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(Madville Publishing, 2024)

"This is an extraordinary book, its wise and luminous poems circling the disquiet and agitation at the edges of thought as narrator after narrator investigates and probes the many ways we perceive ourselves to fail in the eyes of others. Yet even as one narrator brilliantly describes his feelings of erasure as “auditioning for a bit part in anonymity,” another admits, “I like it here on the edge / of empire” and still another holds “a grudge against / business as usual.” Reading Shepard’s beautifully crafted poems, which are alive with the music of colloquial American speech, I was reminded of the metaphysician Leo Bronstein’s observations on failure and success, that one is not the opposite of the other: “Success is to be the achievement of a goal known, open, given. Failure, achievement of a goal not known yet, hidden and to be discovered. Friendship is to know this. Prophesy is about this. Spirituality means this.” The Book of Failures understands and beautifully articulates this wisdom. Its narrators resist easy wins, holding out for something larger and deeper, braver and more daring than what we think of as success, what the final narrator of the book calls “a stubborn green.”  — Susan Mitchell, author of Erotikon

"At once nomadic and deeply rooted in place, these wide-ranging poems take us from rural Vermont to New York City, from Ireland to Corsica, from the freedom of travel to the shock of 2020’s lockdown. Vulnerable and wise, The Book of Failures laments what separates—son from father, nation from nation, human from the beyond-human world—even as it explores stunning moments of connection, as in witnessing the nesting dance of wood storks and egrets, “the dusting / of wings with swamp wind, leaves, thistle.” Shepard carries us “to the edge” here, where our own “small matter expands into the gathering immensity,” acknowledging the inseparable beauty and terror of the human experience: “life is as gorgeous and ravenous as it always was,” Shepard writes, “and still there is no consolation.” 

—Sandra Meek, author of Still


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