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Reece, Spencer 1963–

Reece, Spencer 1963–

PERSONAL: Born 1963, in Hartford, CT; son of a doctor (father). Education: Wesleyan University, B.A.; University of York (York, England), master's degree; Harvard Divinity School, M.A. (theology), 1990; attended Bowdoin College.

ADDRESSES: Home—Lantana, FL. Office—Brooks Brother, 225-C Worth Ave., Palm Beach, FL 33480.

CAREER: Writer, poet, farmer, editor, and manager. Brooks Brothers, Palm Beach, FL, assistant manager. Worked as an editor of medical newsletters and reviewer of medical books.

AWARDS, HONORS: Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry, Middlebury College and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 2003.

WRITINGS:

The Clerk's Tale (poems), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.

Contributor of poems to periodicals, including New Yorker, and to literary journals, including Boulevard, Poetry Wales, and Painted Bride Quarterly. Sound recording include The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 2004, and Poets on Being, Library of Congress, 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: With only a few published works to his credit, poet Spencer Reece made an impression on the world of American poetry with his first collection. Penned while the poet was an assistant manager at a Brooks Brothers department store in Florida, The Clerk's Tale recalls the Chaucerian story of a marriage, as well as Reece's experiences as a retail clerk. Reece noted in an interview for the New Yorker that his "work life is very much like a marriage" like that described in Chaucer's story. "We're together so much, I mean."

Originally harboring plans to enter the ministry, Reece wanted to become a hospital chaplain and follow in the tradition of his literary idols, Elizabethan versifiers George Herbert and John Donne. Instead, he moved to Minnesota to run the family's farm, where he worked for about four years. There, he also worked on his poetry. When his family went bankrupt, the farm was lost, and a rancorous split occurred between family members. "The family fell apart, and I have never seen them since," Reece stated in the New Yorker interview. The trauma led to a stay in a mental hospital, and when Reece was released, he went to stay with his nurse, Martha, and her family, who lived in the same small town where Reece's family had once farmed. "I never went back, and I never looked," Reece stated in the New Yorker interview. "I had to give away my dog and sell my library, and it just broke me. I really knew what grief was at that point, and I didn't know before."

The Clerk's Tale is a collection of poems "so exquisite, atmospheric, and varied" that they were selected for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize in 2003, noted Barbara Hoffert and Mirela Roncevic in Library Journal. The "supple, atmospheric, and lucent" collection explores the contrasts between solitude and connection, philosophy and madness, and peace and pain, commented Donna Seaman in Booklist. While acknowledging the outside world, Reece turns inward with many of his works, traversing a broad inner landscape of emotion, sorrow and joy, loneliness and togetherness, wistful remembrance and hard knowledge of current reality. In his "marvelous first book of poems," Reece has "crafted a book as neat and tight as an impeccable Windsor tie, while still deftly creating a sweet melancholy," remarked Amy Schroeder in Antioch Review. "Reece's striking debut yields new revelations with each reading," observed Seaman.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Antioch Review, spring, 2005, Amy Schroeder, review of The Clerk's Tale, p. 400.

Booklist, April 15, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Clerk's Tale, p. 1417.

Library Journal, July, 2004, Barbara Hoffert and Mirela Roncevic, review of The Clerk's Tale, p. 88.

New Yorker, June 16, 1003, Alice Quinn, "The Poet in the Fitting Room," interview with Spencer Reece.

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