Shapero’s lyric poems uniquely refuse the confessional. Despite a strong 'I' voice, Shapero makes it difficult to pin down who’s speaking. The speaker doesn’t ever quite say whom she’s talking about or where she is. Just when we situate ourselves in a poem, it pivots, with a sharp volta, changing its mind and erasing its tracks ... But vague pronouns and distance, which might be a weakness in a lesser poet, are a strength in Shapero. Shapero’s 'I' voice is so sharp and personable that it establishes intimacy despite the distance, like someone brilliant we just met at a party whispering in our ears. The lack of confession allows the poems to become parables of sorts. Poems with too much narrative can have leaden feet, tied to the timeline, like prose. Shapero’s poems, by contrast, have liftoff. Without being attached to specific people, they’re free to twist and turn with Shapero’s blazing mind ... In the end, she strikes a balance between the depressing and the humorous, triviality and wisdom, a rare feat in American poetry. Shapero’s poetics, marrying such extreme polarities, reminds me of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, who is also a destroyer of evil forces, champion of the life force: portrayed with skulls around her neck, dancing, laughing, waving a bloody sword.
[A]s irreverent, as full of impish black humor, as any she has published before. But here, they are tinged with . . . something .... All this is not to say Popular Longing isn’t funny. It is. Very much so. It’s just a wryer wit, a wiser sense of humor, all of it still very precise, the math and the music present in every poem of this collection arriving at the tail end of so much absurd uncertainty.
Natalie Shapero is a linguistic sharpshooter with merciless accuracy. Her third collection, Popular Longing , connects the inconsistencies, contradictions, and sheer absurdity of humanity with repeated bullseyes ... Here as in many of these poems, by pruning excuses and obfuscating language, Shapero subtly encourages readers to consider what a life is, and the futility—and absurdity—of attempting to value it in objects or conventional success ... Shapero is an incisive social critic, cutting through the smog of self-absorption and contradictions between what is said and done. In her work, hope and futility waltz together, amid underlying essential truths about our lives, which are tragic, conflicted, farcical, and a one-time-only, singular experience ... Indeed, Shapero’s interest is in all of our popular longings, and in her thoughtful and inventive manner, she questions the likelihood of attaining our dreams, as well as whether or not these dreams serve us in the first place ... a dark, delightful, and insightful collection is both a clear-eyed reflection of and an antidote for our times.
Shapero herself is a graduate of the law school at the University of Chicago. You can hear the poetry of crime even in some of Shapero’s titles which could be Jim Thompson novels like 'Lying is Getting,' 'Flowers Would Have Killed You,' 'The Suggested Face for Sorry,' and so on. You can feel it in her sonnet sequence on the Gardner heist and violent assaults on artworks. But most of all, you can hear it around the noir edges of her language, persona and worldview ... Shapero’s technique is to leave herself open...to criticism. We live in an era where people are afraid of criticism, of approbation, so it can feel strange to explicate how a poet who is for a certain kind of toughness conducts herself ... Shapero is always in her poems treating her semi-detachable moods clinically, responsibly, comically, reliving their rage and traumas at times, but also just acceptingly, and she is not going to fit into a paradigm of style like wisecracking noir, which could constrain her ultimate gift for emotional precision, all the more moving because she is not interested in niceness.
... a series of intricate poetic frames that reveal, through spotless deadpan delivery, the absences with which we live ... Shapero’s poetics are those of compulsive association, allowing her to land vast, connective leaps in just a few lines ... What was fairly called 'dark humor' across her earlier collections has been become even more grim in Popular Longing ... Popular Longing chronicles the infinite ways we make sense of loss, or fail to—through funerals and burials, cremation and re-incarnation, an exhibit of empty frames left waiting on the wall.
... the poems in Natalie Shapero’s third collection, Popular Longing, are anything but ordinary. They dig beneath the definition of 'longing' itself, to the coal-powered engine inside it. Although they tackle conscious, consumerist desires, these poems hitch themselves to the subliminal—the kind of longing that is less about want and indulgence than it is about a need to know where this train ends up and how to get there fast. It is not a longing for death, so much as a relentless looking forward. An unstoppable acceleration towards one end or another and a one-way ticket to wherever that is ... These wryly observant and introspective poems peel back the skin of overabundance and find waste just beneath it. They cut open the heart of treasure and find trash clogging the drain of the aorta ... In these incisive and agile poems, one man’s mountain of gold is another man’s landfill. Are we truly burying these things or being buried by them? ... Natalie Shapero’s deadpan humor and striking lyricism are the spoonful of sugar that helps you to swallow a mouthful of glass. These poems have hard, sharp edges but you don’t even notice until you’ve gulped a whole delicious one down and feel the bloody catch in your throat.
With pervasive wit and swift movement, Shapero explores the sometimes mundane—but often complex and heartbreaking—nature of existence. These poems range in subject matter from death, to consumerism, to nostalgia, to grappling with the everyday as Shapero invites her readers into her world—one of nuanced humor and contemplation ... With a straightforwardness that weaves through the majority of her writing, the poet examines issues like life and death and Heaven and Hell with piercing wit. And, while much of this collection features this more comical tone, there are also moments of somber reflection ... Popular Longing explores universal concerns, including mortality, memory, and the difficulties of existence—and Shapero explores these themes in a way that is full of wit and freshness. With her distinct voice and the richness of the subject matter, she draws her readers in with her vivid storytelling and her dark yet relatable humor. This expansive collection serves as a reminder to us all of the complexity of life, but also of the humor and levity gleaned from our very human experiences.
... shrewd pacing and curiosity sharpen one’s attention. Here the oddities of our very human lives are keenly observed in bright lyric perfection ... a masterful romp through Shapero’s quick-witted and asymmetrical mode of thinking. It’s funny and serious all at once, like so much of our lives.
The poems in the sharp, eloquent third collection from Shapero juxtapose the world as it is and as it could be ... These poems are unsparing in their critiques of the self, the greed of capitalism, and violence; yet there is tenderness and human solidarity, a wish for something better, even if it feels like the odds are stacked against humanity. Shapero is a poet willing to go deep into the collective heart of humanity to find the truth, however it humors or hurts. No book captures the loneliness of witness like this one.