cover image Heaven: Poems

Heaven: Poems

Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23 (80p) ISBN 978-0-374-16852-0

Phillips (The Ground), in his second collection, deals in illusions, highlighting the hidden wonders he finds within the world. In measured poems that echo conversations one might have in a museum, Phillips presents scenes that build to final-line revelations. Along the way, he mulls various aspects of the concept of heaven—the realness of it, the mutations of it. Phillips opens in “Perpetual peace. Perpetual light,” yet “it all seems graffiti.” In order to investigate more deeply, he analyzes scenes from Dante and Homer, even turning to artist Chuck Close, a fellow illusionist. Close’s paintings appear to be hyperrealistic portraits from far away, but when seen up close, they disintegrate into small dots and blobs of dissonant color, as if Close were painting the atoms of his subjects. In his quest to see beyond the visible into the atoms of the world, Phillips has a transformative experience in viewing one of Close’s paintings. The poet also discovers that it is possible for people to find heaven in each other, and that heaven always shifts and changes; it is indefinable. Phillips is awestruck by that ambiguity, and though he doesn’t see the pearly gates in his source material, he revels in the search. [em](June) [/em]