Friday, June 15, 2007

Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play by Marian K. Shapiro

Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play ($14.95) (Plain View Press, P.O. 42255, Austin, TX 78704)

By Marian Kaplun Shapiro

Review by Pam Rosenblatt

At the first glance, Marian Kaplun Shapiro’s Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play can be viewed as filled with experimental poetry, fun innovative poetry linguistically speaking but not so easy to decode. And the first impression is pretty accurate. The 101 page poetry book contains poems that are visually interesting and aesthetic. Shapiro sculpts each poem as if a block of clay and makes it into a memorable experience. Enjambment, rhythm, lyrics, narratives, and meter are often used to make the reader question what message she is trying to get across and what form of experimental poetry she is using through her gentle flow of words, mixed in with caesuras and ever-changing syntax in her poetry.

Published in 2006, Shapiro’s Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play is made up of three parts. In this review, let’s concentrate on the visual poetry.

In Part 1: Hyphen, the book’s first section, Shapiro draws us into her world of experimental poetry with "Introduction" (p. 9), the opening poem consisting of one stanza with five short lines. The poem goes against ordinary train of thought. The poem reads:

string pulled taut, exquisite
hyphen between mute boundaries.

What is Shapiro trying to get across? Immediately she has presented us with an experimental piece that becomes more abstract as the reader progresses. In only five lines, Shapiro has caught our interest but hasn’t made the start of the journey an easy read. It’s difficult to decipher, but not impossible. In the first line, the capitalized "I" is a strong and concrete word. In the second line, the lower case "kite" is a visual concrete item that the reader recalls from memory as getting visually smaller and more vulnerable in the sky. The hyphen between the "earth" and "sky" connects both of these words, creating a tension in the poem in the third line, thus leading into the fourth line which reads "string pulled taut, exquisite". Such must be the appearance of the "kite" with its "taut" thin "string" that the "I", or abstracted speaker, holds. The string acts as "hyphen between mute boundaries", or the silent but concrete "earth" and the quiet but sublime "sky", as cited in the fifth and last line in the poem. Our imagination has been set free to enjoy – and to work at – the Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play, created for the reader as well as Shapiro herself.

Throughout Part 1: Hyphen, Shapiro shows her more innovative poems, poems that are visually eye-catching, as seen in "Monkey Mind", which is a work of art.

In "Monkey Mind"(p. 10), she goes against traditional syntax, capitalizing on meter, repetition, and rhythm. And her uses of caesuras are very effective, as seen in the first section of the poem which is copied below:

rising wedding
later rising e-mail
what if falling rain
rising lunch

Through imagination and innovation, Shapiro has experimented with language and captured the readers interest through the poem’s unusual form, use of syllable which, when read, actually gives a sense of "falling" and "rising". The reader can almost visualize the "rain" coming down and moving up. The reader gets a feeling of gaining and losing through the up and down of the syllables in the two words "rising" and "falling". Also, Shapiro has effectively used white space as a background for this open form poem.

Shapiro’s poem, "Pure Love" (p.92) is found in Part 3: and, the last section of the book. Dedicated to her grandfather, Edward (Issak) Kaplun, who lived from April 18, 1880 to May 31, 1955, she once again demonstrates her witty, playful, and imaginative ability to use words and make them into a visual poem that goes against traditional poetic form. Through manipulation of caesuras and active, concrete word imagery and repetition of individual letters like "sssssssssss’s" and "mmmmmmmmm’s and nnnnnnnnnnnnn’s", Shapiro makes the reader smile and appreciate her abstract, creative piece which, at the end of the poem, or "On the other side of the invisible world / where we are both perfect, / where you live/ /and where you love me from" shows that the abstracted speaker is curious but secure in the afterworld where her grandfather and she will again meet.

Repetition plays a major part in "Ellipses" (p. 99), the second to last poem in Part 3: and. This poem is about a break up between two lovers. Here Shapiro seems to try to explain allegorically why she doesn’t follow traditional poetic form in this and other poems, emphasized with the repeated use of ellipses through the fragmented phrases, when she writes,

you know how it is…
because, after all… considering…
well, of course… …in those days
not that he meant anything by it…
better to forgive and forget…

On one hand, the speaker is giving excuses about the dissolved relationship, while, at the same time, on the other hand, Shapiro seems to apologize for her method of dissolving sentences, making open form poetry that is visually sublime. The speaker’s train of thought is almost like she is speaking to the reader, creating a one on one relationship.

Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play isn’t simply visual experimental poetry. It has socio-political poetry in it too, as seen in Part 2: Holding Truth Still, as in "September 11, 2001" (p. 48) and "Strange Meeting" (p.47). Some of the connotations of the words in the poems are so powerful and vivid that it’s difficult to read without feeling the speaker’s pain, as viewed in "September 11, 2001" when the speaker says,

…. Here
on earth we
need air. Peace
shatters in rainbow
storms of bloody
glass bullets
and severed hands. We
need water….

In this poem, through enjambment and concrete imagery, Shapiro has captured the cruelty of what happened on 9/11.

And in "Strange Meeting II", Shapiro writes, "Words,/ping off my shoulders / insist / around my head / set off short-circuits, storming every orifice. / Neurons fire, landmines in the blood. / This is a war, and I am afraid / You, true friend, become my enemy." In this contemporary poem, Shapiro shows a radical and visual poetic style through concrete imagery and sentence fragmentation, though in various degrees.

All in all, Marian Kaplun Shapiro’s Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play has proved herself to truly be a poet who is highly skilled in different forms of experimental poetry media. She is not afraid to experiment with language (especially words, meter, and rhythm) and form. And she has done so in a clever and effective manner.

Pam Rosenblatt/ Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

Bibliography -- Online:

Barr, John. "American Poetry in the New Century". Poetry Magazine. June 9, 2007. pp. 1 - 7. .
"Experimental Poetry". Experimental poetry today. June 9, 2007. pp. 1 – 9.
"Experimental Poetry in Spain". Corner Magazine: Number Five / Fall 2001 – Spring 2002. June 10, 2007. pp. 1 - 26. .
"modernism". June 12, 2007. pp. 1 -12.
"Object Permanence magazine, 1994 -1997". Object Permanence, 1994-1997. pp. 1 – 4.
Munjal, Savi. "Method in Madness: A study if the Ex-centric Cubist Aesthetics of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein". June 12, 2007. pp. 1 -17.
"Poetry". Poetry – MSN Encarta. June 11, 2007. pp. 1 -4. .
Retallack, Joan. "What is Experimental Poetry & Why Do We Need It?" Jacket 32. June 9, 2007. pp. 1 -13.

Bibliography -- Books

Kinzie, Mary. A Poet's Guide to Poetry. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999. pp. 47, 90 -92, 382, 459, 468.
Raffel, Burton. How to Read A Poem. New York: Penguin Books, 1983. pp. 236.
Timpane, John, PhD. With Maureen Watts. Poetry FOR DUMMIES. New York: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2001. pp. 10, 30, 58 – 59, 160, 245.
Labels: Rosenblatt on Shapiro

No comments:

Post a Comment