Daniel Shapiro is the author of three poetry collections—The Red Handkerchief and Other Poems (2014, 2021); Woman at the Cusp of Twilight (2016); and Child with a Swan’s Wings (2018)—all published by Dos Madres Press. He is also the translator of various works, including Roberto Ransom’s Missing Persons, Animals, and Artists (2018) and Tomás Harris’s Cipango (2010; starred review, Library Journal). A bilingual selection from Cipango appeared in Issue 11 of Interlitq. Additional selections from his own poetry collections appeared in issue 20. Shapiro has received translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and PEN. He is a Distinguished Lecturer and Editor of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas in the Department of Classical and Modern Languages & Literatures at The City College of New York, CUNY. He is currently working on a novel, set in 1920s Pasadena, and a short-story collection, both drawn from family anecdotes, old photographs, and historical documents.
Shapiro’s poem “The Medium,” from The Red Handkerchief, was inspired by an experience he had with Adele Tinning, a medium based in San Diego, California, whom he met one evening during a family visit in the 1980s. Tinning was known for her apparent ability to communicate with spirits, whether at home through a system of “tapping” via her modest kitchen table, or in demonstrations at local colleges. He once observed her “tip” an enormous office table onto two legs, in effect defying gravity. During their conversation and subsequent session, she expressed wisdom and empathy, as well as a matter-of-factness that strangely enhanced the surreal nature of the occasion. She claimed, for example, that the spirits of those who’d died in the 1978 PSA Airlines crash had contacted her, sending messages through her table. This poem revisits Shapiro’s experience with Adele Tinning, reconstructed from memory and a recording of the session, often using her own words. That wondrous encounter was life-changing for him.