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)

Syntax

Reginald Shepherd, 1963 - 2008
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, blue flame chipped 

with white raising a buttress of weather
-burnt bricks, flaking wind 
totem. We stopped to take some cargo 

on, weighted October with a freight 
of waiting snow traveling east, panic of
starlings startled from stubble husks

by a harvest moon dangled directly 
ahead: drove into the pitted sphere, bloody
pearl punched in a sky just out of reach

(vanishing point retreating, peeling),
one of the yellowed streetlights 
by now, dimming, diminishing. The road

says to perspective, wait.

"Syntax," 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
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
no dove at all, coo-rooing through the dusk
and foraging for small seeds
My mother was the clouded-over night
a moon swims through, the dark against which stars
switch themselves on, so many already dead
by now (stars switch themselves off
and are my mother, she was never
so celestial, so clearly seen)

My
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