A poet’s search for places to belong and thrive as a mixed-race person.
Highlighting the daily realities of intersectional identity, Alex Wells Shapiro’s INSECT ARCHITECTURE examines the environments – urban, built, literary, implied, or denied – where the poet might find a place to thrive as a mixed-race person. This debut collection boldly takes on pressing social issues, advocating for the hope promised by density, whether of population or poetic construction. In doing so, Shapiro complicates the boundaries between personal spaces, between individuals and community. It is within such density – by literal abutments, inside walls, on train tracks, across intersections – that Shapiro finds his place, one that (re)centers the borders, edges, and margins to which so many are now pushed. Shapiro’s spaces and relationships focus on everyday details, providing the familiar comforts of belonging. Often experimental yet always accessible, these poems plainly present tangible, specific moments of city life without erasing emotional or symbolic depth. Meaning, for Shapiro, lives on the streets, underfoot, as the body moves through crowded, even conflicted, passages. Within these contemporary concrete mazes, Shapiro explores issues of fragmenting cultures and lifestyles, immense economic inequity, perpetual digital interactions, and rapidly escalating environmental crisis. While his poems analyze and personify widespread cultural and personal anxieties, it is Shapiro’s dense poetic architecture which, like a hive, hums with life. For Alex Wells Shapiro, “Buzzing means you are not alone.”
“Formally attuned and linguistically inventive, Alex Wells Shapiro’s INSECT ARCHITECTURE is the coronation of a vision all its own. The glint of rock salt melting snow on a winter day, the glue-trap texture of a CTA floor — truly, nothing gets past him. But more than vivid imagery or a commitment to language as a tactile thing, I was most enthralled by the poems’ sense of movement. Their subjects (and in many cases, their titles) are stumbled upon as an activity, rather than a declaration. Like a Christmas tree riddled with ornaments, or an industrial fishing net, there is so much bountiful history to gaze upon that you almost forget why you’re there in the first place.”
—J. Howard Rosier; Board Member, National Book Critics Circle
“In INSECT ARCHITECTURE, Shapiro offers an inclusive, expansive lens of the individual juxtaposed with the city; of modern life as a fleeting silhouette. With an avant-garde aesthetic, Shapiro paints poems, like collages, with range and yet the precision of a photographic memory. Mina Loy would be proud. Go read this book on the subway. Or on a graffitied park bench.”
—Jose Hernandez Diaz; Author of The Fire Eater
“Alex Shapiro doesn’t write of a fallen world. He writes of our consciousness, our environment, our vitality floating, achingly, midair. His words seek to chingar, pulse, photosynthesize, disrupt us. In INSECT ARCHITECTURE, we read of bodies reacting to their interior and exterior confines, we handle with care, we transform into the connectors that bind us — through the lens of a poet who grips us tight before letting us go.”
—Natasha Mijares; Author of violent wave
Poetry. Latinx Studies. Jewish Studies.
Alex Wells Shapiro (he/him) is a poet and artist from the Hudson Valley, living in Chicago. He reads submissions for Frontier Poetry and Another Chicago Magazine, where he also serves as business and grants manager. He is a co-founder of Exhibit B: A Reading Series presented by The Guild Literary Complex. His work has appeared in Fourteen Hills, Word For/Word, The Under Review, Filling Station, and Sharkpack, among other respected literary journals.