Tag Archives: Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro Part IV

dan reads in cambridge 3.7.13 (1)The final questions with Daniel Shapiro and another sampling of his work.

VAH – Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote?

DAS – I’ve been a fan of Borges as long as I’ve known about him. He once said, “Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.”

VAH – What are three random non-writing related facts about you?

DAS – I still listen to heavy metal from time to time. My 4-year-old son’s favorite song is “Iron Man.” I have the worst sense of direction of anyone. I have gotten lost inside my own house before. I moved to Pittsburgh nearly seven years ago and have adopted many habits of native Pittsburghers. I like to say “yinz.” I’m an English teacher, but I’ve been known to drop “to be” and say, “These clothes need washed.” I eat pierogies. I enjoy chipped chopped ham now and then. I am a Steelers fan. I refer to places that no longer exist. I love Pittsburgh in a big way.

Daniel’s Chapbook The 44th Worst Album Ever and a Sampler of his work online: at Softblow.org, The Camel Saloon, and at Orange Room Reviewdan at fallingwater 3.28.13 (1)

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Three by Five Presents Daniel Shapiro, Part II

“Write Only What you Can Write.”

dan at fallingwater 3.28.13 (1)

VAH – Daniel, when did you know you were a writer and what got you there?

DAS – I have known I was a writer since high school, but I didn’t start writing poetry seriously until about 15 years later. I had considered myself a music critic; I wanted to be the next Lester Bangs or Robert Christgau. Eventually, I wrote professionally as a journalist and advertising copywriter, and my experiences in those media have informed my poetry. When I was writing advertising blurbs for a catalog company, a couple of my co-workers were poets, and they would exchange poems with each other across cubicles. It was a sort of bonding experience, so I started participating in that and haven’t stopped writing poems since.

VAH – You have several chapbooks and a book – what is your best advice for emerging writers?

DAS – The only advice I can think of is that the best way to fit in is to acknowledge that you don’t fit in. Write what only you can write. Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. If you’re a reality-show-loving Samoan with a scholarship to play the tuba, write about reality shows, Samoa, and tubas. No one else can do that! If you are that person and you decide to write about trees in autumn, ocean surf, your dying grandmother, and/or a difficult break-up, I will fly to Samoa and smack you with a stick made from the tree you wrote that poem about.

VAH – Many entering writing explore the idea of the Master of Fine Arts degree in writing – any thoughts?

DAS – I do not have an MFA. I am neither for nor against MFAs.

VAH – Writers write, read and seem to travel to where other writers gather – Do you have a favorite conference or writing retreat or seminar and what makes that one worth your while?

DAS – I have attended the AWP conference a couple of times and have loved it. It is a lot of fun to stalk your heroes, meet online friends in person, read poems aloud in places you’ve never been, meet the editors who have accepted your work, and hear poems you’ve admired for years read by their creators. It’s expensive, but it’s hard to put a dollar value on its overall positive effect. I plan to keep going.

VAH – What supports you so you may continue writing?

DAS – I am a special education teacher. When I tell people this, some of them say, “Bless your heart.” My job can be difficult, but it’s not the sort of thing you would see on “American Horror Story.” If any of the work weighs on me, I turn the weight into a poem, but usually I keep my career and writing separate.

Later in the month – Parts III and four of Three by Five’s presentation of Daniel Shapiro.
(Part I – Daniel discusses favorite literary characters, influences, his first creative piece of writing and why he writes.)

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Three by Five Presents Daniel Shapiro, Part I

dan reads in cambridge 3.7.13 (1)Daniel M. Shapiro is a poet living in Pittsburgh. Due out this summer is his book How the Potato Chip Was Invented (Sunnyoutside Press). He is also the author of a book of collaborative poems with Jessy Randall entitled Interruptions and has authored three chapbooks. Find out more at his web site here.
VAH – I always find the reasons why writers write interesting – Daniel, what are yours?

DAS – I write because I believe daydreaming (or the greatest hits of daydreaming) should be documented. Writing allows you to sit down with ideas that don’t seem to make sense and to turn those ideas into entertainment, art, or a type of consciousness that might not have been articulated previously.

VAH – What was the first piece your wrote?

DAS – I write mostly poems, and my first poem was about springtime. It was titled “Springtime.” Mrs. Picard-Busse, my eighth-grade English teacher, published it without my knowledge in Reflections, the official literary magazine of Twelve Corners Middle School in Rochester, N.Y. I remember it had the line I clutch my umbrella hard. I’m not sure if this is related, but I really can’t stand umbrellas now.

VAH – And your favorite literary character?
DAS – Years ago I would’ve said R.P. McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because I worshiped that book, but more recently I’ve been reading to my kids, especially the Harry Potter series. I was always fascinated by Professor Snape and knew he would play a role in some sort of twist at the end of the series. I believed in Snape. I thought he was the most complete character. I am drawn to misunderstood characters whose truths are revealed gradually.

VAH – If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book or books would you want stranded with you?
DAS – The practical answer is Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy. I love his writing so much and have let those books sit on my shelf for years. Confessions of a Mask was what Catcher in the Rye would’ve been if Holden Caulfield had been a gay Japanese teenager. I’ve never been gay or Japanese, but I identified more strongly with the character in Confessions than I did with Holden. Anyhow, if the Sea of Fertility books were all I had, I would finally be forced to read them and would enjoy doing so.

VAH – And your biggest influence in your development as a writer?
DAS – I can think of two main influences: A.) Playwrights (Ionesco, Pinter, Mamet, et. al.) introduced to me by my high school English teacher Dr. Gary Wiener. After I told him how much I liked Waiting for Godot, Dr. Wiener pointed me toward other absurdest writing that wasn’t part of the curriculum. B.) Friends who write well. One of my best friends for the last 30+ years, Jessy Randall, has been writing poetry since before I knew her. Also, many people whom I’ve met first over the Internet and then in person (Matt Hart, Maria Chelko, Carol Guess, and others) continue to inspire me with their work and overall generosity. I am especially drawn to highly specific writing, e.g., poems that provide insight via the poet’s distinct individuality.


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