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Roy Shepard


Like that of our prehistoric ancestors my literary career began with oral tradition; before I learned to write, I dictated poems to my mother. Later my creative energy was consumed in writing weekly sermons and in forays into theological whimsy, such as, God and Dog as Significant Other, one of several pieces appearing in The Christian Century. Only in late years did I find freedom to become a poet again and at times a writer of fiction. I confess to having attended a fiction writing workshop at SUNY, Brockport, where I submitted some early paragraphs of what became The Latest Epistle of Jim. But in the realm of poetry I am wholly innocent of workshops, MFA programs, writers groups and slams. My art is solitary. I do my own thing.

When I was sixty-three I won a national chapbook competition for a collection called, An Eye for My Passing. Not long after I won second prize in the annual Nimrod/Hardman awards for a small collection called, Going Back. Individual poems have appeared in such varied locales as Poetry, Poet Lore, Yankee, Commonweal, The Formalist, and The Atlanta Review. As I approach the age of seventy-five, I still write poems and occasionally publish some. I believe they are a little better than the ones I made up at the age of five and much better than those I wrote down at forty-five. In 1999, I saw the publication of my collection, That Time of Year (available for $14.95 from Mellen Poetry Press, 415 Ridge Street, P.O. Box 450, Lewiston, NY 14092-0450).

The only novel I have published is The Latest Epistle of Jim. However, currently I am working on a collection of short stories. They will draw upon the depth and breadth of my experience as one who has lived in many places under all sorts of conditions.

For the past ten years I have lived in my original home town of Montclair, New Jersey. This is an old "railroad suburb" a few miles west of New York City. Six years ago I was appointed the official town historian, an unpaid job that threatens to become a full-time vocation entailing walking tours, newspaper interviews, frequent speeches, writing summary histories, answering queries, and functioning as Inspector of Rainbows. This enterprise does not allow much time for poetry and fiction. But it gives me ideas.

Why do I keep writing? I want to make (poieo) things out of words. I'm not much good with paints and marble. I have a passion to make something out of words that bears significance and that can stand in independence from myself even though only I could have made it in just that way. My tools are words arranged into story and metaphor. They are the same tools used to fashion the Psalms and the book of Genesis. As the Word overthrew the void with light, so we poets and storytellers try to make from words our "momentary stay against confusion."

Titles by Roy Shepard
The Latest Epistle of Jim

 


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