cover image Speak Low

Speak Low

Carl Phillips, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-374-26716-2

This 10th book from the prolific Phillips (Quiver of Arrows ) is a quiet yet wounded reflection on Phillips’ signature subjects: relationships, distances, identity, and damage. Phillips’ remarkable ability to be clear yet illusive, as well as his dizzying syntax, are ever- present as the poems coil into places of confusion: “Oh, sometimes it is as if desire had been given form, and/ acreage, and I’d been left for lost there. Amazement grips me,// I grip it back.” Rendering visceral moments with surprising leisure, “like blood with a drawl to it,” Phillips searches slowly but relentlessly for answers to unanswerable questions: “who’s to say what will not be useful?” Critics who find Phillips’ poems overwrought at times are unlikely to change their minds now, but for his many fans, this collection is more evidence that Phillips is making good on his offer to “show you what it looks like/ when surrender, and an instinct not to, run side by side.” (Apr.)