Carl Phillips is the author of nine previous books of poems, including "Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006";" Riding Westward"; and "The Rest of Love," a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis. This is the second collection of poems by Carl Phillips, whose first book, "In the Blood," won the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize. As "The Boston Book Review" observed, "Cortege" is the work of "an erotic poet, one who follows his sexuality into surprising territory . . . The contemporary scene is fully present [throughout this book], with all its new and old terrors--AIDS, loneliness--but Phillips's richness of mind is such that he often encounters in this life the artifacts of a couple of millennia of art and mythology. Which is not to say these poems have an academic flavor--far from it. The vision is contemporary, the language ours . . . What makes these poems such a coherent whole, in addition to their open sensuality, is the awareness they contain of the inescapable sadness of beauty . . . This is a poet of tact and delicacy, with an understated approach to even potentially explosive subjects."
"A classicist by training, Phillips mythologizes the everyday as adeptly as he domesticates Ovid, and the verse [to be found in "Cortege"] is both poised and informal, literate and personal."--"The New Yorker"
""Cortege" is a book that has been packed in salt: the durable salt of artistic making and the bitter salt of longing."--"Alan Shapiro"
"The poems of James Merrill and Paul Monette come to mind as one reads Phillips's second collection. Here is a poet who writes with the same masterly elegance, often enhanced by tight, three-line stanzas. References to Ovid, Dante, or Renaissance painting are as lyrical as his frequent descriptions of shadows and birds. 'And now, / the candle blooms gorgeously away / from his hand-- / and the light had made / blameless all over / the body of him.' The word "gorgeously" here points to the care with which each image is sought. Friends, lovers, and, by extension, readers are addressed with a parallel tenderness. Explicit sexual imagery is inserted so delicately that it's impossible to take offence. Written by a poet who also happens to be an African American, these are some of the most sensitive homoerotic poems to be found in contemporary literature. ["Cortege" is] recommended for all poetry collections."--"Library Journal"
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About the Author
Carl Phillips is author of In the Blood, winner of the 1992 Morse Poetry Prize. He is a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, and has published widely in journals including the Kenyon Review, the Paris Review, and the Yale Review. Phillips teaches at Washington University in St. Louis and is currently visiting assistant professor of creative writing at Harvard University.
"Carl Phillips is a poet of eros, but for him eros isn't simply sex, or even sexual desire sublimated into social ritual, or art, or any of the overdetermined ploys by which all of us, men and women, heterosexual and homosexual, attempt to close the distance between ourselves and others. Rather, eros is the never ending struggle, as he puts it, 'to fill a space in so there's no room left for awhile for what he surely calls a suffering inside him.' In the intricacies of thinking and feeling enacted in every poem of Cortège, no feeling ever quite escapes its opposite--the joy of fulfilled desire is infused with the isolation it has momentarily eclipsed, the heaven of intimacy only heightens 'how it feels to be stranded.' Cortège is a book that has been packed in salt: the durable salt of artistic making, and the bitter salt of longing. Few other poets writing today can track so well, so unforgettably, the estranging spaces in the heart of love, the perils of beauty or the beauty of peril." --Alan Shapiro
"Out so much farther than our present pieties, attentive to no social or sentimental voice, only passion's (so often ruinous, defiant of upshot), it is not in every case, every poem, that Carl Phillips triumphs over my timidity. As with Sappho and Pasolini, though, traces of the winged god are everywhere unmistakable, even when this new poet has kicked them over: it is a sacred entail his harsh graces make. I for one am an awed (if lacerated) heir." --Richard Howard