Norman Shapiro, Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet in Residence, formerly professor of romance languages and literatures, died April 3 at the age of 89.
Shapiro arrived at Wesleyan in 1960 after receiving his BA and MA from Harvard University, completing a Fulbright Fellowship at Université d’Aix-Marseille in France, and returning to Harvard for his PhD. He stepped down from regular duties in 2017 but continued in his roles as Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet in Residence.
In addition to his classes in Romance languages and literatures, Shapiro also taught American Sign Language and served as the faculty advisor to DKE for almost 60 years. For their 50th reunion book, the class of 1965 named Shapiro as the faculty member who had the biggest impact on their post-Wesleyan lives. One former student was quoted as saying, “Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Norm as a counselor and mentor will remember his natural ability to guide us through our transition from childhood to adulthood. He ‘got us.’”
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Norman Shapiro, Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet in Residence, is the translator of Pierre Coran’s book, RhymAmusings, published by Black Widow Press in 2019.
“These 78 amusing rhyme-vignettes by preeminent Belgian children’s poet and novelist Pierre Coran speak with an adult sophistication and endearing grace to the ‘child in all of us,’” Shapiro wrote about the book.
Among the poems are “Six Hundred Six Sour Cherries,” “The Little Goldfish,” “Why Do Potatoes Have Eyes,” “Scat, Cats,” “The Whale in My Hat,” and “The Flea and the Elephant.”
Publication of the book was aided by a grant from the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund at Wesleyan.
Shapiro is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets. His many translations have won several major awards over the last 50 years.
Norman Shapiro, the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the editor and translator of Fables of Town and Country, published by Black Widow Press in October 2017. Fables of Town and Country is the English version of poet-novelist Pierre Coran’s Fables des Villes et des Champs.
Supported by a grant from the Belgian Ministry of Culture, Fables of Town and Country is the second of three works by Coran that Shapiro is translating. The first was Fables in a Modern Key in 2014, and the third, Rhymamusings is scheduled to appear in 2019. Coran, Shapiro explains, “is a whimsical octogenarian celebrated throughout his native Belgium as a preeminent ‘children’s poet’—though only, in truth, for the most precocious of children!”
The 200-page book is illustrated in full color by Olga Pastuchiv.
Shapiro also is Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets.
Professor Norman Shapiro’s translation of the poem “Clair de lune (Moonlight),” will appear in the audio guide to accompany the Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897, opening June 30.
“Clair de lune,” appears in Shapiro’s One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine (University of Chicago Press, 1999). Shapiro, professor of French studies and the distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet-in-Residence at Wesleyan, received the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize for translating Verlaine’s poetry collection.
Norman Shapiro, Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, continues his work as a translator of traditional French literature with his newly published books, The Fortune-Teller (La Tireuse de cartes) and The Jew of Seville (Diégarias). Both originally written by Victor Séjour, the plays highlight the complexities surrounding those who were ‘black and free in the Antebellum South, exposing “in subtle and veiled ways how the conflict of race and class existed in nineteenth century Louisiana.”
The Jew of Seville follows the story of a Jewish man masquerading as a Christian and the lengths he goes to get revenge after his identity as a Jew is revealed leading to the unraveling of his, as well as his daughter’s well-established lives. The Fortune Teller is based on the real events of the Mortara incident. In Séjour’s rendition, an infant girl is taken from her Jewish home. Fast forward 17 years and readers follow the story of her wealthy mother disguised as a poor fortune teller in search of her lost daughter.
Both of Shapiro’s new works, as well as past translations can be found and purchased here.
Norman Shapiro, professor of French, poet in residence and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation at Wesleyan, has received a grant from the Belgian government’s Ministère de la Culture for his forthcoming volume Fables of Town and Country, a translation of Fables des villes et des champs of Pierre Coran, an eminent Belgian poet and novelist.
The book will feature illustrations by Olga Pastuchiv, a children’s book author and illustrator, and will be published by Black Widow Press, which specializes in poetry translations. Black Widow Press also published Shapiro’s previous collection of Coran, Fables in a Modern Key, translated from the Belgian author’s Fables à l’air du temps. Early next year, Black Widow intends to publish Shapiro’s Rhymamusings, a translation of the 70 whimsical verse-vignettes of Coran’s Amuserimes.
Shapiro has received praise and numerous awards for his translations. In 1971, his translation of Feydeau’s Four Farces was a finalist for the National Book Award for Translation. His French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen earned him the 2009 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). Shapiro also is a member of the Academy of American Poets and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Francaise.
Norman Shapiro, the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the author and translator of Creole Echoes: The Francophone French Poetry of 19th-Century Louisiana, a new addition to Second Line Press, New Orleans’ Louisiana Heritage Series, published Dec. 1.
Shapiro also previously contributed to the Louisiana Heritage Series, New Orleans Poems in Creole and French (2013), a title, which covers almost all the French and Louisiana Creole poetry of noted intellectual Jules Choppin between 1830-1914.
Future translated works to be published by Second Line Press include, two plays of poet and playwright Victor Séjour— “The Fortune-Teller” (La Tireuse de cartes), a five act play in prose based on the celebrated Mortara Affair, and the five-act formal-verse drama, “The Jew of Seville” (Diégarias).
