The Ground

Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23 (80p) ISBN 978-0-374-16708-0
This lyrical and richly allusive debut is in large part a meditative elegy for New York City in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, but it’s also restitution for losses the city has endured. “I plugged my poem into a manhole cover,” begins “Terra Incognita,” “and made from where there once was/ Ground a sound instead to stand on.” To this end, we get the bluesy “Song of Fulton and Gold,” which memorializes the towers’ fall (“The eye seeking home/ has to lower/ lower/ lower”) and the terrorized “A Vision through the Smoke” (“No I I knew could clear the clouding mirror”). Yet much of the book’s brilliance derives from gleeful bounding through literary history (echoes of Stevens are particularly audible) into a successful pastiche of scholarly erudition and pop culture carnivalesque. “Purgatorio, XXVI: 135–148” slides from standard English that recalls Dante’s tercets into Bob Marley’s Rasta argot (“But I nah know ting bout dem but what I sing”). “Apocalypse with Sasquatch” imagines a ruined metropolis in language redolent of Milton and in which a yeti speaks “from the last penthouse window/ Of the crumbling co-op facing flowering Abingdon Square.” When the poems leave New York for other cities—St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Barcelona—they slow and breath more quietly, as if liberated. (June)
Reviewed on: 02/20/2012
Release date: 05/22/2012
Paperback - 71 pages - 978-0-374-53384-7
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-4668-0253-7
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