Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986–2006

Carl Phillips, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $15 (207p) ISBN 978-0-374-53078-5

Phillips is a scholar and translator of classical Greek and a writer of syntactically complex, desire-drenched love poems that subtly, and beautifully, reinvent classical tropes and forms. Phillips has published eight books of his own poetry: this selection pares down a rapidly expanding oeuvre to its sharp essentials. Phillips's first three books, published by Graywolf, show him working out his relation to the tradition—from “the Famous Black Poet” to Yeats (“I recognized/ something more/ than swan” to Sappho (“My tongue still remembers”)—and to AIDS and its aftermath: “I watched as each boat fell to flame:/ Vincent and Matthew and, last, what bore your name.” Pastoral (2000) finds Phillips confidently making the tercet into a representation of the lover's body, a practice that has culminated in four subsequent books rapidly published in the '00s—including The Tether and The Rest of Love— that contain extraordinary and strange examples of Phillips's trademark writing about the bonds and bounds of sex and couplehood: “—Singing inside the mirror,/ to no one, to// itself, the body folding, and/ unfolding, as if map/ then shroud, its song.” (May)

Reviewed on: 05/21/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
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