Biography of David Shapiro
David Shapiro (born January 2, 1947) is an American poet, literary critic, and art historian. He has written some twenty volumes of poetry, literary, and art criticism. He was first published at the age of thirteen, and his first book was published when he was just eighteen.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Shapiro grew up in Newark and attended Weequahic High School before matriculating at Columbia University at the age of 16 (with the assistance of Kenneth Koch), from which he holds a B.A. (1968) and a Ph.D. (1973) in English. Between 1968-1970, he studied at the University of Cambridge on a Kellett Fellowship, from which he holds an M.A. with honors. Having previously taught at Columbia (in the Department of English and Comparative Literature), Princeton University, and Brooklyn College, Shapiro teaches poetry and literature at Cooper Union and is currently the William Paterson professor of art history at William Paterson University.
He achieved brief notoriety during the 1968 student uprising at Columbia, when he was photographed sitting behind the desk of President Grayson L. Kirk wearing dark glasses and smoking a cigar; Shapiro later described the cigar as "horrible".
David Shapiro Poems
Poem For You
I am jealous of the sand beneath you around you what you see
‘I want my son to grow powerful and rich through science.' — Rimbaud Now that I have given up poetry, The guest of poetry, Governed poetry, Or rather that poetry has given up me, Has queened my pawn, how green my pawn, Or rather that poetry died in my lap, Any lap, like a lousy lover In another language, and I A Luddite with a laptop in his lap And now that my son is subtle And malicious as a god any god. And bestrides the dogmatic world As if it were a tennis court The clouds pass by, almost inhuman Like passers-by, the mountains like Churches and the churches like mountains Beautiful and untranslatable a woman Walks past the park like a street Or a scream or a double and triple Loss of meaning, and I thank whatever Nothing we actually worship, to change Nothing and the important thing: to leave The world alone, largely uninterpreted For the wet pavement On which he may scratch his poems
Henry Hudson Looks at the Hudson
Henry Hudson turned to me and said: Be expressionless and strong as me, Be grim and green, stout as Cortez, Double lock yourself within Like a warning wife, and be divorced From nothing, at last be a statue Of a self, and threaten at night like a landing, Turn to your river, like a monist on a raft, And always found your river on a fault, Be blind and copper, a mania on a column, Obscured, finally, by a single cloud of brick. I love you, that is why I do not talk About your humorous desire to appease. Rather complain, like a man, that there is no river.
A Poet Named Open
We make mistakes For example, I'm reading The NYC Poetry Calendar for April on this metropolitan spring afternoon And I read that today Cookie Mueller whom I slightly know from an argument with another poet and also a review she did of my Melancholy show and Bernadette and Phillip Good plus Open will be reading I don't know Open I think it's not Oppen who's dead and unfairly objectified I guess it's a young graffiti Poet, perhaps taking a single name, in 19th Century excess They're reading at the Anarchist Cellar It's a perfect name for a young perhaps slightly jejune ethical anarchist Then I see on the 16th Open is reading again, this time with my friend Joe Ceravolo and my former student Joe Lewis Now I'm really intrigued It seems like a blitz, an Open blitz perhaps he's publishing his first fundamentally daring volume I think of my translation of Baudelaire's Luxe, calme et volupté Rich calm and open Why haven't I thought of a decent nom de plume like Open Why settle down with four David Shapiros another living just a few blocks away another painting in a style not mine Perhaps this Open is the new Rimbaud and uses my poems for toilet paper, or perhaps we could be friends, friends with Open Again he appears at the Manhattan Public Library this time in lower case letters and than again at Maxwell's for $3 But my brain adjusts itself to the light It's simply an open reading that's implied This poet does not exist, though he should Open a young poet I should have invented as when I thought all of conceptual art would have been decent as one short story by B Oh, Open, you whom I would have read, and you who would have read me!
After Three Chinese Poems
for Mr. Cong One word tied to another word — that is all You know. No cherryblossoms. In this world The hospice workers visit the dead child. His lack of a voice startles the sleeping words. This world, fold upon fold. Is there a better title for it? Letting Go, Griefwork, Brightness Falls from the Air, All the Angels Were There. She said it. All night I think about my sister. Galileo plunged into Jupiter. O clear poetry! No dust tonight.
1960 Our father restless afraid of death would say You will rest when you're dead Perhaps not! And: Practice or you'll eat in the garage with the dog Dead as the light bulb is living still A secret for the light bulb is the nap of broken music There are some veins in brown plaster But the world emits a little light You wore cereal boxes as a belt I wore electric light as another mistake The search continued for more veins and a dented skull This too had a pedestal or place or base or double door or triple tomb.
The Weak Poet
When a poet is weak, like a broken microphone, he still has some power, indicated by a red light. The weak poet is fixed to the wall like an ordinary light. Dependent and dismal by turns, he is a nominalist and a razor blade and a light. And the demons cry, Cast him from the kingdom for a copy of a copy! Remove him like the women who supported the temple — slaves too free and alive. His similes are ingenious, like science among lovers. My friend, however early you called, you had come too late, again. The weak poet has not gone grey but his sacrificed similes lead nowhere. And his I is like any other word in the newspaper and he is cut up like fashion. Each window was seductive, but even his diseases could be cured. Your low voice alone is major like a skepticism. We had forgotten the place and the stories, and the fiery method, too familiar, too distant. We had memorized the poems, but only for prison. With the first new year celebrated in chaos above the red waters of Paradise. Where a clayey groom hears the bride's voice like a stronger world — Sound is all a snake can do — and charming sense and strangeness. Now the old poet loses his voice like a garden. But finds it again, like a street in a garden. In the injured house made of local sun and stone — In the city of numbers which everyone counts and hates and wants— We could read together in a dark city garden, scribbling with language over screens like lips, scribbling the first mistranslations.
