hospital.” Poems 1940 – 1953. New York: Random House, 1953.
Maybe it’s because I have been watching HBO’s miniseries, “The Pacific.” Whatever the reason I have become more in tune with World War II literature. Both fiction and nonfiction. Written about vets. Written by vets. When I first picked up Karl Shapiro’s Poems 1940 – 1953 I had a feeling these poems would center around war, specifically World War II and the Pacific Theater. I wasn’t that far off. For the Book Lust Challenge I had to read “Hospital.” Scanning the table of contents I passed poetry with such titles as “Elegy for a Dead Soldier”, “The Gun”, Homecoming”, “V-Letter”, and “Troop Train” so it didn’t surprise me that “Hospital” had a wounded military feel to it. After a little more research I discovered that yes, Shapiro did serve in World War II, specifically in the Pacific.
There is nothing obvious in “Hospital” that screams war, and yet there is a frantic need to answer the questions of death. Where does one go after life has ended? Who deserves to die? And what is to become of the soul? Pain is addressed early. Nurses controlling and caring.
Favorite line, “These reached to heaven and inclined their heads
While starchy angels reached them into beds…” (p 78).
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 103). Here’s the funny thing – Shapiro’s poem, “Hospital” is only mentioned to explain the title of the small package: Fabulous Small Jews by Joseph Epstein (which I will read in May).