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November 1999
112 pages  

5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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Shepherd, Reginald
The poems of Shepherd’s third book seek to redefine the meaning of mythology, from the ruined representatives of Greek divinity to the dazzling extravagances of predecessors like Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens.
Reginald Shepherd (1963–2008) was the author of five books of poetry: Fata Morgana; Otherhood; Wrong; Angel, Interrupted; Some Are Drowning; and Red Clay Weather. His work has been widely anthologized, and has appeared in four editions of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize anthologies.
“All the ways in which Reginald Shepherd is ‘wrong’ (not white, not straight, not apologetic, not believing in any easy way of making sense) fire these compelling poems—which brilliantly filter their urban, late twentieth century experience through the gorgeous diction of Marlowe and Hart Crane. This book is absolutely fresh, energized by the ways Shepherd refuses the ‘right’ in favor of a dark and lustrous matrix of desire and race, the longing for a sense of actuality, the beautiful and resistant surfaces of language and skin. Wrong is a fearless and radiant book.”—Mark Doty

“In Wrong, his third book in five years, Reginald Shepherd deploys the explicit reticence unique to his work to make numinous events marked by desire, disease, difference (the signal markers of human consciousness). Perhaps it is not possible to be a black (or a gay) American artist without an acute sense of the quotidian immediacy of history. But Shepherd's historical perspective is also (rich paradox) that of a classicist, a writer whose experience co-exists with a sense of the immanence, the re-inhabitation and re-vision, of Greco-Roman myth and of the shadowy border where myth and history mingle. That border is the true location of Reginald Shepherd's poems, as they engage in calculated drifting on the razor's edge between moment and memory.”—Marilyn Hacker

These poems tread between subtle forms and raw power, never compromising but holding the two together in a difficult tension. Wrong continues the work of Shepard’s previous two books, the AWP prize -winning Some Are Drowning, and Angel, Interrupted , but it pushes the possibilities of a constricting and potentially poisonous history even further toward the margin of liberation. These poems are never still, always ravished by the mouth of the moment, until they almost stand in a body that is somehow dying and surving at the same time. —Sam Witt, Indiana Review, May 2001

“Shepherd's third book differs from the others in its close attention to the impulses toward aggression inherent in desire. . . . Shepherd struggles particularly with his search for illumination, and many of his poems are characterized by a photographer's or painter's eye for detail and visual pattern. Through what he seeks to see, Shepherd questions the 'wrongness' of what so captivates him as a writer.”—Callaloo, February 2001

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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.


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