“Dear David”: Joanna Fuhrman and Elaine Equi Pay Tribute to David Shapiro

David Shapiro

David Shapiro

Joanna Fuhrman

A few months ago, the poet Joanna Fuhrman wrote a lovely tribute to her friend and mentor, David Shapiro, for Fence.  As she explains, Shapiro’s poetry has meant a great deal to her for a long time (as it has for so many of us):

“I have been reading David Shapiro’s poems since I was a teenager. Long before we became friends, the lines from his mercurial and questioning poems bounced around my mind and being, becoming  part of the structure of who I am as a poet and a person.”

Eventually, Fuhrman and Shapiro became friends, and he began to read and comment on her own poems:

“Overtime we started to become friends. For years, he was the first person I sent my poems to, and he would write back emails that were like poems themselves, sometimes even rhymed, and always full of playful metaphors. His highest compliment was calling a poem ‘fresh.’ He’d write, ‘so fresh, as if they were made tomorrow.'”

Many years ago, I got to know David as well (when I was fortunate to have him serve as an external member of my dissertation committee), and like Fuhrman, I found him to be a brilliant, caring, generous, and an unfailingly supportive mentor.  As Fuhrman notes, this is nothing to sneeze at, especially in our contemporary moment:

“In the era of #MeToo, when more and more women are sharing their horror stories of male mentors, I am increasingly grateful (and aware of how rare it is) to have found a male mentor who was always generous, respectful, loving and never inappropriate.”

The piece also includes a wonderful short video that combines Shapiro’s own collages with a collaborative poem called “Dear David” that Fuhrman wrote for Shapiro with the poet Elaine Equi, another close friend of Shapiro’s.  As Fuhrman explains:

“we thought it would be meaningful to write a collaboration as a tribute to him and his most recent collection. David is well known for the beautiful collages he makes out of postcards and stickers. If you visit my Brooklyn apartment, you’ll see them all over the walls. For our poem, Elaine and I emailed each other photographs of the collages we owned and found other images of them online. We picked images we felt inspired by and wrote lines (or two or three) for each one. As we worked, we emailed lines to each other, and each riffed on what the other had written. We were inspired by David’s own poetry as much as by the images. At the end, I pieced the lines together of our poem ‘Dear David’ and made a video out of it. I wanted to use a piece of music by the Viennese composer Alban Berg, because the title of David’s most recent book is a reference to the composer’s Violin Concerto.”

Here’s the video:

Be sure to check out the piece, which Fuhrman calls “a tribute to David’s work as a poet and collage artist, as well as a great person and friend.”

This entry was posted in David Shapiro, Elaine Equi, Joanna Fuhrman. Bookmark the permalink.

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