Di Piero, W.S. 1945- (W. Simone Di Piero, William Simone Di Piero)
Di Piero, W.S. 1945- (W. Simone Di Piero, William Simone Di Piero)
Born December 3, 1945, in Philadelphia, PA. Education: St. Joseph's College, B.A., 1968; San Francisco State College, M.A., 1971.
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, instructor, 1976-79, assistant professor of English, 1979-80; Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, visiting lecturer in English, 1980-82; Stanford University, Stanford, CA, assistant professor, 1982-85, associate professor, 1985-90, professor of English, 1990—. Poetin-residence at Center for the Writing Arts, Northwestern University, 2000.
Fulbright-Hays research grant, Italy, 1972-73; Louisiana State University Graduate Council grant, 1978, for Pensieri; Illinois Arts Council completion grant, 1981, for This Strange Joy; P.E.N. Renato Poggioli Award, 1981, for The Ellipse; American Book Award nomination, translator, 1982, for Pensieri; Ingram-Merrill Foundation Award for poetry, 1985; Guggenheim fellowship, poetry, 1985; Commonwealth Club of California Silver Medal, 1985, for Early Light; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1989; Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize, 1996, for This Strange Joy: The Collected Poems of Sandro Penna; Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writer's Award, 1999; elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2001; Berlin Prize, 2002; John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Country of Survivors, E.B. Rasmussen (Berkeley, CA), 1974.
Solstice, Porch Publications (Tempe, AZ), 1981.
The First Hour, The Cummington Press/Abattoir Editions, University of Nebraska (Omaha, NE), 1982.
The Only Dangerous Thing, Elpenor Books (Chicago, IL), 1984.
Early Light, University of Utah Press (Salt Lake City, UT), 1985.
The Dog Star, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1990.
The Restorers, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.
Shadows Burning, TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 1995.
Skirts and Slacks, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
Brother Fire, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Memory and Enthusiasm: Essays, 1975-1985, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1989.
Out of Eden: Essays on Modern Art, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures, TriQuarterly Books (Evanston, IL), 1996.
Giacomo Leopardi, Pensieri, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1981.
Sandro Penna, This Strange Joy: The Collected Poems of Sandro Penna, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 1982.
Leonardo Sinisgalli, The Ellipse: Selected Poems of Leonardo Sinisgalli, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1982.
Photography: A History, Aperture Publications (New York, NY), 1985.
Euripides, Ion, introduction, notes, and commentary by Peter Burian, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Leonardo Sinisgalli, Night of Shooting Stars (poetry), Il Merlo Press (Emeryville, CA), 2005.
Work represented in anthologies, including Italian Poetry Today (translations), New Rivers Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1979; New Directions 44 (translations), New Directions Press (San Francisco, CA), 1982; The Morrow Book of Young American Poets, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1989; The Columbia History of American Poetry, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1993; Hiding in Plain Sight (essays), Mercury House (San Francisco, CA), 1993; The Age of Koestler (poetry), Practices of the Wind Press (Kalamazoo, MI), 1994; Best American Essays 1995 (essays), Houghton-Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995; The Poetry ofthe American West, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1996; Poets on Poetry (essays), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001; and Living under South Street (poetry), by Jonathan Elderfield, Kehrer (Heidelberg, Germany), 2003. Author of introduction for The Art of Gregory Gillespie, edited by K.R. Eagles-Smith, Harcourt Contemporary (New York, NY), 1992. Consulting editor for Pequod and Southwest Review. Contributor of poems to periodicals, including New Yorker, Yale Review, Ploughshares, and New Criterion. Contributor of translations to periodicals, including American Poetry Review, International Poetry Review, Chelsea, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Agni Review. Contributor of essays and reviews to periodicals, including New York Times Book Review, New Republic, Civilization, American Scholar, Commonweal, and Threepenny Review. Author of regular column on the visual arts for weekly newspaper, The San Diego Reader; author of catalog essays for various art galleries and museums.
A poet, essayist, art critic, Italian-English translator, and educator, W.S. Di Piero writes often about the South Philadelphia neighborhood of his boyhood and the Italian-American working-class families he grew up with. Albert Mobilio of The New York Times Book Review wrote: "When he recreates the streets of his hometown, he does so with a piercing specificity; this is a place where commonness is elevated by close scrutiny to something otherworldly." As Di Piero, in Skirts and Slacks, vividly recalls the deaths of his parents as well as everyday beauty and relationships, he fashions plain language into "dazzling moments," said Mobilio. The critic further noted that Skirts and Slacks "deserves convenient placement by the telephone, television, computer or radio so as to be ready to retune a static-buzzed mind's reflective potential."
