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Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play

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In Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play, Marian Kaplun Shapiro dabbles with language as she leaps from one moment to the next. Most of the poems are threaded by a single moment where the poet assesses and appreciates the smallest notion—of life, whether in the world of sleep, at play, or in thought—all originating in this life. She integrates actual events with dreams, punctuating and connecting the dots into a sculpture of poetic syntax, illustrating the essence of each flicker, questioning—always searching for something other…

Part I—Hyphen

In the first section of Shapiro's poetry book, her poems render the act of drifting, each poem leading to the next, as if connected to something higher, larger than the moment left behind. The poems illustrate movement on the page and in the psyche, always pushing the reader to move from one moment to the next.

"REM" uses the deepest layer of sleep to map images—where those specific moments reside within a certain layer of the psyche to be resurrected or recreated into mind movements to project a particular mind mapping of life's experiences. Rich in alliteration, assonance and consonance, the poet lends a soothing tone to the poem, wooing the reader to slip into that most private mirror, and then trip from one image to the next, as if leaping from one instance in time to the next.

Straightaway, the poet gives way to an allusion in "REM":

images drop like acid

rain rain


theplainsofsleep theplainsofsleep

with and without words poems of past

pain pop like birthday balloons

meeting up with dragon flies

Come back!
The poet reaches for that temporal space until the voice inside calls her back—reminding her of all those moments left behind:

Dawn breaks a
handpainted slender-
necked cruet full
of garden parties,
wedding toasts and baby-
showers shattering
into shards of sun-
sets. Lover,

Tell me your dream
tell me your poem

It is remembrance of human history that compels the poet to return, that need to share with another human being, unable to take that final leap into oblivion—into the temporal space that lies beyond her dreams and poetry.

Shapiro questions as she recreates to create her poetic syntax. In "Watching Grass Grow" she seeks out that moment that she cannot capture—that temporal space between one moment to the next that cannot be perceived—in that split second or blink of an eye where something magical happens that we cannot experience, because we look over it, away from it, or beyond it—thinking that we've missed something incredibly worthwhile.

In Part 2—Holding Truth Still, Shapiro evokes a certain respect for reality, although sometimes blatantly contradictory—that truth is, in reality, quite satiric, her poems holding another level of meaning beneath the surface.

With phrases rich in allusion and striking images, the poet shares temporal intimacy, if only for a moment, with the reader in "View From A Train Window" as she envisions intimacy: "…beautiful as Botticelli/ angels cavort among the waves which roll/ and butt against the beach…/". By creating this epithet, the poet constructs a metaphor for intimacy that she ascribes to her lover who sits next to her on a train, "sedately reading [his] paperback" which in turn brings more texture to the description and offers a connotative meaning for sleep. Oddly, that romantic intimacy is cut short by the poet, choosing not to leave the reader in temporal intimacy, but bringing the reader back to the physical moment of an ironic concept of sleep. As her lover "sedately" reads…the poet awakes from some tranquil state of mind that she cannot share with her lover, at least not in the exact place shared by the poet and reader. The poet chooses to sway the reader back to reality, seeking another respect of truth.

In Part 3—and the poet reminds us of every thing and every place that makes up mankind, attempting to box it all up into one neat little package, but almost always leaves us with her inquiring voice.

"The Sculpture Garden" illustrates Shapiro's knack for creating allusions as if to seize control and capture the essence of all that is evil in this life; however only in death can the poet put aside the beasts and the calamity of this world. Still, Shapiro reserves those final lines "looking for" that glimmer—as she does in most, if not all of her writings. The poet explains that her inspiration came from an Inuit exhibit, the images branching forth a deeper, more spiritual meaning. She writes:

But the poem, full of the history of trauma (part of the truth beneath many of the beautiful images in the exhibit),
kept emerging no matter what I did. Finally I heard the voice of the elders, which had been projected in
writing over some of the exhibits, and realized that it was their spirits, in the 'spiritual' as well as in the ghostly
meaning, that carried hope through the centuries of pain, that lived in the works of art I had seen there, and in
the world I/we live in. So for me, it wasn't that "only in death can the poet put aside the beasts and the calamity
of this world," but more that in awareness of, relation to that spirit that the world can go on.

Always leaving the reader with the human condition of hope, Shapiro sheds light to find meaning in the worst of humanity.

~* * *~
Shapiro makes the most insignificant significant—she dreams in one moment and questions in the next—always reminding the reader of something more, as if we are all Players in the Dream, Dreamers in the Play, all the while transforming a single moment into a lifetime, always looking but never reaching that slant moment that lies beyond.

©Katherine Tracy

Date Added: 06/16/2007 by Marian Shapiro
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