Sunday, 30 August 2015

David Shapiro

Image by Seán Grisdale.

David Shapiro was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1947 and attended Columbia University and Clare College in Cambridge, UK. A childhood prodigy on the violin, he also took up poetry at an early age and published his first poems in Poetry magazine at the age of 16. Two years later his first collection January (1965) was published.

Shapiro has been associated with the New York School and his work shows the particular influence of John Ashbery, about whom he has also written a book of criticism. However, Shapiro himself considered the “Jewish liturgical tradition […] and his literary heroes, Meyer Schapiro and Walter Benjamin” (Hoover) as even more important influences on his writing.

In the Rocky Mountain Review, Carl Whithaus wrote of Shapiro’s work:

“To call David Shapiro a poet of the surreal, of collage, of the erotic, of endless transition, of formless form, of fin-de- siècle regret is to touch upon the variety of poetic techniques he has explored … he has refused to write poetry which organizes the real into a clean and neat poetic.”

Shapiro has authored over twenty books of literary and art criticism and poetry. He has taught at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Princeton University, and the Cooper Union School of Architecture. He is a tenured professor of art history at William Paterson University.


My below poem took its inspiration from the line “Two more bodies were discovered in the Spanish forest fire” from Shapiro’s 1983 poem “Commentary Text Commentary Text Commentary Text”.

~ - ~


(4 August)
It’s raining in Scotland and I want to go away somewhere sunny but it’s not easy
to scrape [19 more bodies were discovered in salt water]
together the money so in the end I just buy cheap flights to see my
(6 August) family back in
southern Germany where it is really hot at least compared
to the miserable [25 more
bodies were discovered in salt water]
temperatures of Glasgow I enjoy walking in my sandals (15 August) for
4 days and come
home [51 more bodies were discovered in the hold]
on a late Saturday flight with
a bit of a sunburn as if I had been by (18 August)
the seaside
but I didn’t receive a single postcard from any
of my old
[6 more bodies were discovered in salt water] London
friends which probably means they
are using Instagram as a substitute or don’t have my new (24 August)
address and [5 more bodies
were discovered in salt water] I like (27 August)
the sun-filtered images
of Greece and Spain while the
[71 more bodies were discovered in the back]
weeks pass on and it’s the first week
(28 August) of school again
and summer is almost over
[52 more bodies were discovered in the sand]

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