“Carl Phillips creates smooth currents of language that begin in one place, subtly shift direction and then shift again . . . The sounds and rhythms of these poems are gorgeous, and Phillips, whose awards include the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, isn't afraid to ask unsettling questions.” ―Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post (on Reconnaissance)
“I have a candidate for the author of the most interesting contemporary English sentences and it is not primarily a prose writer: the American poet Carl Phillips . . . Phillip's style has been remarkably consistent from volume to volume, upsetting our easy assumption that great artists evolve from phase to phase.” ―Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
"[Phillips's] poems are driven by the desire to transform truth into beauty. Yet they are scrupulous in their acknowledgement that the truth has, more often than not, been left behind . . . He makes extraordinary beauty true by acknowledging that the beauty we long for is often unreal." ―Jonathan Farmer, Slate
Referred to as “one of America’s most original, influential, and productive of lyric poets,” Carl Phillips is the author of a dozen books of poetry and two works of criticism. He was born in Everett, Washington in 1959, and his family moved frequently around the United States. He earned a BA from Harvard, an MAT from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA in creative writing from Boston University.
Phillips is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Silverchest (2013), a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and Double Shadow (2011), winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His most recent book of poetry is Reconnaissance (2015), nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Phillips teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
As from a Quiver of Arrows
What do we do with the body, do we
burn it, do we set it in dirt or in
stone, do we wrap it in balm, honey,
oil, and then gauze and tip it onto
and trust it to a raft and to water?
What will happen to the memory of his
body, if one of us doesn't hurry now
and write it down fast? Will it be
salt or late light that it melts like?
Floss, rubber gloves, and a chewed cap
to a pen elsewhere —how are we to
regard his effects, do we throw them
or use them away, do we say they are
relics and so treat them like relics?
Does his soiled linen count? If so,
would we be wrong then, to wash it?
There are no instructions whether it
should go to where are those with no
linen, or whether by night we should
memorially wear it ourselves, by day
reflect upon it folded, shelved, empty.
Here, on the floor behind his bed is
a bent photo—why? Were the two of
them lovers? Does it mean, where we
found it, that he forgot it or lost it
or intended a safekeeping? Should we
attempt to make contact? What if this
other man too is dead? Or alive, but
doesn't want to remember, is human?
Is it okay to be human, and fall away
from oblation and memory, if we forget,
and can't sometimes help it and sometimes
it is all that we want? How long, in
dawns or new cocks, does that take?
What if it is rest and nothing else that
we want? Is it a findable thing, small?
In what hole is it hidden? Is it, maybe,
a country? Will a guide be required who
will say to us how? Do we fly? Do we
swim? What will I do now, with my hands?
Reconnaissance: Poems (2015)
Double Shadow (2011)
Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006 (2007)
The Rest of Love (2004)
The Tether (2002)
The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination (2014)
Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Art and Life of Poetry (2004)