Having never heard of Reginald Shepherd before picking up Orpheus in the Bronx, I was expecting nothing more than a collection of poems interspersed with dry musings on poetry and life. What I found myself immediately engrossed in, however, was a rich examination of the life and mind of a bold and unflinching artist.
In this collection of essays, Shepherd not only shares his thoughts on other poets and poetic forms; he also examines the personal influences on his own creative output. Partly autobiographical in nature, the book delves into the author’s struggles as a child growing up in the ghetto, but existing and surviving as a gay black man as well. His recollections are both stark and poignant, and give the reader a better understanding of the poet’s soul.
While knowing and understanding poetry will make certain sections of this book much more enjoyable, there is plenty of philosophy, civil/cultural debate, and insightful reflection to draw in intelligent readers of all creative backgrounds.