Jane Schapiro was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She received a B.A. in Anthropology from The Colorado College and did graduate work at George Mason
University. She has taught physical education and adult creative writing workshops, lived and worked in Israel and bicycled across the United States. Schapiro lives in Annandale, Virginia with her husband Scott Brown and three daughters.
Q: How and when did you find out that your book was being published?
I got the call in the evening. The voice on the other end asked for Jane Schapiro. This is always a clue that the caller comes from the world of writing. In my everyday life I go by my married name Brown but when I publish and to my writer friends, I go by my maiden name Schapiro. My heart always speeds up when I hear Schapiro because I know that, if nothing else, I’m going to be talking about writing. I suppose the best word to describe what I felt after hearing the news was “validated.”
Q: What kind of poet/ fiction writer do you see yourself as? Is there a particular genre or subject matter you find yourself revisiting often?
The best way to describe my writing is to quote David Ignatow: “My avocation is to stay alive. My vocation is to write about it.”
Q: When did you first realize that you were a writer? Can you pinpoint a specific time in your life, or did you always know that you wanted to write?
I didn’t discover that I loved to write until I was already finished with formal schooling. I wish I had known earlier because I would have chosen college courses differently. I would have benefited from reading and discussing the classics with others. I ended up going back and reading many of the masters on my own. The first creative piece I wrote was an essay about my stay on a kibbutz in Israel. What is memorable is not the piece but how totally absorbed I became while writing it. I remember sitting and writing for hours and being stunned afterwards at how completely oblivious to the outside world I had been for those hours. I had never before experienced such total escape and I craved it, so I wrote more. The more I wrote, the more I craved the feeling. I eventually landed on poetry as the vehicle for me though over the years I have also written nonfiction.
Q: What is the best writing advice you ever received and from who?
C.K. Williams once told me that a good poem employs many of the same characteristics as a good joke. I agree with that.
Q: What is the strangest job you ever had?
I was a certified EMT and rode on an ambulance.
The title of Jane Schapiro’s remarkable first book tells you a great deal about the author and her poems. Tapping This Stone is subtly auditory, visually precise and mysterious, and emotionally resonant. Schapiro is pulled toward her subjects by “that undercurrent of desire! which draws us back,” by obsessive memories and talismanic objects such as a grandmother’s dream journals, a mahogany dining table at the moment when pain coalesces, doorknobs and nails at Auschwitz, and the prehistoric sculpture of “Death Goddess.” She is pulled toward the incomprehensible which is everywhere sensible: which is part of our terror and our awareness of evil; which awakens a sense of estrangement even in love, even in parenting and family ritual; which haunts us with the enigmas of consciousness and death. And she seeks-as we all do-rhythm and coherence, even when they must be found in “alignment with pain.”
Read the poem “Carcinoma” and discover how Jane Schapiro can infuse the domestic with ferocity and terror. Read “in my other life” for how she can find the poetry in pain, the sympathy in the imaginary, And “Postpartum” for how life can still be touched by myth in our dim, sad age. A fine book,