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The Dead Alive and Busy (Phoenix Poets) Paperback – April 3, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0226750514 ISBN-10: 0226750515 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Poets
  • Paperback: 89 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226750515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226750514
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

With its opening poems, Shapiro's (Mixed Company) seventh collection would seem to be the apex toward which his previous work was heading. Any readers not afraid of strong emotion will be moved by the mix of honesty and na?vet? that fills the book's first 20-odd pages. Shapiro calls his dying parents into focus with the same sort of sensuality that distinguishes Sharon Olds's poems about her children--although his continual references to Greek gods seems a bit overstated. And, unfortunately, his other poems simply don't hold up as well. The pieces in the book's second section are perfectly well crafted, but with the exception of a few poems about his daughter and one about hitchhiking, they are unmemorable. In the third and final section, we face illness and death again as Shapiro describes an unnamed woman dying before her time; once more, our interest is aroused. But while these poems make a serious stab at the brilliance with which this volume began, their lack of specificity prevents the reader from forming a bond. Despite these reservations, this book is recommended for most collections given Shapiro's stature.
-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


...a collection weighted with grief... -- The New York Times Book Review, Michael Hainey

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Times reviewer is right that THE DEAD ALIVE AND BUSY is "weighted with grief," but that's only the half of it. Shapiro is a master of structure, a poetic maker who understands that what makes grief bearable is the song the poet builds to contain feeling. This volume begins with an extraordinary hymn to Apollo, a poem which points to the way that poetry's work is to marry the pleasures of music to the stuff of human experience -- to sing, in other words, about our suffering, our failures and our nobility. It's a poem that points to this collection's project, and prepares us for the deep humanity, psychological insight, and formal grace of the poems that follow. This is one of the best books of the year.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lucas Klein on May 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Alan Shapiro has, in this volume, created a world where, for better or for worse, the past is not missing: instead, it walks around in our world, befriending us or pestering us, stopping at nothing, even death. And yet these are poems of loss, or loss that will not complete itself, as in Joyce's "absence is the highest form of presence."
Take the poem "Ghost," in which a dead woman speaks to her widower: even the past is haunted by its own past. Or the poems of or to the speaker's dead or dying relatives & loved ones: the touches that have ended in withdrawn hands but remain in lingering feeling.
Shapiro's knowledge of poetry is astounding, & he uses that knowledge (which is, by the way, so much more than mere knowledge) to build subtle, strong, and elegant poetry. He has been doing it for years; his earlier work--excellent as it is--is mere exercize for the power of The Dead Alive and Busy.
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Format: Paperback
Many of the poems in Alan Shapiro's The Dead Alive and Busy deal with aging, death, grief, suffering, and illness. Throughout the collection, Shapiro blends personal narrative with references to mythology, history, the Bible, and literary figures.
The urgency of the personal subject matter paired with Shapiro's careful structuring, control of language, and vivid description allow the best poems to be intimate and revealing without becoming sentimental. In the poem "Feet" Shapiro details the physical act of rubbing lotion into his father's feet: "my fingers working the moisturizer / down into the parched soles, the rinds of calluses, / over the bunched skin rough as braille above the heel bone." The rich specificity of this external description then helps Shapiro to create a snapshot of his father's life while imagining an internal landscape: "feet of the love bed, feet of we had / a few good years before the war, before you children, ... as I let them down / so slowly that the weight, the gravity, the pulling from the earth's core for a moment's mine, not theirs, then theirs / again."
Less successful tend to be the poems that focus more exclusively on the external subject matter without interweaving the personal. As in the poem "Thrush in Summer," a meditation on "Hardy's thrush, frail, gaunt, but silent," where the description and the beauty of the language, while still evocative, seems more ornamental and one-dimensional without the underpinnings of narrative.
Through three numbered sections the poems in this book, for the most part, build upon each other and gain resonance. The voice is consistently honest, direct, and precise, often while engaging with difficult subject matter. With carefully handled purpose and clarity, many of these poems gain a significance that approaches truth.
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