Friday, September 12, 2008

Reginald Shepherd 1963-2008

Reginald Shepherd died two nights ago. I didn't know him well, but I did know him a little bit--we began corresponding about each others poems, met at AWP once or twice, and last spring, he wrote a signed review of Mark Doty's selected poems for me at PW. It seemed to me that he suffered a very great deal and wrung a great deal of life and energy out of his work as a poet. Somehow, I'm shocked and stunned by this news, though it's not really surprising. The US poetry community will notice his absence and miss him. I hope he knew that.

Here is the excellent review he wrote of Mark Doty's book:

Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems Mark Doty. HarperCollins $22.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-06-075247-7

Reviewed by Reginald Shepherd

Doty's first book, Turtle, Swan, appeared in 1987. He has published six books of poetry and four memoirs, all excellent, since. This hefty selection from his seven collections, plus a generous sheaf of new poems, should solidify his position as a star of contemporary American poetry.

Doty's poetic career really took off with My Alexandria (1993), his third book, which made his reputation. Fire to Fire contains only two poems from his first two books—“Adonis Theatre,” about an old movie palace turned gay porno theater, and “The Death of Antinous,” about the Roman emperor Hadrian's lover's afterlife in statuary, both of which are meditations on representation, absence and desire. Desire, and its capacity to transform and transfigure, is one of Doty's main themes. Enough desire (so often mixed, as T.S. Eliot wrote, with memory) can make us as beautiful as the objects of our desire.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Doty has never eschewed beauty. Indeed, beauty, its unlikely, often unexpected, yet constant recurrence and its elusive fleetingness, is central, as demonstrated by several new poems titled “Theory of Beauty,” each with a parenthetical specific occasion. Beauty is found everywhere in Doty's poems, in a band playing cast-off chemical drums in Times Square, even in Chet Baker falling from an Amsterdam hotel window: “a blur of buds//breathing in the lindens/and you let go and why not.”

The title poem “Fire to Fire,” from School of the Arts (2005) is a gorgeous meditation on the way that life's fire infuses the world, in sunflowers, goldfinches, and even a neighbor's puppy: “fire longs to meet itself/flaring, longing wants a multiplicity of faces,//branching and branching out.” The selections from “The Vault” (which really needs to be read in its entirety) reveal the poetry in men meeting other men's bodies in a sex club, incorporating references to the Middle English poem “Western Wind” and to James Wright's “A Blessing,” and including a subtle revision of Rilke's “Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes” in which the men are deep in the club's “mine of souls,” “that shaft where inner and outer//grow indissoluble.”

At times the poems unnecessarily explain what their vivid images and striking phrases makes clear, but the commitment to the particular, and to its possibilities, is unwavering. As Doty writes in “Ararat,” “Any small thing can save you.” The poems combine close attention to the fragile, contingent things of the world with the constant, almost unavoidable chance of transcendence, since “desire can make anything into a god.”

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Me on Poetry Daily

Hello everyone and no one,

I'm pleased to draw your attention and browser to the wonderful Poetry Daily website, which, today, Saturday 6/21/08, is featuring the title poem of my book. I'm especially happy they picked the title poem, as it's one I tried for a long time to place, with no success.

Hope all are well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jenny Scheinman

This is a nice piece from the New York Times today about Jenny Scheinman, a jazz violinist and singer with whose work I'm very much taken. She has two new records out.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Been in Los Angeles this week for the first time for BookExpo America. Picked up some galleys, posting stories on PW's website, smoked in the hotel room, missed B and Cal, and we're bound for good ole NY tomorrow morn. It's about time.

Here are the book I got that I'm excited about:

HOME by Marily Robinson (FSG)
FIREFLY UNDER THE TONGUE by Coral Bracho, trans. by Forest Gander (New Directions)
ISLE OF THE SIGNATORIES by Marjorie Welish (Coffee House)
THE COSMOPOLITAN by Donna Stonecipher (Coffee House)

Also happened to download a ton of music (legally, mind you) during the trip. I think I really just want my blog to be a place I can yammer about my new toys. Here's what I got for music, not that anyone cares:

CROSSING THE FIELD by Jenny Scheinman (Koch Records)
JENNY SCHEINMAN by Jenny Scheinman (Koch Records
GENTLY DISTURBED by Avishai Cohen Trio (Razdaz)
LICORICE AND SMOKE by Jessica Lurie (not sure of label)
THE INKLING by Nels Cline (Cryptogramaphone)
TRIBUTE by Paul Motian (ECM)
ONE AND THE SAME by Jeff Gauthier Goatette (Cryptogramaphone)
THE OTHER SHORE by Cline, Gauthier, Stinson (Cryptogramaphone)

that's a pretty good cross-section of my listening lately: lots of LA and west coast jazz, especially Nels Cline, and some West Coast transfers like Jenny Scheinman, whose new instrumental album, CROSSING THE FIELD, has some of her best tunes yet (though as a whole disc I like 12 SONGS better). I'm still sorting through the self-titled vocal record, and it sounds a lot like Gillian Welch to me, and I'm trying to figure out if Scheinman does this new roots sound as well. I gather she grew up in a musical family in a super-small CA town. The Lurie is great. I know nothing about her, but the band is Nels Cline, Scott Amendola and I think Todd Sickafoos on bass, and Lurie does some great wordless singing, along with her saxing. Motian is an old standby, one of the most interesting players to ever touch a drum kit--he thinks of the drums as textural as well as rhythmic, perhaps leaning harder on the texture than the rhythm.

And that's all from me. Thank god it's back to NY tomorrow.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I'm typing this with two fingers on my iPod touch, the toy I bought myself with my book advance. I love this thing--what did we do before iPods and wifi?


I've had this blog for like three years. I don't think anyone reads it anymore cause I stopped posting for a long time.


Going to read Sappho now. Glad to see the iPod autotext has the word Sappho.

Guy Time

B has been out of town since last saturday and is coming back in 4 days, so I've been taking care of Cal by myself. He's sitting here beside me on his little high chair. It's been hard, and I'm exhausted, but I'm also getting to know him better than I ever have. I'm also pretty starved for adult company.


Reading a couple of new/forthcoming poetry books. I wish some were better, and others are good enough. One thing I did like was AJAX translated by John Tipton, from Flood Editions. One of the most stunning book jackets I've ever seen. Never read another translation, so not sure if I liked the play or the version. And then the play was pretty strange--not much happens, lots of talking and weeping, but I think that would be more familiar if I read more Greek drama. Reading Daniel Mendelsohn a few weeks ago got me interested.


Watched that stupid Bob Dylan movie I'M NOT THERE last night. It just didn't really come together for me. Five versions of Dylan or whatever, five Dylan could-have-beens, or the spirits of America that animated him or our fascination with him. That's dumb. Like anyone else who makes things, Dylan is somebody who writes songs. Really good ones, and he kickstarted two decades of American music. What's most fascinating to me about Dylan is that he's an artist who's stuck it out for five decades, continually making work, and not all of it is good. Much of it isn't. He's sloppy. But he's always checking in, giving us updates in song. MODERN TIMES is a really good record.


At night I have lots of time to myself and can't go anywhere. I can't write. I can only write when I have to steal the writing time from other commitments. Ugh.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Publishers Weekly Poetry Issue

Dear Poetry Types,

this week's PW is our annual Poetry Issue, which means we have two articles about poetry, which I wrote.

The first is called Collected Consciousness, and it's a feature about the collected poems of Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer and Barbara Guest.

The second, The Poets' Poet, is a profile of Allen Grossman.

If you're looking for something to read, check 'em out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm Reading Tomorrow

Page Series
National Arts Club


Thoughts that make me happy today:

1) Wife and Son (family)
2) Collected Poems of Charles Reznikoff
3) Things I've ordered and have coming in the mail
4) Things I've ordered and recieved in the mail
5) The Dream of a unified field
6) new eco bottle
7) 8)
8) ipod
9) january software update
10) pipe tobacco
11) friends

Friday, February 08, 2008


This is amazing--my friend Woody made his own crazy video for "Tired of Sex" by Weezer:

Fingers dub - Tired of Sex by Weezer from Woods on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Spoils of AWP

One rather sweet thing I'm seeing other bloggers doing is listing all the books they got at AWP. I think it's sweet because it reminds me I belong to a vast community of object fetishists. That said, here's my list:

1) Matthew Cooperman, DAZE, Salt
2) Matthew Cooperman, A SACRIFICIAL ZINC, Pleiades
3) Julie Doxie, UNDERSLEEP, Octopus
4) Graham Faust, LEAVE THE ROOM TO ITSELF, Ahsahta
6) Reginald Shepherd, ORPHEUS IN THE BRONX, Univ of Michigan
7) John Ashbery, SELECTED PROSE, Univ of Michigan
8) Paul Hoover, FABLES OF REPRESENTATION, Univ of Michigan
9) Alice Notley, COMING AFTER, Univ. of Michigan
10) Marth Ronk, WHY/WHY NOT, Univ of California

There were a couple of others, I think, that I can't now recall. Ah, what a feast.