By Reginald Shepherd
"Orpheus within the Bronx not just extols the liberty language offers us; it embodies that freedom, enacting poetry's maximum gift---the strength to acknowledge ourselves as whatever except what we're. those bracing arguments have been written by way of a poet who sings."
A hugely acute author, student, editor, and critic, Reginald Shepherd brings to his paintings the sensibilities of a classicist and a latest theorist, an heir of the yankee excessive modernist canon, and a poet drawing and taking part in on pop culture, whereas at the same time venturing into formal experimentation.
In the essays amassed the following, Shepherd deals probing meditations unified by way of a "resolute safeguard of poetry's autonomy, and a party of the liberatory and utopian percentages such autonomy offers." one of the items integrated are an eloquent autobiographical essay starting up within the frankest phrases the vicissitudes of a Bronx ghetto youth; the break out provided by means of books and "gifted" prestige preserved via maternal decision; early loss and the identical of exile; and the formation of the writer's vocation. With an identical frankness that he brings to autobiography, Shepherd additionally units out his purposes for rejecting "identity politics" in poetry as an pointless trammeling of literary mind's eye. His learn of the "urban pastoral," from Baudelaire via Eliot, Crane, and Gwendolyn Brooks, to Shepherd's personal paintings, presents a clean view of where of city panorama in American poetry.
Throughout his essays---as in his poetry---Shepherd juxtaposes unabashed lyricism, historic wisdom, and in-your-face contemporaneity, bristling with intelligence.
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Extra info for Orpheus in the Bronx : essays on identity, politics, and the freedom of poetry
This concomitantly meant that the gap between who I was and who I could be or wished to be could also be something other than lack or failure, could become a space in which identity could be produced and transfor med rather than merely assumed or acquiesced to. I don’ t believe that writing can be defined by extralitera y terms or demands, nor do I believe that such ter ms are a viable basis for a poetics. It’ s not, obviously , that poetr y by gay men and lesbians does not and should not exist, that poetry by black men and women does not and should not exist, that the varied experiences of black people, of gay people, are not a legitimate topic for literature (though I have at times been accused of holding such a ridiculous position).
Boston is one of the most racist places I’ve ever lived, and the racism merely got more polite as one moved up the social and educational ladder . The coldness and unfriendliness never changed. In these circumstances, my carefully cultivated interiority, my “self ” as an “ar tist,” as an “intellectual,” was utterly ir relevant to the life (the “real world” about which I had so often been admonished) that, if it was not mine, cer tainly had me fi mly in its grasp, and to whose demands and requests I found myself inexorably sur rendering, if only in the interest of continuing to eat and pay rent.
But even if one has a more sanguine relation to selfhood, Picasso’ s admonition should always be kept in mind: ar t is called ar t because it is not life. Other wise, why would ar t exist? Life already is, and hardly needs confi mation. ” The greatest literature has always engaged in the generation of new realities, not the reiteration of the same old given reality. I think most literar y-minded people, if asked, would agree with such a statement: and yet black writers are held (and many hold themselves) to a dif ferent, double standard.