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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