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Short Fiction
This Far from the Source
by Neil Shepard

Price: $13.00
112 pages
trade paper
ISBN: 0922811725
LCCN #: 2006019871


Anna's face turns upstream
toward the source, feeding
from Kate's breast. I'm faced
that way, too, sitting beside them
in the half-dark at half-past
something. Faced toward Creation's
good profile, if it has one.
And I'm feeding, too, off the night-
light's inventions: baby rattles
turn to swans on the ceiling,
crib bars become angelfish
on the walls. Other nights,
I've turned away to eye
baby mobiles dangling above me
like lures from the past, brazen
faces, garters scattered by a bed, unadult-
erated play. Gone in time's
wayward stream. Almost
retrievable. What turns me back
toward Anna's face is the fullest
nourishment. Her moon-face
floating under a swelled breast,
and Kate's face drifting above
her girl-child's. I imagine my own
wavering beside them on the couch,
turned toward whatever issues
out of nothingness, whatever grows
toward this feeding at this dim hour,
when sustenance seems far off,
or close at hand, flowing
down the current to me
if I will only open my mouth
and let the moment stream in.

"Neil Shepard's third collection of poems is not the razzle-dazzle of a newcomer or the verse of a high-falutin' sage. This adventure is one of mature poetic focus. No flashy spelling here. Every poem is carefully built on clear substance. Even the notion of Mystery seems clear and concrete."--Scott Hightower, coldfrontmag (online)

"In his third book of poems, as the title suggests, Neil Shepard seeks after the source, the thing itself, not the language for it. His is a struggle against the imperfect linguistic gestures we make, and the ways poetry both aids and thwarts us in our search. Here are poems of rural beauty, many set on the home ground of Robert Frost in Vermont, and, like Frost, Shepard knows where to find the seep of the stream in the pasture, the source of the water that he diverted with 'a simple / lead pipe out to the field.'"--Todd Davis, Rattle (online)

"Neil Shepard is an accomplished poet of place, and some of his most stunning poems such as 'Hayden's Writer's Shack's Latest Occupant' are set in Vermont, but he's also a refreshing globalist, at home in the world, seeking everywhere to reduce the distance between the source of the land's original clarity and our experience of it. When Shepard lets the land speak fully through him, then we enter a consequential world where the elements themselves become the characters who dictate the terms of our human drama."--J.P. White, Notre Dame Review

"Animated by an energetic mix of intelligence, curiosity, and passion, loyal to the facts of the matter and to the feelings that surround it, Neil Shepard's poems range from occasions of public, political concern to moments of the closest private, domestic implication. In mature meditations, in sharply detailed memories, in muscular free verse and lightly worn habits of descriptive verve he manages to make the world his subject--from the racial conundrums of the South, to the habits of birds, to celebrations of an aging father and the birth and growth of a daughter. In this new collection there are moods and tones--philosophic, emotional, humorous, skeptical, assertive, self-deprecatory--that broaden his poetic range, sharing his sense of the life-journey as a voyage of discovery, as an adventure in which the imagination is our best means of responding to whatever life offers, especially when distance from 'the source' is a palpable fact. These are poems that want 'to pluck up death, digest it, and still/ fly into the punishing sun-struck world,' to capture things and people before they 'vanish into history.' Even a biting black fly is worth a small hymn of fierce appreciation, manifesting as it does 'the sultry fury/ inside whatever really lives.' Shepard's true subject is 'whatever really lives,' and the poems in this spirited final volume of his trilogy are the many-sided testament to just that."--Eamon Grennan

"Neil Shepard's new poems are talkative, reader-friendly, and story-wise, built from centers of affection and wit, yet they should not be taken at too much face value. If, just under their surfaces, they argue against the elegy, the easy answer, the quick fix, what they argue for is emotional complexity and generosity and the elaboration and exposition of the domestic detail that grounds the life of the spirit."--Stanley Plumly

"At his best, Shepard sees through ideas into the truth behind them. This means that most of his best poems are almost naturalistic, like the exquisite, bog-ridden 'The Source.' But there are also some terrific poems about the language of memory. 'I'm from Leominster, Couldn't be Prouder, Can't Hear Me Now, I'll Yell a Little Louder' recalls a long-ago high school cheer, how it was performed 'In megaphones, in union, the fans / chanting with the cheerleaders, building, building / the round vowels--prouder, louder--and the /two-line rhyme itself endless until its pitch / raised the rafters.'

"This is about all we can expect language to do, Shepard seems to be saying: to raise high the roof beams so we can get an eyeball at the world around us. Like a carpenter, Shepard sidles forth in these poems with his pencil and ruler, diagramming 'the underside' of sentences that nature has made, all the while aspiring--and sometimes succeeding--to make some as beautiful himself."--John Freeman, Seven Days


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