Kelly Shepherd


Kelly Shepherd has worked as a kindergarten teacher in South Korea, and a construction worker in northern Alberta. His first full-length poetry collection, Shift, was published by Thistledown Press in 2016 and longlisted for the Edmonton Public Library’s People’s Choice Award in 2017. He has written six poetry chapbooks, most recently A Hidden Bench (the Alfred Gustav Press, 2017). Originally from Smithers, British Columbia, Kelly lives in Edmonton. He is the poetry editor for the environmental philosophy journal, The Trumpeter.





112 pages/trade paper

Available in the US
World Rights Available


ISBN: 978-1-77187-169-3
List Price: $20.00

Kelly Shepherd

At times emotionally quiet and reflective and at other times overtly challenging, Shepherd’s poems rely on the reader’s familiarity and interest in how sleep, city, and nature hold magic.

The poems in Kelly Shepherd’s Insomnia Bird are a cartography and a geography of Edmonton. The poems, which shift between short, individual lyric pieces and found text, emulate a black-billed magpie’s nest with the subject-matter and also physically, with the words and lines. The poems generate the theme of home (the bird’s nest, the city), and not feeling at home; sleeping, and the inability to sleep. The magpie (the insomnia bird) is the protagonist and the muse, the thread that connects everything to everything else in this work.

As such, Shepherd’s poems move across the surface at speed, like Edmonton’s NAIT train, and dive like magpies after the occasional tasty image or crumb of detail. The city, as it spreads out across the Prairies, can do nothing to prevent urban sprawl, and grows taller with each new high-rise building and office tower and sinks deeper into the ground, which is memory!

The city with purple fingers and black feathers
is bending branches outside the window.
In the photosensitivity of morning,
The city is an open window that can’t hear itself think.

While Shepherd’s poems are at times critical of Edmonton’s automobile culture and urban sprawl, his tone remains ironic rather than moralizing and he is consistent in his use of dark humour to avoid being didactic. With such guidance the poems effectively disclose what is not seen, what is repressed, what lies behind the scenes in the city he shares with magpies.

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96 pages / paper

Available in the US
World Rights Available


ISBN: 978-1-77187-104-4
List Price: $17.95

Kelly Shepherd

Kelly Shepherd’s poetry is filled with awe and celebration, sadness, and ironic humour as he explores themes of human relationships with the natural world, including connection, alienation, and the negative impacts of human activity on nature; interspecies kinship — ecological as well as animistic and shamanic; and, intersections of ecology and industry.

Shepherd uses numerous voices and perspectives, and such arrangements bring about a variety of moods. Whether his subjects are starlings or tamaracks, woodchucks or grizzly bears, the ever-present magic of nature guides not only the mode but directs each poem’s tone toward some unique perspective:
Some spiders know the correct use of magic
knots to tie a cluster of Oregon grape
into one single dusty purple berry. If a
black bear swallows it under the right moon
he or she will become a powerful shaman,
able to speak the languages of spiders.

But while there is a dominance of the natural world found in the poems, they also reflect the numerous meanings of the title: a shift of perspective or point of view, physically moving or shifting position, transforming or changing form or physical appearance, shifting gears while driving a vehicle, working the night shift. Living and working on the land and bodily experiences of specific places also have their place in Shepherd’s poems. These portraits ensure a kind of visceral connection or memory to the poems as they invite reader comparisons to their own work experiences.

"Shift is exhilarating, and I count it among the best books of poetry I’ve read in the last two or three years.

Shepherd writes with an unusual blend of understated verve and imaginative bravado, and has emerged as a poet more than ready to feel his way beyond what Northrop Frye once called 'the conquest of nature by an intelligence that does not love it.'” — Mark Dickinson, The Fiddlehead

"Accessible, quiet, reflective with the small particulars in place, SHIFT is a book to restore sanity." — Hannah Main - van der Kamp, Pacific Rim Review of Books

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