Song and Dance: Poems

Song and Dance: Poems

by Alan Shapiro
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions


The poems in Alan Shapiro's seventh collection, Song and Dance, intimately describe the complicated feelings that attend the catastrophic loss of a loved one. In 1998, Shapiro's brother, David, an actor on Broadway, was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer. Song and Dance recounts the poet's emotional journey through the last months of his brother's

Overview


The poems in Alan Shapiro's seventh collection, Song and Dance, intimately describe the complicated feelings that attend the catastrophic loss of a loved one. In 1998, Shapiro's brother, David, an actor on Broadway, was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer. Song and Dance recounts the poet's emotional journey through the last months of his brother's life, exploring feelings too often ignored in official accounts of grief: horror, relief, impatience, exhaustion, exhilaration, fear, self-criticism, fulfillment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brief, tightly wrought and compelling, this eighth book of poems from Shapiro (The Last Happy Occasion) remembers his charismatic brother David, a Broadway actor who died recently from brain cancer. Shapiro's terse, moving sequence begins with poems about the two brothers as children, then moves swiftly into David's diagnosis, his last months of bodily decay and his family's uncomprehending grief. The poet's tools in portraying it all range from slow unrhymed couplets to prose poems and three-step, all-over-the-page lines, and from defiant show-business exuberance to a grave abstraction. One early, eloquent sentence considers "the still// inexorable autonomous/ machinery of obligations// that displace us even as/ they make us who we are"; the brothers' mix of admiration and struggle show "force/ requiring counterforce/ to feel how strong/ it is." Later poems set (in whole or in part) in the hospital set David's physical collapse against the bravery of his "beloved singers, tricksters/ of solace," "the dying brother/ playing the dying brother." Allusions range from Dickinson (in a poem called "Fly") to nursery rhymes; precedents include Marie Howe, Mark Doty, Donald Hall and Paul Monette, all of whom have published widely admired sequences about tending the dying though Shapiro's terse self-control in some ways excels them all. Shapiro (who won a Los Angeles Times Book Award for Mixed Company) has in the past seemed predictable, or perfunctory, as he took on the emotions of middle-class life; here, however, an awful subject has produced a volume to remember. (Mar.) Forecast: Shapiro edits the Phoenix poetry series at the University of Chicago Press, and is well known to the poetry community. This book should put him in a wholly new category among his peers, and will be a contender for major awards. It will also be a comfort to readers in his speaker's situation. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618382293
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
02/12/2004
Edition description:
None
Pages:
80
Product dimensions:
(w) x (h) x 0.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

Everything the Traffic Will Allow


The two boys don't suspect
they don't exist.
And Ethel Merman is
the shade of a shade —
what Plato says
all poetry is —
a record
spinning beneath
a needle
as the boys
lip-sync into
imaginary mikes
her glottal swagger,
brassy, large,
streetwise
and from their mouths
so touchingly naive
for being so . . .
There's no
people
like show
people . . .
Their parents clap
and whistle
from the bed,
propped up
on pillows . . .
Everything about
it is appealing . . .
They are shouting “Encore!
Bravo!”
when the boys,
like chorus girls,
arms on each other's shoulders,
step-kick their way
across the room
and out of it,
then back . . .
stealing that extra bow . . .
Shades of a shade.
What poetry is.
Because there's nowhere else
for them to be
except
inside the room
in which it isn't
when it is,
in which
there is no room
unless I think of it —

the boys
their arms flung wide
on one knee
mouthing the last words
before the needle slides
off into silence,
the parents propped up
on pillows,
half laughing, half
shouting “Bravo!
Encore!”
All now
just the shade
of a shade —
like no
people
I know . . .

Meet the Author


Alan Shapiro is the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author of nine acclaimed books of poetry. He is a former recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Award and the Los Angeles Book Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He was recently elected as a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >