Saturday, September 13, 2008

So far as I can tell, Reginald Shepherd and I agreed about two things, and perhaps two things only: the value of poetry and the idea that poetry has a critical dimension, whether individual poets choose to acknowledge this or not. What Reginald Shepherd & I did not agree about, for the most part, was the kinds of poetry we valued, or why. He really disliked my concept of a third-way poetics, perhaps because he understood that his own poetry was one of the best arguments for it. Shepherd took from all schools & created something entirely his own.

But what I appreciated most about Reginald Shepherd’s writing and his person was his ability, unparalleled in the world of letters, to address those with whom he disagreed about all else with great respect, dignity and humor. To argue with him was to participate in a debate at a very high level, in which you knew that he would give no ground unless he really felt persuaded by your point, and that he expected no less from you. He could be wrong, and I’m sure he felt the same way about me, but I never traded emails or comments in our various blogs that I did not enjoy, and that I did not come away from feeling less than enriched. His loss at such a young age is a profound one for everybody in poetry.

Shepherd’s page on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog

Shepherd’s page at the Academy of American Poets

Omnidawn’s poetry feature on Shepherd just three days before he died

Shepherd’s “On Difficulty in Poetry

John Gallaher offers to send a chapbook of Shepherd’s to those who write for it

Reginald Harris on being “the other Reggie” in American poetry

Edward Byrne’s comment, plus a poem

C. Dale Young’s note

Cherryl Floyd-Miller’s note

Silver Downes response (plus a poem)

Samiya Bashir’s comment, and another poem

Matthew Cheney’s comment

Hedgie picks a different poem to quote

Didi Menendez picks “The New Life”

Brian Henry selects “Probably Eros”

Don Share’s comment