Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Poetry Bio

Susan Sheppard first dreamed of becoming a poet in first grade when her teacher asked her to read a poem aloud in front of her class. After reading the poem as she was told to do, Mrs. Hazel Dilly surprised Susan by saying “I want you to read that exactly as you did for Mr. Humphrey,” who was the school principle for West Union Grade School. The teacher then ran from the classroom to find the principle. Although Susan did not read as well for Mr. Humphrey the second time, she knew then poetry would always be an integral part of her life and she would never abandon this dream.

A few years later, Susan came upon a book installment in a McCall’s Magazine at her baby-sitters house which was called “Nymphs & Other Manias." The book was a biography of the life of the poet Lord Byron and his tumultuous affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. The poet Keats and the famous Shelleys were also in the book. Again, the desire to become a poet resurfaced in her.

Later, when in High School and Susan was at home sick with the flu, her brother dug a tattered Senior English book out of a trash can and gave it to her thinking she might like it. This English book introduced her to the poetry of Dylan Thomas for the first time. Another milestone was crossed. When Susan moved to Parkersburg at age 19, she met her mentor poet Jane Somerville and began to write poetry seriously for the first time. In a short time, she met the poet Gwendolyn Brooks who picked her poem to read to the attendees of the first West Virginia Writers Conference.

Over these 30 years, Susan Sheppard has published poetry in over 100 magazines. These include River Styx, Confluence, Ohio Review, Nimrod, Pennsylvania Review, Lolblolly, Chiron Review, Stride, In Pittsburgh Magazine, Magical Blend, Magical Almanac and others. Her poetry earned her a Fellowship from West Virginia Arts & Humanities in the 1990s. Sheppard also won the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Prize.

Susan is descended from the Blackfoot-Saponi and Shawnee Native American tribes from her region, which are the Virginias and the Mid-Ohio Valley. She is the owner and main tour guide for the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

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