Friday, September 12, 2008

Reginald Shepherd, 1963-2008

Like many people throughout the poetry blogosphere, I was shocked to hear about the death of American poet, critic, essayist and blogger, Reginald Shepherd.

In a pre-Internet world, there’s every chance I would never have come into any contact with Reginald Shepherd, but that would have been my loss. He wrote about poetry (and other subjects) with intelligence, clarity, and wisdom, and always came over as a fine person. He died on 10 September after illness, aged only 45. If you haven’t read his blog, do check it out and bookmark it. It’s packed full of terrific stuff.

I don’t normally like to breach copyright but, in the circumstances, I hope I can be forgiven, as this poem of his seems very apt. I’m indebted to Hedgie at The Compost Heap for bringing it to my attention:

A Handful of Sand

I'm always putting thing in poems
where I think they'll keep, lying
to the lying gods to make a way
out of whatever ways I have.
The rooms we wander through
on a day of no significance
are white, are beige, are gray, nothing
of any importance will happen
today. A fake fragment of Greek frieze
frames three plaster women in pleated chitons
sitting on a bus, or so it looks
from here, a krater holds a plastic plant
(saw palmetto, perhaps) that's following
them, but they don't seem to be
moved. Graffiti on the men's room stall
reads "TEXT," reads "SIGN,"
and also the word "DEUCE"
scratched into green-painted metal.

Think of all the blunder and fault
in the world, a noisy lexicon
of mistake, hoots, jargles, squawks,
and rasps, think of all the bending
and breaking of oak boughs.
Think of the quartz beach wrecked
by recent hurricanes, driftwood
and seaweed beginning to stink,
plastic cup lids I mistook for shells.
(We have seen the wind
by what it leaves behind, its wreckage
and detritus, but the water
won't be wounded.)

File this pearl-smooth conch interior
under no, press it against your ear
as if it were the spirit radio,
and you were walking down the street
tuned to just one voice, wading
waist-high through shallow light.
The minutes continue their shine, the shapes
of color change and turn; a wind
blows through my skin
and you renew the weather.
I will not entirely die.

(from Fata Morgana by Reginald Shepherd,
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007)


Unknown said...

Ah, great poem Rob. Thank for posting it up. I confess to being ignorant about Reginald Shepherd, despite the internet (not enough hours).

I'm seeing this a lot lately; how art can preserve something of our fleeting lives after us - but only if it's lending some improvement on what has gone before. It makes me try harder.

Andrew Shields said...

I thought of quoting that poem, too, but I had already typed up the bits from his prose that I put in my post about Reginald's death. As I just noted in comments on Mark Granier's blog, how such lines read differently after their author has passed away.

Mark Granier said...

Great choice Rob. Thanks.

Mark Granier