A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote of Skirts and Slacks that Di Piero "consistently injects Kleinzahlerian whimsy into his short lyrics, along with pathos-laden descriptions of depression's quotidian." Frank Allen of Library Journal described Di Piero as a "master of impressionistic candlelight" who is sometimes "fogged in" while pursuing shapes of "the invisible life of things" but who is "precise and emphatic" when focusing on familiar city scenes and people. "When possessed by subjects that pit his virtuosity against the intractable metal of private obsession," observed New York Times Book Review critic Tom Sleigh, "Mr. Di Piero writes with force and originality."
Di Piero writes about both the literary and the visual arts in Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures, a collection of memoirs, essays, notes, and art criticism covering a wide range of topics, from Hopi Indian storytelling to the poetry of Ezra Pound to contemporary photography. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Di Piero's approach in this book "impressionistic rather than strictly logical" because he is "more concerned with communicating his insights and enthusiasms than with persuading by argument." Di Piero's longtime love of art and photography is also evident in two of his earlier books, Out of Eden: Essays on Modern Art and Photography: A History, as well as in his weekly column on the visual arts for San Diego Reader and in his work for various art galleries and museums.
Di Piero has won awards for three of his poetry translations: Giacomo Leopardi's Pensieri, Sandro Penna's This Strange Joy: The Collected Poems of Sandro Penna, and Leonardo Sinisgalli's The Ellipse: Selected Poems of Leonardo Sinisgalli. Mobilio described Di Piero as "dedicated to a communicative ideal—he wants us to see, hear and taste his written world." In a Publishers Weekly review of Di Piero's translation of Euripides' Ion, the contributor wrote that his verse is "as effective as it is simple" in telling the story of the servant boy of Apollo. With both comic and tragic elements, the 2,400-year-old Greek drama makes for a combination that "is as easily found in King Lear as in All in the Family," the reviewer concluded.
In the poetry collection Brother Fire, Di Piero examines faith, knowledge, and religion through the symbolic rituals and events surrounding holiday celebrations as well as ordinary activities such as ironing and dancing. According to a critic in Publishers Weekly, "the poems are pitched toward the transformation of the external and ephemeral to the internal and fixed," and reviewer Janet St. John observed in Booklist that the poet "pushes language, content, and experience through the lens of history, both personal and traditional." "‘Loss’ is the underground current flowing beneath the majority of the poems in Brother Fire—recognition of loss, followed by recognition of the present emotions accompanying it," observed Poetry critic James Campbell, who added: "The poems in Brother Fire take memory as epiphany, enabling the poet to shuttle between present and past, between mundane reality—‘the wall's / filthy cracks’—and illumination—‘a silted fountain of prayer’—as if walking from room to room."
Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems contains verse from Di Piero's previous volumes and offers fifteen new works. The poet "has produced a diverse body of work that's alternately lush and spare," noted Booklist reviewer Kevin Nance, and Library Journal critic Barbara Hoffert stated that Di Piero "writes lucidly but not plainly, delivering crystal-clear verse that can be visually stunning without a pile-up of images."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, June, 1996, review of Shadows Burning, p. 21.
Booklist, April 15, 1992, Thomas Phelps, review of The Restorers, p. 1497; September 15, 2004, Janet St. John, review of Brother Fire, p. 195; February 15, 2007, Kevin Nance, review of Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems, p. 25.
Library Journal, May 15, 1996, David Kirby, review of Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures, p. 62; July, 1996, T.L. Cooksey, review of Ion, p. 115; March 15, 2001, Frank Allen, review of Skirts and Slacks, p. 88; March 15, 2007, Barbara Hoffert, review of Chinese Apples, p. 76.
New York Times Book Review, July 21, 1985, Tom Sleigh, "Of Hector, Orpheus and Max Jacob," review of Early Light, p. 24; August 5, 2001, Albert Mobilio, "Poems around the House," review of Skirts and Slacks, p. 15.
Partisan Review, spring, 1999, Eric Pankey, review of Shadows Burning, p. 344.
Poetry, March, 1993, Bruce Murphy, review of The Restorers, p. 339; January, 2005, James Campbell, "We're Here Because We're Here," review of Brother Fire, p. 325.
Publishers Weekly, May 25, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Dog Star, p. 55; February 17, 1992, review of The Restorers, p. 59; March 18, 1996, review of Ion, p. 65; April 1, 1996, review of Shooting the Works, p. 67; March 26, 2001, review of Skirts and Slacks, p. 85; November 22, 2004, review of Brother Fire, p. 56.
Sewanee Review, winter, 2001, David C. Ward, review of Shooting the Works, p. 149.
Academy of American Poets,http://www.poets.org/ (September 25, 2007), "W.S. Di Piero."
Stanford University,http://www.stanford.edu/ (September 25, 2007), "W.S. Di Piero."