A Martian Muse

Further Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry
Reginald Shepherd
Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Philen
National Book Critics Circle Award finalist's posthumous volume of critical essays


Those who have read Orpheus in the Bronx, Reginald Shepherd's previous collection of essays about the act of creating poetry, and those who take on the task, can immediately understand why it was a national finalist for a prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. Shepherd was candid and disarming, practical and funny, able to mix thoughts about the Transformers with meditations on the realities of growing up poor.

This is Reginald Shepherd's final opportunity to speak his mind about the craft he loved, the art of using words to express the soul and the wit of every person's experience. Edited by Shepherd's longtime partner and intellectual confidant, Robert Philen, A Martian Muse stands as a final monument to a master in the craft, but is also a readable, important work in its own right.

"Reginald Shepherd died September 10, 2008, after a hard struggle with cancer. While he had completed the essays presented here and had selected them from his available essays to form a collection, he didn't have time to organize the presentation of the essays within the collection.

"The task of editing this collection has been a daunting challenge as I struggle to live up to the level of intellectual engagement, clarity, and coherence that Reginald always expected. While daunting, it has also been a labor of love and a compulsion for me, based on the many years I spent with him as a partner, friend, lover, intellectual companion, and sharer of common passions."
—Robert Philen, from the Introduction


"Brilliant and elegiac . . . A writer always conscious of the shadowy borders where myth and history—his own and Western civilization's—mingle."
—Marilyn Hacker 

"Reginald Shepherd has easily established himself as one of [the] great poets of his generation. His masterly skill has evolved and needs absolutely no qualification based on gender, race, or sexuality."
Crab Orchard Review

"True poets give gifts. Reginald Shepherd gives his readers the interest of the world. . . . Shepherd's book is a Song of Songs."
—Allen Grossman

Reginald Shepherd was the editor of The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries and Lyric Postmodernisms: An Anthology of Contemporary Innovative Poetries and the author of five books of poetry. He was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award and was the recipient of grants from the NEA, the Illinois Arts Council, the Saltonstall Foundation, the Florida Arts Council, and the Vogelstein Foundation, among many other awards and honors.

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Copyright © 2010, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: In remembrance | Outside the Lines | July 13, 2010

Read about the influence of the author at Lamba Literary | June 17, 2010

Product Details

  • 5.375 x 8.
  • 208pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07097-8

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  • $79.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2010
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05097-0

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  • $23.95 U.S.