Shinder, Jason 1955- (Jason Scott Shinder)

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Shinder, Jason 1955- (Jason Scott Shinder)


Born October 19, 1955, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Jack (a restaurateur) and Edith (a homemaker) Shinder. Education: Attended New School for Social Research and Cornell University; Skidmore College, B.A., 1976; University of California, Davis, M.A., 1978; Naropa Institute, poetics certificate, 1979; National Psychological Association of Psychoanalysis, two-year certificate, 1982.


Home—New York, NY. Office—Writer's Voice, Young Men's Christian Association, 5 W. 63rd St., New York, NY, 10023.


Good Times, film critic, 1981-83; Writer's Voice of the West Side YMCA, New York, NY, founder and director, 1981-90; YMCA National Writer's Voice of the YMCA of the USA, founder and director, 1990—. Guggenheim Museum, lecturer, 1986-89; President's Commission on the Arts, member, 1994; core faculty member, graduate writing programs of Bennington College, Bennington, VT, 1994—, and the New School for Social Research (now New School University), New York, NY, 1995—. The Writing Program at Sundance Institute, director, 1999—. American Poetry Review, contributing editor; Brim: An Arts Journal and Ithacan, poetry editor; California Quarterly, member of editorial board.


Poetry Society of America (director, 1981-83).


California State Arts Council poetry fellowship, 1980; poetry fellowship, Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, 1980; notable best poetry book, New York Public Library, 1985; Yaddo poetry fellowship, 1989; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1992.



End of the Highest Balcony, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1980.

(Editor) Divided Light: Father and Son Poems: A Twentieth-Century American Anthology, Sheep Meadow Press (Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY), 1983.

(Editor) First Light: Mother and Son Poems: A Twentieth-Century American Selection, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1992.

Every Room We Ever Slept In, Sheep Meadow Press (Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY), 1993.

(Editor) More Light: Father and Daughter Poems: A Twentieth-Century American Selection, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1993.

(Editor) Eternal Light: Grandparent Poems, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1995.

(Editor) Lights, Camera, Poetry! American Movie Poems, the First Hundred Years, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1996.

Among Women, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2001.

(Editor) Birthday Poems: A Celebration, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2002.


(Editor) The Imagining Head: Writing by Children, Windless Orchard Press (Fort Wayne, IN), 1978.

(Editor) The First-Book Market: Where and How to Publish Your First Book and Make It a Success, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor, with George Plimpton) The Best American Movie Writing 1998, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor, with Peter Bogdanovich) The Best American Movie Writing 1999, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor) Tales From the Couch: Writers on Therapy, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Jeff Herman and Amy Holman) Get Your First Book Published: And Make It a Success, Career Press (Franklin Lakes, NJ), 2000.

(Editor, with John Landis) The Best American Movie Writing 2001, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor) The Poem That Changed America: "Howl" Fifty Years Later (essays; with CD), Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including Hudson River Anthology; contributor to periodicals, including Village Voice, Paris Review, New York Times, Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Newsday, American Poetry Review, and Agni.


Jason Shinder is a poet, writer, editor, teacher, and the founder of the YMCA National Writer's Voice programs of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and director of the YMCA Arts and Humanities for the United States. Shinder is a film fan, and for Lights, Camera, Poetry! American Movie Poems, the First Hundred Years, he collected more than one hundred poems, many of them odes to film stars such as James Dean, Jean Harlow, Errol Flynn, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Bela Lugosi, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and Harpo Marx. USA Today contributor Steven G. Kellman wrote that "the volume puts its best iambic feet forward first with ‘Provide, Provide,’" Robert Frost's meditation on a faded movie star's transient glory. A few pages later comes Hart Crane's familiar depiction of Charlie Chaplin's tramp as modern human prototype, "Chaplinesque." Kellman wrote that the poems will "remind readers of the power of meticulous words and flickering images." "This collection is bliss," commented Donna Seaman in Booklist.

