The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Michael Shapiro Papers, 1981-2016 are now available to research.
Michael Shapiro was born in 1948 in New York City and grew up in Woodside, Queens. He earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1983, a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1988, and a M.E. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2000. Shapiro grew up in a leftist Jewish household and came of age during the 1960s, participating in the counter culture revolution. He has lived for many years in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His is married to Mary Kerins.
This collection contains the broadsides, cartoons, publications, and poetry of Michael Shapiro. His particular interest is American Yiddish poets from the early twentieth century. These poets include Anna Margolin (b. Rosa Lebensboym), Rachel Korn, Celia Dropkin, and Moishe-Leib Halpern. English translations of the poets are included with the artwork. “Don’t Think I’ve Changed,” by Margolin is from Drunk From the Bitter Truth, translated by Shirley Kumove. “On the Other Side of the Poem,” by Rachel Korn is from An Anthology of Modern Yiddish Poetry, bilingual edition, selected and translated by Ruth Whitman, originally published by Workmen’s Circle and later by Wayne State University Press. Shapiro translated “Who Is?,” “Evening,” and “A Shikse by the Sea” by Halpern, “To Lucifer” and “My Hands” by Dropkin, and “Darkened Room” and “Slowly and Luminously” by Anna Margolin. On the Halpern broadside, the drawing of the man is based on a self-portrait by Halpern.
Shapiro has collaborated with local, national, and international poets to create signed, limited edition broadsides. These broadsides were created for poetry festivals as well as readings, many of which took place at the Cambridge Public Library. The poem “Romance of the Romances,” is by Cambridge Public Library employee Daniel Wuenschel, inspired by his shelving of romance novels. Shapiro collaborated with Wuenschel on the chapbook, Leviathan, in the collection under publications.
Included in the collection is Shapiro’s illustration of the Ern Malley poems. Ernest Lalor “Ern” Malley was a fictitious poet and the central figure in Australia’s most celebrated literary hoax. Malley and his entire body of work were created in one day in 1943 by writers James McAuley and Harold Stewart to prank Max Harris and Angry Penguins, the modernist magazine Harris had founded and edited.
The collection includes three of Shapiro’s plays. The 1981 “A Set of Skits and Songs for Street Theatre” comes with instructions for production. Shapiro wrote the skit, Milton Friedman as Witch Doctor, for “Perverse, Immoral, and Profane” (1981) performed by the Newbury Street Theater. Shapiro was also in the play. “I Tell you These Things are Real,” was performed off Broadway at the Producers Club in New York City on March 22 and 23, 2002.
The underground publication, A House United Against Itself, is a zine founded by the Reverend Crowbar (also known as David Nestle and David Crowbar; his real name was David Molinar and has since become a woman and goes by Susan Poe), who also published Popular Reality one of the largest anarchist zines in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A House United Against Itself was published between 1988 and 1994 and was affiliated with other zines published at the time, which were referred to as the United Front Ministries and was connected to the Church of the SubGenius. During this time, there was a subculture of people who took pseudonyms, gave themselves titles, purchased P.O. Boxes, and published zines, which they traded among themselves. The catalyst for this trading was Factsheet Five, which was published as a zine directory. Shapiro, whose pseudonym was the Rev. Etc. with the title Minister of Propaganda, later took over A House United Against. Numbers and issues do not correlate to any real chronology of publication. The number on the back of each publication corresponds to the order in which they were published.
Shapiro creates all his artwork digitally.