William Reichard grew up with his nine siblings in Smith's Mill, an unincorporated village of about seventy people in south central Minnesota. "As a child, I was the ‘watcher’ in my family. I saw and remembered everything, but I seldom spoke," he says. "What I could express, I expressed through poetry."
In a review of How To appearing in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, poet Carol Connolly writes: “How To by William Reichard arrives ‘the way spring comes on, despite winter’ . . . a commotion of images, a sheen of alabaster, that tell tales as complete as any novel.”
Reichard says, "I learned a lot about storytelling from watching old movies on television. A visual method of dramatizing mood and message plays out in my poetry, so I owe as much to Hollywood as I do to any specific school of poetic form when it comes to the success of my own creative work."
In This Brightness the poet's storytelling ability is powerfully on display, especially in the final section of the book, "Crossing Over, Crossing Back: A Portrait of Marsden Hartley," collection of twenty-one prose poems about which Mark Doty writes: "Reichard's homage to Hartley is a way, in these searching poems, 'to stitch the broken world back together.'"
The process of transformation energizes Reichard's poetry. "I've always been fascinated by the notion of alchemy," he says, "a process whereby a common material is, through the combined forces of sacred magic and secular science, transformed into something uncommon, something rare and desirable. What has been transformed embodies both the old form and the new -- simultaneously."
Reichard's poems are inhabited by strong personalities -- by lovers and family and cats and artists and friends present and past -- none of them content to stand in the background. Bruce Bond, poet and author of Cinder, praises This Brightness for the “generosity of its attentions” and William Reichard for risking “the most unabashed engagements without relaxing into the sentimental.”
Reichard admits he had been more cautious and self-protective in the past: “I was always a late bloomer. The process of maturation was one that took many years for me to accept. I learned at an early age how to observe people from a distance, how to remain invisible. That was enough to see me through as an artist, but it was not enough to see me through as a son, a brother, a friend, a partner. It’s taken me a long time to learn that one must not only observe but participate in order to make any kind of art that matters.”
In 1994, Reichard’s novella Harmony won the Evergreen Chronicles National Novella Competition and was published in a special edition of the journal in 1995. Two years later, he received the New Rivers Press Minnesota Voices Award for his first collection of poetry, An Alchemy in the Bones. The book was published by New Rivers in 1999 and went on to become a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and ForeWord Magazine’s GLBT Book of the Year.
Reichard is an editor as well as a writer. In 2001 he edited Ricardo J. Brown’s The Evening Crowd at Kirsmer’s: A Gay Life in the 1940s for the University of Minnesota Press. The posthumous memoir was subsequently honored as a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and The Publishing Triangle’s Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction.
William Reichard holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He is City Arts Program Director and Faculty of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs, where he teaches an interdisciplinary seminar on the intersections of art and social justice. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Photo of William Reichard by Laura Migliorino © 2010 Laura Migliorino