In 1998, the first volume of The Best American Movie Writing was published with Shinder, working with editor George Plimpton in collecting the final twenty-two essays that would appear in the initial installment. Among the essays is Barbara Maltby's piece on her productions, including The American President, Ordi-nary People, and A River Runs Through It. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, who felt Maltby's to be the best of the essays, called a number of other pieces "noteworthy," including Alice Walker's reflections on filming The Color Purple during her mother's final illness. In others, Garry Wills compares Oliver Stone to Dostoyevsky, Jill Robinson writes of Roman Polanski's exile, and Bonnie Friedman defines The Wizard of Oz as what the reviewer called "an anti-adventure story for girls, who if they go over the rainbow must relearn that ‘there's no place like home.’"

Film Comment contributor Dale Thomajan felt the best essay to be Stephen Fry's thoughts on portraying Oscar Wilde, saying that "his prose is uncluttered and surprisingly adroit; his tone, continuously witty and civil." Thomajan remarked that Daniel Harris's "The Death Camp" "is invaluable as perhaps the first above ground attempt to explain and detail the mystifying obsession many gay men have with certain vintage Hollywood movies and actresses, as opposed to merely basking in it." Thomajan noted that few of the articles focus on specific movies, but added that Kathleen Murphy's commentary on Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady is "an example of good, dense, descriptive-evocative criticism, carefully crafted in the form of hard poetry." Booklist reviewer Bonnie Smothers called Shinder's collection "solid."

Shinder worked with Peter Bogdanovich on the 1999 volume, in which the majority of essays are by men. A Publisher Weekly reviewer called the collection "an astonishingly wide array of page-turning articles," but found the "glaring flaw" to be the absence of women as contributors or subjects, "given the many excellent female voices … and the recent strides made by women in the film industry."

Tales From the Couch: Writers on Therapy is a collection of nineteen essays by authors who have been in therapy, most of whom relate how the process helped them in their private lives and with their writing. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Adam Gopnik, "in a witty and entertaining piece, describes his therapy as ‘one of the last, and easily one of the most unsuccessful, psychoanalyses that have ever been attempted.’" A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "nonetheless, the majority of the therapists emerge as compassionate and insightful and critical to the success of the writers," and concluded by calling Tales From the Couch "intimate, intense, enlightening, and entertaining."

Shinder wrote Get Your First Book Published: And Make It a Success with Jeff Herman and Amy Holman. It is dedicated to Allen Ginsberg and focuses on poetry, but the suggestions can be applied to other genres. The book takes writers' responses to a questionnaire on writing and illustrates their thoughts and experiences. Get Your First Book Published shows how writing contests and awards can help get a writer's work into print, gives suggestions on writers' organizations and possible markets for first-time book authors, and includes a list of suggested reading. Included are the experiences of first being published from such writers as Jack London and Robert Frost. Lee B. Roberts noted in the Writer that "a few are almost instant success stories, while many offer lessons learned through the struggles of getting one's words into print. Either way, they prove to be inspirational." Library Journal contributor Robert Moore called the book "comforting, inspiring."

Shinder's collection Among Women is about love and sex, families, and men's perceptions of women. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the poems "deliberate" and said that their "quiet language, slow pace, and emotional pitch" are reminiscent of the work of Stephen Dunn and Raymond Carver. The reviewer felt that the fans of those writers "may appreciate Shinder's frankness." Shinder next served as editor for Birthday Poems: A Celebration, a volume of poems by such writers as E.E. Cummings, Sylvia Plath, and Galway Kinnell.

In 2006, Shinder published The Poem That Changed America: "Howl" Fifty Years Later, a collection of twenty-six essays about Allen Ginsberg's seminal poem, considered the manifesto of the Beat movement of the 1950s and 1960s. First appearing in print in a slim volume titled Howl and Other Poems in 1956, the raw, graphic poem, with its famous opening lines, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix," galvanized the nascent counterculture and catapulted Ginsberg to fame. "This new collection of appreciations strives to uphold the importance of the poem that romanticized ‘angel-headed hipsters,’ battled Moloch, ‘whose blood is running money!,’ and otherwise deprecated the Establishment," observed Nick Desai in New Criterion.

