Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Daniel Shapiro / Child with a Swan's Wings

Poet Daniel Shapiro

 Daniel Shapiro
 Child with a Swan's Wings
Publisher: Dos Madres Press, Inc.
Illustration and Book Design: Elizabeth H. Murphy
Executive Editor: Robert J. Murphy
Cover Image: Shulamith Shapiro

Reviewer: Ari Alkalay Appel

Daniel Shapiro's poetry collection, Child with a Swan's Wings, is full of delectable little poems like "White Standard Poodle," “Almost Haiku,” "Arte Poética," and "Street of Chameleons," and darker, yet equally beautiful poems like "Providencia" and "Solitude" which come together to form a remarkable collection. As a whole, the volume masterfully portrays the author's relationship with language, with poetry, and with his content, which does not fall short of encapsulating the universe itself.

In connecting nature and animals with poetry, the author manages to create a sense wonder and amazement which extends to the way he organizes words on the page. Words sometimes curve away from one side of the page, then back toward the other in a cup shape, form a box around other words, or jump around like popcorn. The presence of words in places we do not expect to find them and their absence where we do expect them creates interesting interpretive possibilities. This is not completely original, but Shapiro's use of blank space is especially apt because has a mesmerizing effect.

The poems in this volume explore the infinite and the finite. Lines like, "My words are spokes / spinning to oblivion” invoke infinity, while others like “It's the body giggling, / telling you thank you / for the Chicken Vindaloo” use details to ground the poetry. Then there are lines I find exceptionally beautiful and evocative, like, "I too would emerge from an almond tree / to greet my lover, clasp my arms around his chest, / press his flat belly stippled with moss" and “Each word tactile—hairy or sweet— / will stand / like an obelisk....” Both the interplay between the natural world and the human in the first lines and the commentary on poetry itself in the second are easy to find more of in the volume.

Some of the poems are short while others span pages. The shortest poem, “Almost Haiku,” is only eight words, while the longest, the eponymous and multidimensional “Child With a Swan's Wings” is written across twelve pages, including bold headlines and words “spattered” across the page, to use the author's language. The brilliance of this poem is that it is about its own becoming. A few lines at the beginning state that a poem is born and the rest of the poem tracks its development, including its giving birth to another poem. The poem that we are reading unfolds insofar as the poem we are reading about is described. The poem reaches into infinity, “The poem rejects all designations. / Who says it's even a poem?” and comes back to its mooring, “Chameleon-horse / flick their tails and leap / volcanoes.” This poem is a reflection of the collection as a whole: self-reflexive, imaginative, and driven forward by a sense of amazement, almost as if from a child's perspective.

As an overall collection, Daniel Shapiro has written a work that clearly comes from an experienced poet. It is worth the read not just for its commentary on poetry and language but also for the pleasure that its poems yield. If you are looking for a fresh and exciting collection, buy a copy of Child with a Swan's Wings.

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