Synopses & Reviews
Reel to Reel, Alan Shapiros twelfth collection of poetry, moves outward from the intimate spaces of family and romantic life to embrace not only the human realm of politics and culture but also the natural world, and even the outer spaces of the cosmos itself. In language richly nuanced yet accessible, these poems inhabit and explore fundamental questions of existence, such as time, mortality, consciousness, and matter. How did we get here? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do we live fully and lovingly as conscious creatures in an unconscious universe with no ultimate purpose or destination beyond returning to the abyss that spawned us? Shapiro brings his humor, imaginative intensity, characteristic syntactical energy, and generous heart to bear on these ultimate mysteries. In ways few poets have done, he writes from a premodern, primal sense of wonder about our postmodern world.
“A book about continuity and endings—marked by gratitude for the connections and illusions that keep consciousness aloft, as well as attempts to imagine the end of consciousness and the forces that both allow for and erode all life. . . . [Shapiros] vision of reality has grown to include the rich, imperfect images of reality we create, and as his poems have come to enact the intricate, reflexive vitality of such creation—even now, maybe especially now, as they increasingly contemplate the total loss of vitality.”
"Shapiro is a master of the middle tone (as well as most of the formal techniques in poetry’s capacious toolbox), and he probes the deeper places of the self with a skilled psychologist’s gentle persistence. A delicately disquieting collection."
In his sixth book of poems, Alan Shapiro once again shows that he is a master at articulating the secrets of the heart. The Dead Alive and Busy
deals with issues of personal identity as revealed through examining the intimate bonds of family life. The poems explore these familial relations in terms of the religious, social, and literary contexts that inform them, delving into such universal themes as human frailty, illness and death, bereavement, and thwarted desires. By turns lyrical and narrative, slangy and elevated, analytical and visionary, this collection showcases one of America's most important poets in his top form.
Praise for Alan Shapiro: "Shapiro is a shrewd and sympathetic moralist. He never trivializes his subjects with high-minded flourishes or stylistic gimmicks."—J. D. McClatchy, New York Times Book Review
Alan Shapiro was the second Phoenix Poet (after David Ferry) in Fall 1983, so it is with great anticipation that we welcome him back to the fold after twelve years with his newest book Reel to Reel, just in time for the 30th anniversary of the series.The volume bears all the hallmarks of the beautifully composed poetry that weve come to expect from Shapiro: the poems move from the intimacies of domestic love and attachment, and proceed outward to include contemporary social and political realities, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq via Homers Iliad. But Shapiro has also evolved as a writer, taking a quantum leap of faith, as it were, to explore new modes of expression and alternate ways to propel his verse syntactically. Like his earlier books of poetry (most of them published by this Press), Shapiros abiding subjects remain: Reel to Reel is very much a book about fundamental human truths, but it also yearns for truth in a larger universe we barely comprehend, from the natural worlds infinitely small realities to the infinitely large expanse of the cosmos. This is, far and away, his most ambitious book.
About the Author
Alan Shapiro has published twelve books of poetry, including Night of the Republic, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Griffin Prize, and Old War, winner of the Ambassador Book Award. In 2014 Shapiro was awarded a North Carolina Award for his body of work. He teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments One Wherever My Dead Go When I’m Not Remembering ThemReel to ReelThe Family BedWaveThe GateAging LoversThe CaveThought ExperimentOn Thumbing through Smith’s Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation
Taung ChildGravityIn WinterDisaster MoviesBeach TowelLaw of MotionAbsolute ZeroYouEmissaryDialogue Two Homeric Turns Three The BridgePoliticsAngelThe Open DoorGraceSpooky Action at a DistancePhantomSaint ChristopherWhatever Else They’re SingingScatterSunThe Not Lord