Silverchest: Poems; Carl Phillips
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In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we’re willing to commit fully to a life in which “I love you / means what exactly?” In poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny, Phillips argues for the particular courage it takes to look at the self squarely—not with judgment but with understanding—and extend that self more honestly toward others: It’s a risk, there’s a lot to lose, but if it’s true that “we’ll drown anyway—why not in color?”
April 2, 2013
About the Author
He was born in 1959 to an Air Force family, who moved regularly throughout his childhood, until finally settling in his high-school years at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He holds degrees from Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Boston University and taught high-school Latin for eight years.
His first book, In the Blood, won the 1992 Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize and was heralded as the work of an outstanding newcomer in the field of contemporary poetry. His other books are Cortège (1995), a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Literary Award in Poetry; From the Devotions (1998), a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry; Pastoral (2000), winner of the Lambda Literary Award; The Tether, (2001), winner of the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Rock Harbor (2002); The Rest of Love: Poems, a 2004 National Book Award finalist, for which Phillips also won the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry; Riding Westward (2006); Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006 (2007); and Speak Low (2009), a 2009 National Book Award finalist. Two additional titles were published in the 2003-04 academic year: a translation of Sophocles' Philoctetes came out in September 2003, and a book of essays, Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry, was published in May 2004. Phillips is the recipient of, among others, a literature award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Foundation Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Academy of American Poets Prize. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Yale Review, as well as in anthologies, including eight times in the Best American Poetry series, The Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-1997, and The New Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poets. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 and elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. He is a Professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches in the Creative Writing Program.