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 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 (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).
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 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.