Reginald Shepherd (1963-2008) was the author of five previous books of poetry: Fata Morgana; Otherhood; Wrong; Angel, Interrupted; and Some Are Drowning. His work has been widely anthologized, and has appeared in four editions of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize anthologies.
“Among other things, Shepherd has always been an elemental poet. His work abounds with the imagery and motifs of water and fire, and while those elements are important here, it is air and earth that are the more dominant elements in this collection. . . .
Clay, red clay in particular, recurs several times throughout the collection as a motif of earth. It is the substance of creation, but always of impermanent things, whether heroes or Babylonian statues with feet of clay, or of things durable but fragile, such as the cuneiform tablets of ‘A Parking Lot Just Outside the Ruins of Babylon.’”
—Robert Philen, from the Foreword
Fata Morgana mingles personal experience, history, mythology, politics, and natural science to explore the relationships of conception and perception, the self finding its way through a physical and social world not of its own making, but changing the world by its presence.
The poems of Reginald Shepherd’s third book move among, mix, and manufacture stories, seeking to redefine the meaning of mythology. From the ruined representatives of Greek divinity (broken statues and fragmented stories), and the dazzling extravagances of predecessors like Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens, to the fleeting promises of popular music and the laconic demigods of the contemporary gay subculture, they sketch maps of a world in which desire may find a restless home. But desire leads the maps astray and maps mislead desire. The poems poems both enact language’s powers to create a world and enforce the world’s insistence (material, social, sexual, racial, historical) that mind (and body) surrender to circumstance. The struggle between these two halves that will never make a whole produces new myths of occasion, “packing the rifts/with sleeplessness, filling the gaps with lack.” In that space between promise and deprivation, Wrong builds its song.
This first collection of poems enacts the struggle of a young black gay man in his search for identity. Many voices haunt these poems: black and white, male and female, the oppressor’s voice as well as the oppressed. The poet’s aim, finally, is to rescue some portion of the drowned and the drowning.