Winner of the 2019 Moon City Press Poetry Award
About Place Where Presence Was:
“To achieve a quiet mind you must first / hear it speak.” With a sharply elegant lyricism, Bret Shepard’s Place Where Presence Was reanimates our most persistent philosophical quandaries of time, space, and being: How can “I” be “I” and not “you”? These poems interrogate memories and tread familiar landscapes charged with the undertow of elegiac human sorrow. “There was a We in weather,” Shepard writes, reminding us that some forces cancel each other out and leave us singular—newly creatured and strange.
—Emily Rosko, author of Weather Inventions
Near the closing of Bret Shepard’s Place Where Presence Was, a speaker observes that “[t]o add ex- to anything is violent.” In this unnerving, riveting collection, readers enter a domestic space in which two people play out the end of love, moving back and forth between the twin impulses to strike and to hold. This is a book of compasses and maps, of spare, restrained poems that circle around loss and of being lost. Whether we walk through the modern rupture of the city or stand at the water’s edge, these poems suggest that intimacy is unsustainable, that desire turns us monstrous, and that absence of the beloved is more palpable than any breathing body we might touch.
–Jehanne Dubrow, author of Dots and Dashes
A beautiful reflection on the world around as well as the world within, Place Where Presence Was draws out the splendor of spaces that often go unnoticed or unspoken. These are the hidden backyard places, the abandoned cars and memories and bodies that are around us every day. Shepard employs form and language that inspires real thought about environments, communities, and selves. This wonderfully intelligent collection of poems offers new ways of seeing the world at a time when we need such perspective more than ever.
—Sarah Nolan, author of Unnatural Ecopoetics: Unlikely Spaces in Contemporary Poetry
Winner of the 2020 Midwest Chapbook Award from the Laurel Review/GreenTower Press
Winner of the 2018 Wells College Chapbook Prize
About Negative Compass:
"There were approximately 375 entries to this year’s chapbook competition, and the readers and final judge were all overwhelmed by the tremendous quality of the submissions. Ultimately, Bret Shepard’s (Negative Compass) stood out. One reader responded by calling it 'a remarkable collection. Haunting, evocative, mysterious, and authoritative.' The contest judge, Dan Rosenberg, agreed, describing the poems as 'taut, rich, surprisingly clear, and riddled with wisdom—or a longing for it.' We are thrilled to be publishing this outstanding collection of poems."