Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

John B. Sanford
(Julien Lawrence Shapiro)
New York

Photo used with the gracious permission of
Jack Mearns, literary executor of the Sanford Estate.

John Sanford was born Julian Lawrence Shapiro, May 31, 1904 in New York City. He adopted his pseudonym as his legal name in 1940, and wrote under the name John Sanford and John B. Sanford.

Sanford attended Lafayette College for a year and obtained his LL.B. from Fordham University in 1927. He practiced law from 1928 to 1936, and then give up law to become a writer of novels, historical works, and a multi-volume autobiography. [Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004; Obituary: Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2003, p. B20; Washington Post, March 11, 2003, p. B7]

My correspondent, Professor Jack Mearns, writes that poetry may have
constituted only a small part of Sanford's writing, but that Sanford was indeed a 'sometimes poet.' Professor Mearns points out that Sanford had poems published in The Clipper, a progressive periodical published in Los Angeles. One of Sanford's poems, 'Marse Linkum,' appears in The Waters of Darkness 189-190 (Black Sparrow Press, 1986). Perhaps more importantly, as Professor Mearns notes, Sanford often wrote in a "poetic style, and sometimes included blank verse in his writings (e.g., his novel, Seventy Times Seven, Alfred A. Knopf, 1939, has a blank verse passage presented in the narrative).

A Brief Biography of John B. Sanford
Professor Jack Mearns
Psychology Department, California State University-Fullerton

John Sanford

Blacklisted Writer Dies


John B. Sanford, Scenes from the Life of an American Jew (Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1985-1991) (5 vols.)

Volume 1: The Color of Air (1985);' Volume 2: The Waters of Darkness (1986); Volume 3: A Very Good Land to Fall With (1987); Volume 4: A Walk in the Fire (1989); Volume 5: The Season, It Was Winter (1991)

____________, Maggie: A Love Story (Fort Lee, New Jersey: Barricade, 1993)

____________, The View from Mt. Morris: A Harlem Boyhood (New York: Barricade, 1994)

____________, A Palace of Silver (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 2001)


John B. Sanford, The Water Wheel (Dragon, Press, 1933) (under the name Julian L. Shapiro)

____________, The Old Man's Place (New York: A. & C. Boni, 1935)

____________, Seventy Times Seven, a Novel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939)

____________, Make My Bed in Hell (Seventy Times Seven)(New York: Avon, 1939)

____________, The People from Heaven (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1943) (New York: Liberty Book Club, 1943) (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995)

____________, A Man Without Shoes, a Novel (Los Angeles: Plantin, 1951) (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1982)

____________, The Land That Touches Mine (New York: Doubleday, 1953) (London: J. Cape, 1953)

____________, The Hard Guys (New York: New American Library, 1957)(1935)

____________, We Have a Little Sister (Santa Barbara, California: Capra Press, 1995)

____________, Every Island Fled Away (New York: Norton, 1964)

____________, The $300 Man (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1967)

____________, The Top of Pisgah (New York: Horizon Press, 1975-1980)(3 vols.)

____________, A More Goodly Country: A Personal History of America (New York: Horizon Press, 1975)

____________, Adirondack Stories (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1976)

____________, View from This Wilderness: American Literature as history (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1977)

____________, To Feed their Hopes: A Book of American Women (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980) (reprinted as: A Book of American Women, Univeristy of Illinois Press, 1995)

____________, The Winters of That Country: Tales of the Man-Made Seasons (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1984)

____________, A Correspondence (Santa Barbara, California: Oyster Press, 1984) (with William Carlos Williams)

____________, We Have a Little Sister: Marguerite, the Midwest Years (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1995)

____________, Intruders in Paradise (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997)

____________, A Palace of Silver: A Memoir of Maggie Roberts (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 2003)


Dan Giancola (ed.), Speaking in An Empty Room: The Selected Letters of John Sanford (Arlington, Massachusetts: Tough Poets Press, 2021)

Research Resources

John B. Sanford/Robert W. Smith Collection
Department of Special Collections
University of California-Santa Barbara Library
Del Sur, California

Papers of John Sanford & Marguerite Roberts
Boston University