Neil Shepard’s How It Is: Selected Poems gathers the greatest hits from six full-length collections by a poet who is both planted and peripatetic. Founder and helmsman for some 25 years of this journal, Shepard has long maintained one base in the landscape of the Green Mountain State’s Northeast Kingdom and one in the urbanscape of New York City.
he Popol Vuh creation myth stems from the Mayan oral tradition, and was written down in the K’iche’ language between 1554 and 1558. With its roots in deeply communicative ritual, there is great emphasis placed on the relationship between speaking and hearing, as opposed to writing and seeing—“These are the first words. This is the first speaking.”
I climbed another mountain and spat on a boulder / because climbing a mountain means nothing. To fish / from the middle of the stream, fresh catch flailing / breathlessly on the shore, gasping frivolous moonlight, / their widened eyes confused: that is my percussion
of temptation, the drum I’d rather follow through the rain
When I arose the petals of the pink / were strewn on the table, / debris of glossy tongues.
The third line on my brow— / arrived last night.
She prefers the psych ward. Her blue / nurse-gloves check restraints, flit like the furtive
Seeking out sugar but settling for deer shit / my mother leans against the side / an old Babylonian cigarette machine
Back when I taught English in Japan, the worst thing that happened to me was being denied entrance to a few restaurants. Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux), wasn’t so lucky.
In the chemical light of afternoon, / bodies curl over phones, / slightly toward windows, / empty forms, / if it’s test day.
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