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.
In my quest to sight an existential piece of Lonnie among the ruins of the Elaine Race Massacre, I had, after all, concluded history can be doubtless and too much and too little abided in the fields and fury of Phillips County for Lonnie and me to inhabit any amicable turf there–too much intervening and unsympathetic time, too much dismay as I turned the leaves of record, which bore too much descent and strife and turpitude, too little comity, too little heart.
Coffins had already been ordered. The promise to the lynch mob by the County fathers nearly two years previously would now be kept, but the Moore Six continued to believe in Scipio Jones.
For the great stories alone found in this collection, it would be a masterwork, but the true game-changer is how the collection works together, going from lyric realism to controlled-yet-wildly reaching stories of imagination in which the author and reader disappear before the potency of story—stories which take our world and invert it and show it impossibly aching, failing, bursting at the epoch of dystopian flounder.
TONY MAGISTRALE is Professor and Chair of the English Department at the University of Vermont. He is the author of What She Says About Love.
Blacks hid in the woods, coppices and in the slough that ran roughly along Route 44. Several blacks emerged from the slough holding up their hands, but they were shot and killed. Other African-Americans simply ran, but they too were gunned down–frequently among lineated cotton rows–at the hands of the posses.
I can indeed conflate the convincing pieces that led to the conclusion Lonnie took part in the Elaine Race Massacre, but I cannot reconcile my love for Lonnie and his apparent views about and role in racism, as practiced in the Arkansas Delta by whites during the first part of the 20th century.
It’s hard to read Marcus Pactor’s Vs. Death Noises without thinking of J.G. Ballard. The crime-scene labeled portrayal of character in “The Archived Steve,” the incantation-based narrative in “Spell Compendium,” the number-tagged dialogue in “Loss? Found?” and others–many of the stories in this collection defy traditional story structure in favor of forms we (and the characters) encounter in the less-than-literary aspects of our technology-ridden lives.
OLENA KALYTIAK DAVIS is the author of And Her Soul Out of Nothing and Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities.