Angel, Interrupted

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Reginald Shepherd’s first book, SOME ARE DROWNING (1994), was winner of the 1993 Associated Writing Programs’ Award Series in Poetry. He has also received numerous awards including 1993 “Discovery”/THE NATION Award, 1993 Paumanok Poetry Award, 1994-1995 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, 1994 George Kent Prize from POETRY and 1995 NEA creative writing fellowship. His poems have appeared in GRAND STREET, THE IOWA REVIEW, THE KENYON REVIEW, THE NATION, THE PARIS REVIEW, POETRY, and TRIQUARTERLY.

Poems collected in ANGEL, INTERRUPTED straddle two worlds: the past and the present, Greek mythology and contemporary life, American mainstream culture and African American culture. Shepherd moves with great ease in between both, drawing inspiration as fluidly and smoothly as the “road of light on water.” He eruditely quotes from Greek mythology, Greek poet Hesiod, French philosopher Michel Foucault, and French poet Jean-Nicolas-Arthur Rimbaud. He describes African American panhandlers in Chicago with empathy and compassion.

Many of Shepherd’s poems deal with the search for an image which can accurately reflect what the poet intends to portray. The search, however, is complicated by the difficulty in trying to separate the reflection and what is reflected. “Depth of Field,” “Two Versions of Midsummer,” and “Art and Illusion” are but a few poems which question the possibility of ultimate representation of truth. In an environment where “tropical flowers opening under artificial light,” the search is apparently as nebulous as what the poet is searching for. The search therefore is possibly designed not so much for the reader to understand as for he/she to feel and experience. Hence the poet’s deft use of images and colors.