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)

Roman Year

Reginald Shepherd, 1963 - 2008
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, and bananas ripened
to painted wax: your eyes 
blinking away pollen 
in wind that says spring's coming, wait
for me. Months sometimes it takes


Aprilis

lights scrolls across an unmade bed,
we were setting out for Aries
in paper planes (white dwarf stars
bright in a wilderness of wish scatter
white feathers among me, fistfuls
of light): bees busied themselves 
with the seen, moment's 
multiple tasks, for the pollen, honey
in the blood, bees would drown
each day: from a thicket of nos
to one sepaled blossoming, all
in an afternoon

you thought of bees as summer


Maius

This heliotrope gaze has fixed me
in its sights (the turning solar year suffers
in sudden rain, grazes my cold 
with vague waves, plashing 
particles, but lightly): lightly 
take this sky, bound up in so much
loose light, light wind brushes chapped
lips. Light-footed gods break open 
day to see what it contains: body
survives light's inquisitions. 


Junius

Beside the shale pigeons a dove 
color of old brick dust, the sound 
of brick dust settling: traffic noise 
rides heat-rise off wet streets, summer 
music echoes borrowed air: light 
centrifugal, sent scattering, lost later
every day:some gold
against bright water (handfuls
scattered over lake), unnecessary, true
candleland waning to wax 
and wick, silver water shattering
like backed glass 


Quintilis

When I was in Egypt, light fell 
instead of rain, congealed to grains of sand,
pyramidal, uninterred. Uninterrupted waves 
of palms departed for shuddering oases. Why was it
I spent centuries in that mirage, caravanserai 
of the sirocco stopped, pausing at 
reflection, also called the polished sky,
and still no fall of shade? The light hung
triangular, aslant, touched the colossus
to song.


Sextilis

Wanting to understand, not wanting
to understand, worried that 
by taking thought you lose it, by not 
taking, thought. Watching him run a hand
through thin blond hair, passing 
at arm's length on a lunch hour 
street. Wondering is it good now, am I
pleasure, and which part is it that I need,
while air migrates too slowly to be seen
and noon crawls groggy over August
skin. Then thinking No, it's too 
and turning back to look at traffic.


September

Sudden storm, then sudden sun. Give me, 
I almost said: and stopped, began again 
with your voice, what gets invented by the 
I-can't-say-that-here. The afternoon of after rain
dazzles with cloudlessness and a painful green 
set casually against blue: light 
mottled by fractal leaves 
freckles your outstretched arm, 
repeating apple, apple, apple, sour 
fruit and crabgrass. A damp T-shirt 
takes on that color, nothing 
will wash it out. I wear it for weeks. 


October

doorway, flutter, moth
or leaf in flight, in fall 
foyer, stammer of wind, a patter
hovering, dust hushed or 
pressed to trembling 
glass, smut, soot, mutter 
of moth or withered stem, 
late haze, gray stutter
crumpled, crushed, 
falter, fall, a tread ...


November

williwaw, brawl in air, 
shunt or sinew of wind shear
blown off course, pewter skew
vicinity, winnow and complicit 

sky preoccupied with grizzle,
winter feed of lawns' snared
weathervane, whey-faced day
brume all afternoon of it 

(lead reticence of five o'clock)
remnant slate all paucity and drift
salt splay, slur and matte brink
snow stammers against sidewalks


December

White light seen through 
the season's double window
clouding the room reveals the roses'
week-old gift of petals bruised purple-black.
Dry paper falling on white cloth 
seconds the white room's wonder 
at cold sun flurried, crumbling stars
compacted underfoot: lattice 
of fixed clarity, wintrish eidolon
half patience, half at prayer.

"Roman Year," from Otherhood: Poems by Reginald Shepherd. Copyright © 2003 by Reginald Shepherd. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

"Roman Year," from Otherhood: Poems by Reginald Shepherd. Copyright © 2003 by Reginald Shepherd. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

Reginald Shepherd

Reginald Shepherd

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

by this poet

poem
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
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
poem
Occasionally a god speaks to you,
rutted tollway a flint knife breaching
gutted fields hung on event

horizon, clear cut contradiction 
through soybeans and sheared corn: blue
pickup an orange blaze, white letters 

blistered, boiling down to tarmac, 
asphalt, sulfur fume cured by a methane 
gas burn-off pipe,