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Skirts and Slacks
Skirts and Slacks

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W. S. Di Piero was born in an Italian working class neighborhood in South Philadelphia in 1945 and educated at St. Joseph's College. He left Philadelphia in 1968, and after taking an M.A. degree in San Farancisco and working odd jobs (tutor, commercial translator, movie reviewer, freelance editor) there and later in Italy and Vermont, he began teaching full time in 1976 at Louisiana State University and later at Northwestern. In 1982 he joined Stanford's Creative Writing Program, where he teaches part time.

He's a frequent contributor to Threepenny Review and regular art reviewer for the San Diego Reader. The most recent of his several books of poems include Skirts and Slacks (2001), Shadows Burning (1995), and The Restorers. He is the author of three collections of essays on literature, art, and personal experience: Shooting the Works: On Poetry and Pictures (1996), Out of Eden: Essays on Modern Art (1991), and Memory and Enthusiasm(1989). His translations from the Italian include a version of Giacomo Leopardi's Pensieri and The Ellipse: Selected Poems of Leonardo Sinisgalli. His translation of Euripedes' Ion appeared in 1996.

He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment fro the Arts grant, and Ingram-Merrill Award, and a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award.

He lives in San Francisco.

Di Piero opens this collection about public and private worlds with poems that revist the deaths of his parents. It is an important adult passage for him, and for them a last chance to leave a message: his father lying in bed, "bemused and contemptuous / of the hell in which he lay"; his mother soon to be laid out in the cheap gold flats "that made her look young and men look twice." Di Piero writes poems of relationships, of ordinary beauty, of the deep, vsieral memories that shape who we become. He reveals the art in the everyday--sometimes literally, as when he spies a Vermeer beauty in a girl with nose studs at the ATM, or Van Gogh's self-portrait in a small-time bookie. Whether describing the uncertainty of sexual love ("...your footpads / wet after a bath / left prints like / our conversations / every which way") or a panhandler in Port Authority ("Show you to your bus / or an excellent candy bar?"), he is delicate and direct at once, a no-nonsense guide to his surroundings who is moved by what he sees. His strong, elegantly simple statements of truths of feeling go beyond the pleasure of the words themselves and restore us to the thrill of honesty in our own lives.

"Di Piero has a great talent for close description . . . Particularly fine [is] the elegy for his parents, 'White Blouse White Shirt,' which ends on a note authentically sublime. Di Piero's poems cling tenaciously to the real and hold out for something more true; they scour the world to see past it." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A master of impressionistic candlelight, Di Piero is precise and empathetic . . . Between the everyday and the lofty, illuminated by 'mildly crazed words,' these thoughtful poetic compositions combine serious imagery with 'truth in words' . . . Refreshing poetry that gets better with reading." -- Library Journal

"Di Piero consistently injects Kleinzahlerian whimsy into his short lyrics, along with pathos-laden descriptions of depression's quotidian. This solemn attention to nature can mutate into Boccaccio-like satire . . . His ear is a great deal sharper than most poets chronicling their art- and writing-centered lives." -- Publishers Weekly

"W. S. Di Piero's poems have a different relationship to reality from what you find in most other poets' work. When I publish one of his poems about Philadelphia, I get letters from people saying they know the neighborhood he's talking about; sometimes they even know the block he's talking about. When I read his poems about his father and mother and other relatives, I can see them, or hear them speak, or sense the way they moved around and wore clothes and occupied space. Very little contemporary poetry has this quality--this allegiance to something that exists, or existed--and to me it's one of the most valuable functions poetry can have." --Wendy Lesser