Here are some assertions I hope to substantiate someday: In "About This Course," "The Devil's Trill Sonata," "A Song," and "Friday Night Quartet," David Shapiro has written several of the finest and oddest long poems of the modern era and after.
Imagine if Holderlin kept going (if Rimbaud kept going) if Frank O'Hara survived. What would have developed? Counterfactuals will get us nowhere, but where for that matter does elegy get us. Poetry may be "more difficult than mathematics" as David says in a late poem, but the poet bears far more of that difficulty than the reader. These are sustained, loving and brutal meditations on subjects wiser people than I have suggested are the ones that matter -- joy, truth, death, faith.
(I'm aware that I'm omitting to mention his several masterpiece canons -- "Man Holding an Acoustic Panel," "House (Blown Apart)," "After a Lost Original" -- and the brilliant short lyrics that appear throughout his new selected poems.)
I don't know what to say about David. Whenever I hear myself talking about the impact his work has on me, my "oversell" alarms go off. But I do tell people who ask me what to read that David's books from (1977-1994) Lateness through After a Lost Original are as close as anybody's come to perfect.
Just as remarks are not literature, assertions are not criticism. So then! a promissory note in the meantime.
Jordan - #