There is a Crack in Everything
Although Alice Shapiro doesn’t find her greatest inspiration from him, Leonard Cohen’s poems and song lyrics have been and are meaningful and inspiring to her.
The title of Shapiro’s latest book (available June 2), a collection of poems, draws from the Canadian-born poet and songwriter’s work.
In Cohen’s poem, which was later reworked as lyrics for his famous song, Anthem, Cohen observes [that]
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
Shapiro found inspiration in these words, enough to name her new book of poems Cracked. Alice told us what “the light” referenced in Cohen’s poem means to her. “It’s so many things—hope, love, God and anything that reveals the truth, whether positive or negative.” For Alice, the inspiration managed to get in; this collection of poems is the truth that she is speaking and sharing with the rest of us.
So, what is it that a poet writes about today? In the last two years, Alice Shapiro has written about what she calls “timeless topics”, those things that we all experience, such as courage and endurance in the trials of life.
Today I moved. From room to room
chores completed, deeds done,
work gained its proper foothold.
The battle ‘tween flesh and spirit yielded
as I mused on prayers in the midst
These lines, from Alice’s poem, Supplication, give us an example of the simple daily tasks that we’re all familiar with and the battles that we are faced with in our own lives.
And another of Alice’s poems from the new book and fresh off the presses gives us a glimpse into the struggles of a writer’s life.
She moans, “You can’t force it”
but you can force it.
You can get down in the dirt,
push your fingers to make marks,
embark upon an effort,
climb up that ladder,
slide down that slide.
For when the rhythm jumps
out of its condensed container
you can visually flash on the soup
and eat it. Or write it.
Your choice: letting the longing
culminate into words, or action.
Work and dissipation,
or a pledge to paper,
silent venting which retains
humility, grace, honor.
Alice, who lives in Douglasville, Georgia, grew up in and lived most of her life in Long Island, New York. She began expressing herself through writing at an early age, when she would write cowboy plays for her siblings to act out in the back yard of their family home.
Following a career in art, Alice Shapiro returned to writing in 1985, studying under William Packard, founder of The New York Quarterly and professor at NYU. Her poetry credits include a chapbook, Seasons of the Heart with Scars Publications (2007), Silent Actor, New Verse News, The Smoking Poet and the anthologies Poetry Connoisseur (third prize winner), Antologia del Nuovo Mondo, and Thank You, Gorbachov!
She has also written two plays that were produced, In The Beginning and Four Voices. She is the recipient of the Bill C. Davis Drama Award for her play, Four Voices.
David Axelrod, the poet laureate of Suffolk, Long Island, has written the preface for Shapiro’s book, Cracked: Timeless Topics Of Nature, Courage and Endurance, and will be reading with her June 21 at the Douglasville Cultural Arts Center. The performance begins at 3:00 p.m. and is free and open to the general public.
And which poets’ work does this poet read? “Some of the poets I like to read,” says Alice, “are Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich and W. H. Auden, but my favorite is Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is so bold and musical! I also try to put music into my poems.” she adds and gives an example from Hopkins’ poem, He mightbe slow:
He mightbe slow and something feckless first,
Not feck at first, and here no harm,
But earnest, always earnest, there the charm
It has been said that it’s best to listen to the rhythm in a poem, sometimes, and just let the music of the words wash over you. In poetry, it is often the same as looking at an abstract painting. We should ask, how does this make me feel, and not always what does this mean. Naturally, we’d like to know, for Alice Shapiro, what is poetry? Alice likes to quote Plato, who said, “Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.”
“Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a wonderful poem” Shapiro tells us, “describing many different facets of what poetry is in his Americus, Book I and simply titled III. One of his great lines is, ‘Poems are lifesavers when your boat capsizes.’ That pretty much sums up my writing in the new book,” she adds.
All poems, courtesy of Alice Shapiro, ©2009 All rights reserved.
Other related links:
Douglasville Cultural Arts Center, http://www.artsdouglas.org
David B. Axelrod, Poet Laureate, Suffolk, Long Island, http://www.writersunlimited.org/laureate/
The New York Quarterly, http://www.nyquarterly.org/index.html
YouTube trailer about Alice’s first book, A South Florida Culinary Adventure, A Southern Florida Culinary Adventure YouTube
Despina Yeargin is a poet and owner of Alpha Publishing & Communications, a company specializing in writing marketing and communications materials for small business and offering creative solutions for marketing strategies. In her spare time, Despina offers cooking lessons; contributes to her food blog, Food for Thought; maintains a wild and crazy blog called Alpha FEmale Mind; and goes to Americana music festivals with her husband Dewey. She is especially fond of getting dirty in her garden and finding new ways of connecting with people.
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