O put a hand on her hand On Exterior Street The day was full of day On Exterior Street Moths drank tears from sleeping birds On Exterior Street You could think and look On Exterior Street The balls of the sycamore were swinging On Exterior Street Storing the definitions loading the differences Why did I still want to give it away Why not wait and write about that beautiful green sweater I was a virgin and learnt all about cells from Penelope Even the private road is exterior As one said all breasts are beautiful The Flower this flower is falling over It will never be more exalting It will always be more exalting On Exterior Street
Tattoo for Gina
Some see a dove And think Pigeon Others see pigeons And think Dove Some know that all pigeons are doves Some angry as if pigeons were not doves But the city lover knows And I try to reconstruct The tattoo on one of your many branches The more arms the more power I think of you, O pale tattoo All pigeons, all doves You friendly cliff-dwellers
The trees have sex, Teach, Focus. Tohu Bohu Chaos in a green light. Alone again. How alone I twist at the end of thought when illness is forgot and the speaker is punched on the bark on the soft models. The old abbot looked at us and laughed. He loved electronic gadgets for his tomb. You were as beautiful as six almonds as beautiful as the naked foot of the messenger of peace. You sat in a corner of the page.
An Owl (in Memory of Gil)
Owl small be enough The child for all his feathers was a cold. Oh wow the owl. The poem the vowels The owl, look its vowels That branch for you Owl, are you an armature vector And a large step for mankind? Owl astronaut burgeoning owl is a gift You give to me give to you Terrible other things happen. We stay on our branch. A hundred eyes Two will do
In the Other Pocket Dust
Sisyphus had a bad back. Why? Well, I get up in the morning And my wife wants me to carry A big blue bag of garbage To my son now Sleeping in a studio in NY. Five flights he will not carry. Oh I say I'm not supposed to carry More than five pounds of garbage And she crosses the border with it There was a dead body like little Pedro rolled down the Hill by Buñuel and not the long kiss Of L'age d'or but the dog and dog-dream In Los Olvidados. How do you abandon dirt? The blue bag also rolls down by itself, full of Pedro Something little Pedro always wanted to do It's a cold day. Man is garbage. Sisyphus has a bad back.
There are those who feed only on oranges. — S.Y. Agnon Nothing rhymes in English with an orange. It stands alone, with luster in a far tinge. It stands alone, and seems to make a star cringe. On Saturday it's blue like an orange Or like a surrealist sight rhyme in a garage. Nothing rhymes in English with an orange. But rime riche is rich enough for an orange. Still my doorman sings, Put it away in storage! It stands alone, and seems to make a star cringe. Orange replies: I'm drunk from my last bar-binge Half-rhymes like hangovers suddenly impinge. But nothing rhymes in English with an orange. While my wife in French eats one in her nude linge Playwrights Synge and Inge flap forward on a car-hinge. It stands alone, and seems to make a star cringe. Pronounce it orange and then expunge. So ends the story of the very violet orange. Nothing rhymes in English with an orange. It stands alone, and seems to make a star cringe.
Gold and Cardboard
1. My son said Daddy are there words for everything? I said You mean the space between The clouds? "Yes!" "No!" Like those who love to think one word will take care of Maupassant's tree and his landlady. But it turns out you will get no further than the words that reach and do not touch. X uses a hard word one per poem like throwing a true diamond sale or throwing a Ruby on a Corten steel table, a little gold in cardboard. There is a country where They make their own cardboard. General words the French love, a thousand eyes but only one Kaleidoscope. Even Merleau-Ponty not specific enough (said Meyer) like very pretty exit signs Without numbers. Paul Valéry said the world was made out of nothing and sometimes a bit of that Nothing shines through. No grin, no cat. But I think: The world was made of gold, and every once in a while Some of that gold shines through. You. They say it doesn't matter that you can't read the Book of Splendor in Aramaic. "Just leave it in your house." Amazing debilitating magic at the door! If there were the right word for everything, each young philosopher Could dream without sleeping. Using the same ruler and we'd all Have the same measures and ladders without rungs, with regular risers. Music without words: it does a good job of caring about you, X-ray of thought the architect wanted. X-ray for the lovers— I always loved to climb that ladder without rungs, I collect them. I fight over them, I forgive My antagonist. Even the wild ladder without tongues. Even the literal is a metaphor. This is not nothing says the boy to the teacher who could care less. Multeity. And if I made up a word Would it survive like a quark of strangeness? Depends on which dictionary you're using, I told The president of that company. And if you made it up, like a rare country? I loved you in the near distance like a word and rare cool blood. What was I thinking? "You actually think?" 2. family ways My old dead father put it to me Women of an "intimate" age Reconciled all separation He sung it out Oh family ways, ah family ways The song contained a pregnant pause pun praise Patiently he observed, as the rat jumped out Patient in music, patient in clay Patient in love and in death, a satisfied ghost
Poem For You
I am jealous of the sand
what you see
bright things erased lady
sparkling and traveling without luggage