Neil Shepard grew up in Leominster, Massachusetts. "A billboard on the highway advertised Leominster as the Pioneer Plastic City," Shepard remembers. "The town often smelled of burning plastics, and the factories along the Nashua River bled a new chemical dye-orange, purple, green-into the waters each day. In the summers, I escaped to a family home on the Maine coast, Orchard Beach, a demure variation of Coney Island. The salt air, amusement park lights, and polyglot of languages on the boardwalk (English, Yiddish, and Canadian French) enlarged my notion of the world and whetted my appetite for travel."
As his titles—Scavenging the Country for a Heartbeat, I'm Here Because I Lost My Way, This Far from the Source— and (T)ravel/Un(T)ravel promise, Shepard's poems take readers on a journey across emotional as well as physical distances.
Shepard's work has been critically acclaimed by reviewers and praised by his peers. An accomplished musician, Shepard attributes much of the lyricism in his poems to his early musical training.
"I came to literature late," Shepard says. "I enrolled my freshman year at University of Vermont as a pre-med student. In my sophomore year, I had a spontaneous conversion during chemistry class. While fixating on the twenty-foot chart of the Periodic Table, I suddenly began daydreaming the lines of poems, which I jotted in my notebook. By the end of class, I had determined to change my major."
Shepard earned his M.A. in Creative Writing at Colorado State University and his Ph.D. at Ohio University. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Boulevard, Harvard Review, and Paris Review. Shepard is Senior Editor of Green Mountains Review and a founding member of the poetry-jazz ensemble PoJazz. He teaches in the low-residency MFA Writing Program at Wilkes University and lives in Vermont and New York City.
Photo of Neil Shepard by Kate Riley.