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Vigil

by Alan Shapiro

  • ISBN: 9780226750347
  • ISBN10: 0226750345

Vigil

by Alan Shapiro

  • List Price: $18.95
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 10/01/1997
  • ISBN: 9780226750347
  • ISBN10: 0226750345
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Description: The New York Times Book Review praised Alan Shapiro's The Last Happy Occasion as "an emotionally satisfying and elegant testimony to the power of poetry to instruct, heal and inspire". Vigil emerges from its final chapter, "Sittin' in a Funeral Place", a powerful essay about Shapiro's sister Beth, her struggle with breast cancer, and the limitations of poetry in confronting the untransformable pain of loss.

In Vigil, Shapiro chronicles with heart-wrenching lyricism the final four weeks of Beth's life in a hospice, attended by her parents, brothers, husband, daughter, and friends. One by one, as loved ones arrive to visit Beth, Shapiro reveals fragments of their personal history, bringing to life a troubled and poignant past. A visit from their brother David triggers the memory of a searing betrayal; a visit from their parents recalls bitter quarrels over Beth's radical politics; a visit from Beth's black husband brings the painful memory of their wedding and her parents' refusal to attend. These recollections evoke the unresolved, deeply disturbing issues that have long kept the Shapiro family estranged, making the reconciliation that Beth's death brings all the more extraordinary.

Shapiro gives an unconventionally honest account of our responses -- horror, relief, impatience, exhaustion, exhilaration, projection, fear, self-criticism, and a sense of fulfillment in the presence of the dying. Concluding with a selection of poems, Shapiro affirms the astonishing link between creativity and healing, and provides a coda to the whole experience. The price of human connection may be great, but human connection, in the end, has the power to redeem even the most painful of humanexperiences.

"A haunting, compellingly rendered account of a sister's illness -- told by a poet of great distinction whose natural eloquence helps all of us to look at the terrible mystery and injustice of human suffering". -- Robert Coles

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