A Brief Introduction to Reginald Shepherd

Reginald Shepherd, a name I was unfamiliar with until yesterday, has written one of the most captivating first two sentences in any piece of prose I’ve read in a long time. In the piece, titled “Why I Write,” Shepherd wrote “I write because I would like to live forever. The fact of my future death offends me.” Those are two lines that not only can motivate most readers to continue reading, but almost have the power to drag a reader further into the text.

Besides writing prose, Shepherd also wrote poetry. He wrote the poem, “Syntax,” in a style reminiscent of e. e. cumming’s. It starts with these stanzas:

Occasionally a god speaks to you,
rutted tollway a flint knife breaching
gutted fields hung on event

horizon, clear cut contradiction
through soybeans and sheared corn: blue
pickup an orange blaze, white letters

The first line is straightforward; however, the second line detours into surrealism. It’s a puzzle whose pieces, at first glance, don’t seem to fit together. It’s as if Shepherd doesn’t even expect or want a reader to try to interpret it, but rather, just to flow with its words and create a new, personal experience from them.

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