Taking its title from Alban Berg's famed violin concerto, In Memory of an Angel is packed with erudition, pursuing themes of art history, architecture, literature, and Jewish identity. In this, his first full-length collection in fifteen years, New York School maestro David Shapiro achieves a rare combination of lyrical abstraction and postmodern self-referentiality, rendered with his understated virtuosity. Yet there's a strong current of love poetry flowing through these avant-garde ruminations, as well as reminiscences of childhood and reflections on fatherhood. A surrealistic violation of the boundary between the real and the dream pervades In Memory of an Angel. Shapiro's poems take a bewildering variety of forms, many of his own invention, even as he is equally at home in the quotidian and anecdotal. Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Jasper Johns, Frank O'Hara—these are only some of the characters peopling Shapiro's New York, a landscape both sophisticated and haunted by memory.
The author of 10 previous books of poems, as well as monographs on John Ashbery, Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, and Mondrian, David Shapiro is a member of the second generation of New York School poets. A child prodigy on the violin, he went on to become a literary and art critic and teaches at Patterson College and Cooper Union. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University and has received awards from the Merrill Foundation, the NEA, the NEH, and the Graham Foundation. He lives in Riverdale, the Bronx, NYC.
Praise for David Shapiro:
"An erudite and relentlessly modernizing mind . . . [Shapiro's] aleatory, portent-free sophistication seems confident enough to accommodate primitive, endearing, and frankly tender tropes and situations . . . The effect is of unforeseen intimacy at the heart of abstraction."—The New Yorker
"David Shapiro has an incredible mastery of the language and an ear sensitive to every nuance of idiom and rhythm."—Poetry
Praise for In Memory of an Angel:
"A Taoist, a Kabbalist, and a Dadaist walk into a bar. They discover that the bar is really David Shapiro's new book of poems, where they can drink 'tears from sleeping birds' and relax 'in/ the soft hands/ of the gods.' In Memory of an Angel literally drenches the reader in moments of wonder. Shapiro's gift is unique. He possesses a childlike, not innocence, but sophistication. His playful erudition draws in everyone from Andy Warhol, to Kenneth Koch, to John Dewey – and it welcomes you as well, in its democratic embrace."––Elaine Equi
"David Shapiro published his first book, January: A Book of Poems, while still a teenager. Since then, now for over fifty years, he has remained one of our very finest American poets. His mind is illuminated and his poems luminous. In Memory of an Angel is a strikingly beautiful and invaluable selection of his work!"––Jim Jarmusch
"It's always a deep pleasure when David Shapiro has a new book, he never ceases to astonish, he has built a singular, hyper-lyrical, always brilliant poetry. In Memory of an Angel is filled with spells and charms and spinning language, elegy, and wild proclamations; as he writes: 'I invented the new movement / without photographs like / the affair of the whole being / as it was said ferocious and / intimate and I invent it / to last.' And so it will."––Peter Gizzi
"In Memory of an Angel mesmerizes with virtuosic greatness; a deft masterwork by a poet's poet whose sui generis genius has for five decades defied and invigorated the New York School label. Shapiro upends language not for less meaning, but more—and for a multilayered storytelling sufficiently unfettered to get at life's labyrinthine mix of 'cardboard and gold' promise and peril. Pervaded by wide erudition and a skilled violinist's musical acuity, these wise, many-angled poems reward rumination, with their dream-drenched mystery, verbal excitement and open-ended, sometimes near-mystical profundity; always with Shapiro’s pluralistic heart on his metaphysical sleeve."––Kate Farrell
"David Shapiro is a great poet, one of the best poets writing today: his poems are musical, capacious, dark, funny, life-affirming, skeptical, and passionate ('Owl astronaut burgeoning owl is a gift / You give to me give to you / Terrible other things happen. / We stay on our branch. / A hundred eyes / Two will do'; 'Or prayer without hope / Or singing in a time of hopelessness / Or behaving like morning poets at night'; 'Turn him around / In your wind / In your hand / In his dry marvelous sound O word / In the ground / In, in / In your round song'). Repetition and variation enact and embody what is necessary: music is thought is dramatic action: Shapiro's poems breathe and think and feel with the finest, most intense, and most generous awareness. In Memory of an Angel is a masterpiece, a book we need now and will need forever."––Joseph Lease