Neil Shepard is very glad he’s here for Chautauqua’s Week Two theme, “The Wild: Reconnecting with Our Natural World.”
“This is something I’ve written about, is something that’s in the things I teach, and is certainly something I talk about,” said Shepard, a poet, educator and the Chautauqua Writers’ Center Week Two poet-in-residence. “I’ve created a new online magazine, in the past year, called Plant-Human Quarterly.”
Part of a larger project — based in Amsterdam — called the Plant-Human Communication Project, Shepard said the Plant-Human Quarterly was established under the Otherwise Collective which “bridges art, science and technology in service of story.”
“My daughter is part of that Collective — she’s a co-founder — and that’s how I got involved in creating this new magazine,” he said. “In my Brown Bag, I’ll be talking about how and why I created the online literary magazine Plant-Human Quarterly.”
Shepard taught at the writing program at Johnson State College before it merged with Lyndon State College to become Northern Vermont University. He also taught for the MFA program at Wilkes University. He will give a Chautauqua Literary Arts Brown Bag lecture at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
“In some ways, how it started was as a family affair,” he said. “It grew out of the time I spent with my daughter when she came home for Christmas holidays a year and a half ago. I think a lot of people of her generation, no matter what they studied at school, understand that there’s a climate crisis and species extinction, and they turn whatever their particular talents are to do what they can to help save our one and only planet.”
Initially, Shepard said his daughter asked him if he would be interested in having some of his poems — which often have roots in the natural world — posted on her website and blog.
“I thought of a few friends who might be interested as well, and then I thought of lots of writers I know who would definitely be interested,” he said. “By the end of a week or so visit, we hatched the idea of attaching to the Plant-Human Communication Project, which unites science, technology and the arts all in service of telling a story about the botanical world.”
Shepard said that since he’d edited a magazine, Green Mountains Review, before starting Plant-Human Quarterly, it was easy to get writers interested in getting involved.
“I had all kinds of contacts from that venture,” he said. “And because I worked in both MFA and BFA programs, I just knew a lot of writers. And so I invited them to contribute to this new thing, called Plant-Human Quarterly, and the response was just amazing.”
Shepard said he plans on talking more about the origins of the magazine in his Brown Bag.
“I’ll talk about how we created it, the design and layout of it, and how we got people to send work to it, including a lot of leading poets and essayists,” he said.