In his twelfth collection of poetry, Shapiro, who holds an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, is concerned with phenomena and places. He finds the most generic location and douses for its most evocative associations. A gas station restroom at night, for example, has a stink and anonymity that seem to evoke the general unease of road tripping. An empty strip club during the day holds the presence of its lonely strippers and their lonelier clientele, inching their chairs too close to the stage and the women’s nudity. “Stone Church,” “Hospital Examination Room,” “Indoor Municipal Pool”—all receive this schematic treatment. Old buildings are “embarrassed” by their modernist neighbors, “by how nakedly / outside / outside is here.” Here the line breaks add emphasis to a resonant idea, the sense amplified by the sounds. In the last third of the book, Shapiro uses a similar approach, formally and aesthetically, to visions from his childhood. Readers might take comfort in Shapiro’s visions. The poet is also debuting as a novelist this month with Broadway Baby (2012). --Michael Autrey
About 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.