poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

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)

A Muse

Reginald Shepherd, 1963 - 2008
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 

on no sleep. Whatever they call those particular birds. 
He's the age of sensibility at seventeen, he isn't worth

the time of afternoon it takes to write this down. 
He's the friend that lightning makes, raking 

the naked tree, thunder that waits for weeks to arrive; 
he's the certainty of torrents in September, harvest time 

and powerlines down for miles. He doesn't even know 
his name. In his body he's one with air, white as a sky

rinsed with rain. It's cold there, it's hard to breathe, 
and drowning is somewhere to be after a month of drought. 

"A Muse" from Some Are Drowning, by Reginald Shepherd. Copyright © 1995. Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

"A Muse" from Some Are Drowning, by Reginald Shepherd. Copyright © 1995. 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
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
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
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