Elegies for Small Game by Shelby Stephenson


Elegies for Small Game by Shelby Stephenson


Winner of the 2016 Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry

ISBN 978-1-941209-41-7

9 x 6 paperback

88 pages

Add To Cart

Praise for Elegies for Small Game

In these poems Shelby Stephenson continues his celebration of place, family, and memory. But here there is a new eloquence and authority of rhyme and ballad form, with laments for those who have gone on, and odes to hunting dogs, songs for game like possums and rabbits, a gallery of portraits of people and loved pets, and even imaginary pets of childhood. In poem after poem Stephenson catches the exuberance of childhood, the romance of hot-rods, the delight of barnyard basketball, and the poignant poetry of birdlife in the countryside. In dialogue and hymn, this singer and laureate meditates on issues of race, history, and the bonds of abiding love.

— Robert Morgan, author of Dark Energy

“My father’s gun propped in the corner of my closet where sunlight falls on it,” serves as the memorial for what happened in the same place, but back in time when men bonded during the hunt while achieving the utilitarian reward of feeding their families. Elegies for Small Game, like his father’s gun brought to light, represents grief and joy all at once, transformed into forgiveness. Nostalgia balances remorse where the once-hunted doves now “relax around” the feeder outside the plankhouse, his childhood home. Because this is Shelby Stephenson, these poems exude the music of the farmstead, its people and animals, and eases the experience that becomes the reader’s own—of hunting animals in the past juxtaposed with wanting to give back to them—always with a hopeful note of the spiritual when bluebird eggs “hold the earth’s truest blue” and where, “The dogs of my father run free.” 

—Hilda Downer, author of  Sky Under the Roof

In his prose poem “Meditation on Guns,” Shelby Stephenson lets loose a profusion of memories and weaves the narrative around a multitude of devices, including the haunting words of country music singer and songwriter Leon Payne’s “The Selfishness in Man,” and a recipe for fried dove that will have your mouth watering. In seriousness, humor, economy of language, Stephenson demonstrates respect and affection for the spoken word, and he somehow gets it all in—every atom of his being—lifting the reader above the illusion of reality and beguiling us with an inescapable intimacy. Elegies for Small Game is a collection of uncommon excellence.

—Stephen E. Smith, author of A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths


About the Author

SHELBY STEPHENSON is the eighth Poet Laureate of North Carolina and lives on the small farm where he was born near Benson, in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. “Most of my poems come out of that background,” he says, “where memory and imagination play on one another.” Educated at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, and served as editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine from 1979 until his retirement in 2010. His awards include the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Memorial Award, North Carolina Network Chapbook Prize, Bright Hill Press Chapbook Award, and the Brockman-Campbell Poetry Prize. He has published a poetic documentary Plankhouse (with photographs by Roger Manley), plus ten chapbooks, most recently Steal Away (Jacar Press). Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize, and the 2009 Oscar Arnold Young Award. The state of North Carolina presented Shelby with the 2001 North Carolina Award in Literature, and in 2014 he was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. 

Other Books by this Author