Among the contributors to The Poem That Changed America are former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Romanian-born poet and journalist Andrei Codrescu, and Ginsberg biographer Jane Kramer. "The book has its high points," noted Eric Miles Williamson in the Washington Post Book World. "Amiri Baraka riffs like Coltrane blowing prose from his tenor in an homage to Ginsberg that shimmers and eviscerates. Rick Moody seems electrified and intoxicated in his splendid essay ‘On the Granite Steps of the Madhouse with Shaven Heads,’ interspersing lines from ‘Howl’ into his own improvisational memorial word-chart. And Anne Waldman … contributes a closing essay that bears the marks of beauty, wonder and passion that Ginsberg evidently left on those who knew him."

Greil Marcus, writing in the New York Times Book Review, offered qualified praise for the work, commenting that Shinder "has produced a tribute album—but a tribute album in which half of the contributors are covering the same song. Rather than ‘critical texts,’ Shinder wanted ‘personal narratives’ from well-known writers on ‘how the poem changed their lives’: thus the word ‘I’ appears in the first or second line of more than half the pieces here." As Marcus noted, however, "it's with the critical pieces that Ginsberg's poem comes back to life—critical pieces that take the shape of real talk. With David Gates there's an instant change in tone. ‘I drove to the store the other day’—and you realize he's not going to tell you he discovered ‘Howl’ there. He parks, hears the boom of an obscene rap song from the S.U.V. in the next spot and starts thinking: ‘Banned literary mandarins such as Joyce and Nabokov may simply have wanted to go about their hermetic work unmolested, but Ginsberg was a public poet and a provocateur.’" In his review of the volume, Poetry contributor Adam Kirsch wrote: "What accounts for the warm embrace between the poet of ‘Howl’—chieftain of the ‘angel-headed hipsters,’ ‘who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting / the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism’—and the society he denounced as ‘Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius’? The Poem That Changed America offers a clear explanation, repeated by virtually every contributor who first encountered ‘Howl’ as a teenager between, say, 1955 and 1980: the poem functions as a perfect lifestyle advertisement."



Book, January, 2001, Jeff Ousborne, review of Tales From the Couch: Writers on Therapy, p. 75.

Booklist, April 1, 1992, Donna Seaman, review of First Light: Mother and Son Poems: A Twentieth-Century American Selection, p. 1425; March 1, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of Lights, Camera, Poetry! American Movie Poems, the First Hundred Years, p. 1117; April 15, 1998, Bonnie Smothers, review of The Best American Movie Writing 1998, p. 1413.

Film Comment, July, 1998, Dale Thomajan, review of The Best American Movie Writing 1998, p. 62.

Kirkus Review, November 1, 2000, review of Tales From the Couch, pp. 1535-1536.

Kliatt, March, 2002, Sarah Applegate, review of Birthday Poems: A Celebration, p. 27.

Library Journal, June 1, 2001, Robert Moore, review of Get Your First Book Published: And Make It a Success, p. 176; March 15, 2006, William Gargan, review of The Poem That Changed America: "Howl" Fifty Years Later, p. 73.

New Criterion, June, 2006, Nick Desai, review of The Poem That Changed America, p. 96.

New York Times Book Review, April 9, 2006, Greil Marcus, "Classic Beat Review," review of The Poem That Changed America, p. 25.

Poetry, September, 2006, Adam Kirsch, "Starving Hysterical Naked," review of The Poem That Changed America, p. 442.

Publishers Weekly, March 16, 1984, review of Divided Light: Father and Son Poems: A Twentieth-Century American Anthology, p. 82; March 23, 1998, review of The Best American Movie Writing 1998, p. 89; October 11, 1999, review of The Best American Movie Writing 1999, p. 67; November 13, 2000, review of Tales from the Couch, p. 96; February 12, 2001, review of Among Women, p. 204; December 17, 2001, review of Birthday Poems, p. 88; January 30, 2006, review of The Poem That Changed America, p. 50.

USA Today, July, 1996, Steven G. Kellman, review of Lights, Camera, Poetry!, p. 80.

Voice Literary Supplement, November, 1984, review of Divided Light, p. 11.

Washington Post Book World, April 16, 2006, Eric Miles Williamson, "He Saw the Best Minds of His Generation," review of The Poem That Changed America, p. 4.

Writer, September, 2001, Lee B. Roberts, review of Get Your First Book Published, p. 47.