The Award-winning poet Carl Phillips grapples with issues of authority, identity, and beauty in these sensual and deeply intelligent essays
The coin of the realm is, classically, the currency that for any culture most holds value. In art, as in life, the poet Carl Phillips argues, that currency includes beauty, risk, and authority-values of meaning and complexity that all too often go disregarded. Together, these essays become an invaluable statement for the necessary-and necessarily difficult-work of the imagination and the will, even when, as Phillips states in his title essay, the last thing that most human beings seem capable of trusting naturally-instinctively-is themselves, their own judgment.
"Readers of Carl Phillips's poetry will have some preparation for the pleasures and insights of this volume, particularly its subtlety, originality, and historical range. Yet Coin of the Realm will also be admired as a prose work that stands alone. Incisive essays on George Herbert, the Psalms, the place of race and identity in habits of perception and reading, and the author's growth as a writer are unified by central questions of beauty and ethics that will be of interest to anyone who cares about literature." --Susan Stewart