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Reel to Reel

Reel to Reel, Alan Shapiro’s twelfth collection of poetry, moves outward from the intimate spaces of family and romantic life to embrace not only the human realm of politics and culture but also the natural world, and even the outer spaces of the cosmos itself. In language richly nuanced yet accessible, these poems inhabit and explore fundamental questions of existence, such as time, mortality, consciousness, and matter. How did we get here? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do we live fully and lovingly as conscious creatures in an unconscious universe with no ultimate purpose or destination beyond returning to the abyss that spawned us? Shapiro brings his humor, imaginative intensity, characteristic syntactical energy, and generous heart to bear on these ultimate mysteries. In ways few poets have done, he writes from a premodern, primal sense of wonder about our postmodern world.

88 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2014

Phoenix Poets



“A book about continuity and endings—marked by gratitude for the connections and illusions that keep consciousness aloft, as well as attempts to imagine the end of consciousness and the forces that both allow for and erode all life. . . . [Shapiro’s] vision of reality has grown to include the rich, imperfect images of reality we create, and as his poems have come to enact the intricate, reflexive vitality of such creation—even now, maybe especially now, as they increasingly contemplate the total loss of vitality.”

Jonathan Farmer | Poetry

"Shapiro is a master of the middle tone (as well as most of the formal techniques in poetry’s capacious toolbox), and he probes the deeper places of the self with a skilled psychologist’s gentle persistence. A delicately disquieting collection."

David Orr | New York Times

Table of Contents

Wherever My Dead Go When I’m Not Remembering Them
Reel to Reel
The Family Bed
The Gate
Aging Lovers
The Cave
Thought Experiment
On Thumbing through Smith’s Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation
Taung Child
In Winter
Disaster Movies
Beach Towel
Law of Motion
Absolute Zero
Homeric Turns
The Bridge
The Open Door
Spooky Action at a Distance
Saint Christopher
Whatever Else They’re Singing
The Not Lord


Pulitzer Prize

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