Gregg Shapiro’s New Book, Tour, and Infamous Interviews
By Steven O. Evans, PhD
When I first started the magazine, Gregg came to me to talk about writing. We met at the 5-Points Starbucks. Gregg told me about his interviews, writing, and articles. I knew from our first chat that he needed to be part of the OutClique team. Since then, Gregg has worked to provide numerous pieces for the magazine. Some of his interviews have included Megan Mullally, The Indigo Girls, Kathy Najimy, Faith Prince, Randy Rainbow, and Sharon Gless, just to name a few. Gregg continues to be an excellent source of “who’s who” in the LGBTQ+ entertainment world.
But, Gregg also writes his own, original works. He is currently debuting his new book, More Poems About Buildings and Food. In our fast-paced world of technology, information, and communication, sitting for awhile with just a book of poetry to reflect on life was an amazing treat. Gregg takes you on a thoughtful journey of life with some as simple, yet complex, as food, interspersed with everyday items and people that we encounter.
Get your copy at www.SpoonBooks.com.
Steven O. Evans, PhD: You are known for your celebrity interviews. What inspires you to write poetry?
Gregg Shapiro: I was writing poetry long before I became an entertainment journalist. For me, writing, in any format, is the greatest form of expression. I was fortunate, as an undergrad at Emerson College in Boston, to begin having my poetry published in literary journals. I’m grateful that continues to this day, in magazines, anthologies and textbooks, as well.
SOE: Is there one of the books that is most meaningful for you and why?
GS: I feel like a parent who is being asked to pick a favorite child [laughs]. I love all of my books – Protection (Gival Press, 2008), GREGG SHAPIRO:77 (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2012), Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels, 2014), How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016), More Poems About Buildings and Food (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2019) and Sunshine State (NightBallet Press, 2019) equally, and with the exception of one publisher, I have the utmost respect and gratitude to the kind and generous people who have published my books.
SOE: What do you want your readers to take away from your poetry?
GS: I want them to laugh in the right places. I want them to have an emotional response. That’s what good writing means to me – to be able to elicit a response from the reader, whether it’s based on shared experiences or discovering something new about themselves.
SOE: What’s your biggest challenge in writing poetry?
GS: For the longest time, the biggest challenge was understanding the necessity for revision. Many years ago, when I first started publishing my work, I had the unexpected experience of having several first drafts of poems published. Now, when I look back at some of those early publications, I think about how much better the piece would have been with some editing and revision. Revision has now become as important to me as the act of creating itself. In fact, in recent years, unpublished poems that have been revised numerous times are finally finding homes in journals and anthologies. Additionally, I have been returning to published poems and expanding them into short stories.
SOE: Who have been some of your favorite celebrities to interview, and why?
GS: Again, it wouldn’t be fair to pick favorites because one of the things I enjoy most about my work is that I establish a rapport with interview subjects and that often leads to being able to interview them again and again over time. However, I will say that my favorite celebrities to interview are the ones who don’t give stock or rehearsed answers to my questions.
SOE: You interview a lot of big names in show business. Do you ever get nervous talking to them?
GS: When I first started doing celebrity interviews, I would get nervous, almost to the point of hyperventilating. Now that I’ve been doing this kind of work for as long as I have, it takes a lot to make me nervous. Living in Fort Lauderdale, as opposed to Chicago, I don’t get to do as many in-person interviews as I used to. Depending on the person, face-to-face interviews could be a cause for nerves.
SOE: How do you prepare for interviews?
GS: Prep varies from interview to interview. But the basic rules are review the source material; listen to the music, watch the movie, read the book, watch the TV show, see the play (or a rehearsal of the play). Be more prepared than you think is necessary. Come up with more questions than you need. Make the interview subject laugh, when possible. It should be an enjoyable experience, not torture.
SOE: How do you decide what poems go in the book and which go on the cutting room floor?
GS: That’s an especially good question as I am now in the process of putting together a manuscript for what will be my eighth book. For Protection, GREGG SHAPIRO: 77, More Poems About Buildings and Food, and Sunshine State, the procedure was easy as each of the books has a sort of theme. Fifty Degrees doesn’t have a theme, but the poems chosen for it fit together perfectly. The new manuscript, tentatively titled The Family Bed, adheres closer to a theme than not. Of course, that could always change, as revision not only applies to the poems themselves, but also to assembling poems for a book.