Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Harvey Shapiro, 1924-2013

Shapiro was the quintessential New York poet, editor of the New York Times Book Review when it was still a guide to good, as opposed to profitable books; a tail gunner in Europe in World War II; poetry editor of the Village Voice when it was the best newspaper in New York; a supporter of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement, and the editor of Poets of World War II--published by Library of America.  I have The Sights Along the Harbor, published by Wesleyan University Press (2006) in front of me--here is a favorite poem of mine from that collection:


Drunk and weeping. It’s another night                                             
at the live-in opera, and I figure
it’s going to turn out badly for me.
The dead next door accept their salutations,
their salted notes, the drawn-out wailing.
It’s we the living who must run for cover,
meaning me. Mortality’s the ABC of it,
and after that comes lechery and lying.
And, oh, how to piece together a life
from this scandal and confusion, as if
the gods were inhabiting us or cohabiting
with us, just for the music’s sake.

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