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 BA from Bennington College in 1988 and MFA degrees from Brown University and the University of Iowa, in 1991 and 1993, respectively.
In his last year at Iowa, Shepherd received the “Discovery” Prize from the 92nd Street Y, and his first collection, Some Are Drowning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 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 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003), a finalist for the 2004 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Wrong (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999); and Angel, Interrupted (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996).
Shepherd 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). His work has been widely anthologized, and has appeared in four editions of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize anthologies. He published around four hundred poems during his lifetime in various journals.
Marilyn Hacker 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.”
Shepherd’s honors and awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the Florida Arts Council, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Shepherd was an assistant professor of English at Northern Illinois University (1995–99) and Cornell University (1999–2002). He then moved to Pensacola, Florida, where he was first an adjunct professor (2002–05), then a visiting professor (2005-06) at the University of West Florida.
Shepherd died in Pensacola on September 10, 2008, after a long fight against colon cancer. The Minneapolis-based Knockout Literary Magazine established the International Reginald Shepherd Memorial Poetry Prize in 2009 in honor of Shepherd.