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Proceed to Check Out

Award-winning poet Alan Shapiro offers a new collection of poems reflecting on mortality and finitude.
Alan Shapiro’s fourteenth collection of poetry, Proceed to Check Out, is a kind of summing up, or stock-taking, by an aging poet, of his precarious place in a world dominated by the ever-accelerating pace of technological innovation, political disruption, personal loss, and racial strife. These poems take on fundamental subjects—like the nature of time and consciousness and how or why we become who we are—but Shapiro presses them into becoming urgent and timely.
Employing idiomatic range and formal variety, Shapiro’s poems move through recurring dreams, the coercions of childhood, and the mysterious connections of mind and matter, pleasure and memory. They meet an abiding need to find empathy and understanding in even the most challenging places—amid disaffection, public discord, and estrangement. His grasp of contemporary life—in all its insidious violence and beauty—is distinct, comprehensive, and profound.

104 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2022

Phoenix Poets



“There are few poets right now capable of capturing the ever-extending, doubling back, reaching, twisting, self-contradictory, fluttering flux of consciousness with as much conviction, poignancy, aching humor, and formal excitement as Alan Shapiro—what happens in his sentences are a marvel of this ancient living technology we call poetry.  Whether in crafty prose or tighter verse, mind and language are always in dynamic play in his new book, as he grapples with the most immediate and difficult binding forces of love, hope, vulnerability, intimacy, and the darker ones of shame, regret, anger, ignorance, and desire: poem after poem, the balance is struck by formally achieving the interplay between intuitions of freedom and acknowledgments of constraint and impossibility.  With the sharp insight and spoken vigor of a novelist drawn to dramatic ironies and with concentrated lyric energy and lift, Shapiro’s artistry reaffirms poetry’s central and enduring role in our private and social lives, not for its visionary fictions, but for its infinitely rich realities about who we are to ourselves and to each other.”

Joshua Weiner, author of Berlin Notebook: Where Are the Refugees?

“No contemporary poet offers greater largesse of intelligence, emotion, and invention than Shapiro. Every sentence and every line of Proceed to Check Out sparkles—with formal precision and imaginative openness, social conscience and psychological savvy, hilarity and fatalism, unsparing skepticism and unstinting sympathy. Few movies or novels render contemporary life with the high-res vivacity of these poems, and yet Shapiro stays true to his lyric gift, his skill for carving art from the twists and turns of the individual voice confronting mortality. Shapiro is a genius.”

Peter Campion, author of One Summer Evening at the Falls

Table of Contents


Holding Cell 
Reunion in Heaven 
The Periodic Table 
Space Blanket 
The Great Closer 
Uncle Hy 
Sugar Shack 

Recurring Dreams 

The Net 
Wedding Tent 
Divorce Party Bonfire 
Ding Dong, the Bells Are Gonna Chime 
What the End Was Like 
From the Hallway 
Animal Crackers 
An Arrangement  
Now I Lay Me 

At the Museum of Life and Science 
Ten Statements of Not Knowing 
Art According to Curly 
Ten Thoughts on Trauma and Catharsis 
Gravity and Grace 
Hole in One 
Tree on Mountain 
The Old Age of Oliver 
Death of Alan 
Ghost Story 

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