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.