poem index

About this poet

Reginald Shepherd was born on April 10, 1963, in New York City and raised in tenements and housing projects in the Bronx. He received his B.A. from Bennington College in 1988 and M.F.A. degrees from Brown University and the University of Iowa.

In his last year at Iowa, he received the "Discovery" prize from the 92nd Street Y, and his first collection, Some Are Drowning (1994), was chosen by Carolyn Forché for the Associated Writing Programs' Award in Poetry. His other collections are: Fata Morgana (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), winner of the Silver Medal of the 2007 Florida Book Awards; Otherhood (2003), a finalist for the 2004 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Wrong (1999); and Angel, Interrupted (1996).

He is also the author of Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry (Poets on Poetry Series, University of Michigan Press, 2007) and the editor of The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (University of Iowa Press, 2004) and of Lyric Postmodernisms (Counterpath Press, 2008).

Marilyn Hacker has described Shepherd as "brilliant and elegiac … a writer always conscious of the shadowy borders where myth and history—his own and Western civilization's—mingle. Those borders, classical and contemporary, are the true location of Shepherd's poems, and his newest work crosses and recrosses them, excavates their sites, finds the evidence of the poem at every stratum."

His work has been widely anthologized, and has appeared in four editions of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize anthologies. His honors and awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the Florida Arts Council, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

He lived in Pensacola, Florida. Shepherd died on September 10, 2008.

Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Some Are Drowning (1994)
Angel, Interrupted (1996)
Wrong (1999)
Otherhood (2003)
Fata Morgana (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007)

Prose

Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry (Poets on Poetry Series, University of Michigan Press, 2007)

Occurrences across the Chromatic Scale

Reginald Shepherd, 1963 - 2008
The way air is at the same time
intimate and out of reach

(a void with light inside it
turned on a wheel of wheres) 

Stars' lease on sky expires, breathes 
in leisures of sparrows, wrens

and casual trees, wet sidewalks
twittering with tattered news, old

leaves (hollow bones and branches)
wind of wish and which and boys

waiting for white kisses, rain 
of feathers, clouds saving their later 

Suppose this sunlight, day split open 
suppose these senses and the information

carried, thing and news of the thing
repeating place, location of position

Birds, for example, remembered
fluttering torn terms, congregations 

shimmer of hummingbirds 
but when does one see more than one

tumbling bright flesh (sky 
at hand) pleating afternoon, banking 

on mere atmosphere, primary
colors dividing white into 

three clean halves (red, green, 
blue-bitter berries rasp, crabapples

crush underfoot), the spectrum
says don't stop there

(smudged light a lapse of attention)
there's never enough world for you 

"Occurrences across the Chromatic Scale" from Otherhood: Poems, by Reginald Shepherd. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Reginald Shepherd

Reginald Shepherd

Reginald Shepherd was born on April 10, 1963, in New York City

by this poet

poem
Martius

The corrugated iron gates are
rolling down storefronts 
in paradise, late light flecks windows,
rain's acid fingerprints. Motes 
float between iron and glass, sink
into sanded pavements, weather's
footprints, cracked mappa mundi: silk
tea roses with a fringe of plastic fern;
grapes, apples
poem
Look: I am building absence 
out of this room's air, I'm reading suppositions into
summer's script snarled on a varnished floor. 
It looks like a man. That knot's his hand 
waving good-bye, that stippled stripe of grain's 
the stacked-up vertebrae of his turned back. 
Small birds (sparrows or finches, or perhaps
poem
He winds through the party like wind, one of the just 
who live alone in black and white, bewildered

by the eden of his body. (You, you talk like winter 
rain.) He's the meaning of almost-morning walking home 

at five A.M., the difference a night makes 
turning over into day, simple birds staking claims