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A Momentary Glory
Last Poems
Harvey Shapiro; Norman Finkelstein, ed.

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2014 • 124 pp. 6 x 8"

$24.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7489-3

$19.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7495-4

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“An incredibly moving collection. The book not only contains some of Shapiro’s finest lyrics, but provides a kind of retrospection of all the subjects and themes he’s touched on in... [continued in Reviews below]”—Michael Heller, author of This Constellation Is a Name: Collected Poems 1965–2010,

The passionate testament of a brilliant poet in the face of age, illness, and mortality

The distinguished poet Harvey Shapiro passed away on January 7, 2013. The poems in this book, many of them previously unpublished and discovered only after his death, are a great gift, and the final confirmation of his extraordinary talent. Edited by Shapiro’s literary executor, the poet and critic Norman Finkelstein, these last poems bear an unprecedented gravitas, and yet they are as supple, jazzy, and edgy as Shapiro’s earlier work. All the themes for which he is known are beautifully represented here. There are poems of his experiences in World War II, the erotic life, and of daily moments in Brooklyn and Manhattan, all in search of a worldly wisdom and grace that the poet calls “a momentary glory.” As Shapiro tells us, the poem “Is an Egyptian / ship of the dead, / everything required / for life stored / in its hold.” The book includes an introduction by the editor.

An online reader’s companion is available at

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“An incredibly moving collection. The book not only contains some of Shapiro’s finest lyrics, but provides a kind of retrospection of all the subjects and themes he’s touched on in previous work: his war experiences, his turn to ‘wisdom literature,’ his often mordant and broken-hearted lyrics on relationships, on family, on love and sex, and, now, on illness and aging. The poems are rendered in lines at once crystalline and clear and yet far too complex and intelligent to be called plain song.”—Michael Heller, author of This Constellation Is a Name: Collected Poems 1965–2010

“In these last poems Shapiro plays for keeps. This is a brave book that looks death in the eye and does not flinch.”—Hugh Seidman, author of Somebody Stand Up and Sing

“Among the chief pleasures of these poems is to hear Shapiro, or rather the wry, take-no-bullshit persona he inhabits, talking to himself, pondering, joking, sifting his thoughts and perceptions, trying to grasp just who he has become in his closing act.”—James Gibbons, Hyperallergic

“[R]eaders will notice the dexterity with which Shapiro shapes his short poems in this terrific collection of posthumous gleanings.”Dan Giancola, The East Hampton Star

“These portraits of people, places, and moments recalled have the wit and engagement that marked all his work.”Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“The gentle passion in the pages of A Momentary Glory are infused with a straightforward individualism that is never isolating.”—Barbara Berman, The Rumpus

“A spirited and even provocative account of how one gifted poet spent the final days of a life he not only loved but dared to record.”—Sonja James, The Journal, Martinsburg, West Virginia

“The poems are reflections of a man nearing the end of a long life well lived, and are marvels of economy and devastating insight that illuminate feelings of passion, joy, regret, Jewish angst, and spiritual transcendence like flash bulbs going off in a dark room.”Albert Stern, Berkshire Jewish Voice

“Like Zukofsky and Reznikoff, Shapiro was born into a Yiddish-speaking home and came to American English with an outsider’s perspective and voraciousness. It is for that reason that the urge towards a simple and commonplace vocabulary seems all the more intentional for this Ivy League–educated poet. In his final collection, linguistic disarmament reaches an apex and appears to be a spiritual rather than programmatic effort—a purification ritual of sorts.”—Jake Marmer, Jewish Review of Books

“[M]oments of transcendence are spiced with a healthy dose of sarcasm, illness is redeemed through humor, and memories are alive with desire and poignancy. Not a single poem is a letdown, nor an easy diversion—each one brims with intensity and completeness.”—Jake Marmer,
The Arty Semite

From the Book:

The Mother of Invention

On my desk are the bills from the living
and in my sleep are the bills from the dead.

“Emptiness is the mother of invention”
says my fortune cookie. July 23, 2010.

Brooklyn. I walk in the slow rain,
never less accomplished, never happier.

Why should I doubt the world has meaning
when even in myself I see mysterious purposes.

A crow drops down for a moment,
black, rabbinical garb, croaking Kaddish.

HARVEY SHAPIRO published his first book of poetry in 1953. He taught at Cornell University and Bard College before joining the staffs of Commentary and The New Yorker. In 1957 he became an editor of The New York Times Magazine and was editor of The New York Times Book Review from 1975 until 1983. He lived in Brooklyn, New York. NORMAN FINKELSTEIN is a poet and critic, and Shapiro’s literary executor. He is a professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:26:09 -0500