More details on Shapiro’s work is online here.
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, and Wesleyan’s Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is one of the poets featured in the August 2016 “The Hyper-Texts,” a prestigious website honoring individual American poets with chosen examples from their work.
Shapiro’s poetry translations include “Innocents We,” translated from the French words of Paul Verlaine; “To the Reader,” translated from the French of Charles Baudelaire’s Au Lecteur; “Invitation to the Voyage” translated from the French of Charles Baudelaire’s L’Invitation au Voyage and “End of the Day” translated from the French of Charles Baudelaire’s La Fin de la Journée.
Among Shapiro’s many translations are Four Farces by Georges Feydeau, which was nominated for a National Book Award; The Fabulists French: Verse Fables of Nine Centuries, named Distinguished Book of the Year by the American Literary Translator’s Association; One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine, which won the Modern Language Association of America’s Scaglione Prize in 2001; and Charles Baudelaire: Selected Poems from “Les Fleurs du mal,” the last published by the University of Chicago Press. With his next volume of La Fontaine translations, Shapiro will have done all the Fables, to go along with a volume of La Fontaine’s Contes. Other books of translations include Lyrics of the French Renaissance (published by Yale University Press), The Comedy of Eros (published by University of Illinois Press), and two forthcoming including a collection of nine centuries of French women poets to be published by Johns Hopkins, and a collection of one-act comedies by Eugène Labiche.
Norman Shapiro, professor of French and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the author/translator of The Gentle Genius of Cécile Périn: Selected Poems (1906-1956), published by Black Widow Press, 2016. This comprehensive bi-lingual anthology covers the full expanse of Périn’s (1877-1959) works.
“A reader of Cécile Périn’s work cannot help being struck by the spontaneous and intuitive nature of her poems, effortlessly flowing from one subject to another, touching the reader by their unstrained yet profoundly beautiful images and sounds,” Shapiro said.
Despite limited bibliographical resources available on Périn’s life, The Gentle Genius provides readers with sufficient material to embrace fully her talent and confidently identify her as a significant femme de lettres. For contemporary readers, this work gives renewed access to the world of female imagination in the mostly male-dominated field of early and mid-20th-century French poetry. Her images of female sexuality, free and uncensored, are placidly combined with descriptions of nature and human emotions-not overly romanticized-to create a harmonious and warm verse, candid and authentic, yet no less profoundly artistic.
Shapiro is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets.
Norman Shapiro, professor of French and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, collected and translated a book, Fe-Lines: French Cat Poems through the Ages. The collection was published by University of Illinois Press in October 2015.
The French have long had a love affair with the cat, expressed through centuries of poetry portraying the animal’s wit and wonder.
Spanning centuries and styles, Shapiro reveals a remarkable range of French cat poems, with most works presented for the first time in English translation. Scrupulously devoted to evoking the meaning and music of the originals, Shapiro also respects the works’ formal structures. Pairing Shapiro’s translations with Olga Pastuchiv’s illustrations, Fe-Lines guides the reader through the marvels and inscrutabilities of the mystique féline.
As Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and member of the Academy of American Poets, Shapio has published numerous award-winning collections, including The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine.
Publication of this book has been aided by a grant from the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund of Wesleyan, established through the generosity of the late Joseph McMahon.
On June 28, Norman Shapiro, professor of French, provided light verse readings, including a passage from his recently translated Fables in a Modern Key, as part of the Find Your Park summer festival event series. The reading took place at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.
Shapiro is a member of the Academy of American Poets and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française.
Fables was written by by Pierre Coran (whose real name is Eugene Delaisse), a poet and novelist of the Belgian French-language. One of Begium’s most renowned poets with some 45 poetry books published to date, he also is the author of 25 published novels, 24 books of fables, hundreds of comic book stories, and several albums which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His children’s stories and fables are published around the world, but this the first selection of his fables to be translated into English in a full length book format.
Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site was home to 19th century poet and scholar Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family from 1837–1950. The historic 1759 colonial mansion also was General George Washington’s first major headquarters during the American Revolution. The house and its collections were a gift to the nation from Longfellow’s descendants in 1972. Its extensive collections and grounds represent more than 250 years of America’s history and literature.
Shapiro’s book can be found here.
Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, translated the book Poetry of Haitian Independence, published by Yale University Press in May 2015.
At the turn of the 19th century, Haiti became the first and only modern country born from a slave revolt. During the first decades of Haitian independence, a wealth of original poetry was created by the inhabitants of the former French Caribbean island colony and published in Haitian newspapers. These deeply felt poems celebrated the legitimacy of the new nation and the value of the authors’ African origins while revealing a common mission shared by all Haitians in the young republic: freedom from oppressors and equality for all.
This collection of Haitian verse written between 1804 and the late 1840s sheds a much-needed light on an important and often neglected period in Haiti’s literary history. Editors Doris Kadish and Deborah Jenson have gathered together poetry that has remained largely unknown and difficult to access since its original publication two centuries ago. Featuring translations a foreword by the Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat, this volume describes a turning point in Haitian and world history and makes a significant corpus of poetry accessible to a wide audience.