Red Clay Weather

Reginald Shepherd. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $14.95 trade paper ISBN 978-0-8229-6149-9
In his posthumous sixth collection of poems, Shepherd (1963–2008) inhabits a world darkened by the bout with cancer, which he lost, in which he must "open the front door that won't lock/ properly, walk out with calcium-deficient bones, a rising/ viral load, testing degrees of never." These last poems, edited by Shepherd's partner, Robert Philen, put Shepherd's careerlong synthesis of classical imagery, African-American history and experience, contemporary language, and edgy aesthetics to new purposes ("Fleet Achilles refuses to outrun death"). Often, these poems seek to preserve bits of memory, or at least do so when viewed from this vantage point: "I lost it years ago," Shepherd writes of a photograph, "water-damaged, fading." Shepherd takes stock of his whole life: "My mother was the murderous flight of crows/ ... gleaming/ among black branches." Other poems more or less obliquely touch on politics ("Just outside the dust of Babylon, tank treads/ not designed for desert transport/ grind down the royal road from Sardis") and friendship between poets ("Ruined water will not impede her/ progress through the music"). Looking toward what's ahead, Shepherd concludes, "How I want to believe." Shepherd was a beloved and controversial poet; his voice will be missed. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 103 pages - 978-0-8229-7830-5
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