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More Poems about Buildings and Food

Gregg Shapiro reads from his new book at the Montrose Center on April 4.

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Gregg Shapiro

Sleeps through breakfast, too busy for lunch, too tired to cook dinner, he eats time.

That’s a line from the poem “You Can’t Force Feed a Starving Man” from Gregg Shapiro’s new poetry chapbook More Poems about Buildings and Food. The title is an homage to the Talking Heads’ second album, More Songs about Buildings and Food. And, yes, some of the beautiful poems are about buildings and some are about food. Some are even about spiders—two, in fact.

As for the food poems, many are about eating disorders.

“Yes, I experienced that,” Shapiro says. “Right before I moved to Boston. I can tell you, as a gay man, living at home and coming out at college is a bad idea.”

Shapiro was born and raised in Chicago, where he started college as a theater major before he realized he was more interested in writing.

“I was a reader from an early age,” he says. “And, like a lot of teens who don’t fit in, I started writing poetry.”

He dropped out of college for a year and a half before moving to Boston, enrolling at Emerson College, and getting a degree in poetry. He then tried going for an MFA in poetry before dropping out and taking day jobs so he could write at night. He’s been published in literary magazines, and now has six books out—four poetry collections and two that feature short stories. And he has another poetry chapbook due out in August.

If you haven’t read Shapiro’s poems, his name may be familiar from his entertainment reporting. In 1992 he met Rick Karlin, an editor at a gay paper in Boston, who encouraged him to try journalism. The pair is now married and living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with their Yorkipoo, Coco. Shapiro is starting a book tour for More Poems about Buildings and Food this spring that will take him to New Orleans, Austin, and then to Houston on April 4. He says the inspiration for the current poetry collection comes both from his personal life (“You Can’t Force Feed a Starving Man”) and from things he observes (“Waitresses on Heroin,” his wry observations of working waitresses). 

 Now, about those spiders . . .

. . . in my grandparents’ bathroom. I see it out of the corner of my eye, as I comb my hair in the mirror. Big, fat, well-fed, the spider gives no indication that it is aware of my presence as it disappears into a crack in the tiled wall.

Shapiro laughs about that passage from “I Don’t Kill the Spider.” “In Chicago you don’t see a lot of nature. Here in southern Florida, I take long walks in the evening and there’s a lot of nature to see. Lizards of all sizes and birds and, yes, spiders. I’m not a fan of spiders. I know that they do a lot of good, so I don’t want them to leave, I just want them to leave me alone!”

If that’s true, then “Spider Mouth” is a dark fantasy. The poem ends with this stanza: 

Dotted with crickets, beetles, moths, bees. Imagine the web-spinner big as a Winnebago. In a dream, I put on rubber gloves, disassemble the webs, detach their contents. Delicately place the ingredients into a crock pot, add two cups of boiling water for cream of spider soup.

You can find More Poems about Buildings and Food on Amazon.com for $12. 

What: More Poems about Buildings and Food A reading by Gregg Shapiro
When: Thursday, April 4 • 7:00 pm
Where: The Montrose Center, 401 Branard St.
Info: montrosecenter.org 

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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