HOW CHARLIE SHAVERS DIED AND OTHER POEMS

Harvey Shapiro, Author . Wesleyan Univ. $26 (88p) ISBN 978-0-8195-6460-3 ISBN 0-8195-6461-3

Several decades of curt and understated verse, devoted at once to his native New York City, to the literary forebears he admires, and to a gruff, self-consciously masculine sound, dominated Shapiro's 1997 Selected Poems , also from Wesleyan. This new collection shows the poet sadder and more reflective, but essentially unchanged. Many quiet, short poems invoke and describe New York landmarks, from the specialty grocer Russ & Daughters to "the Brooklyn waterfront" (where he remembers "my grandmother's Yiddish"). Other verse remembers his military service ("the crumbled snow-strewn depots/ of a vanquished Europe"), his later travel (Kyoto, Jerusalem, Prague), or his sexual adventures. The best of the lot reflect on his mortality: "I'm beginning to identify," he confides, with "babies in their strollers," who "seem to be storing strength/ for the long journey to come." Shapiro ran the New York Times Book Review from 1975 to 1983; many poems acknowledge literary admirations and debts, from Jean Garrigue to John Clare to George Oppen. Shapiro's own style is more on the talky Reznikoff-Ignatow continuum. Though few poems succeed as verbal wholes, several work well as reflections on a long life, and plenty include well-made and humbled stanzas: one of the best concludes (recalling Hart Crane's homage to Melville): "This monody/ will not wake even the anthologists/ who count us/ among their small change." (July 2)

Reviewed on: 05/21/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Paperback - 76 pages - 978-0-8195-6461-0
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