cover image Then the War and Selected Poems, 2007–2020

Then the War and Selected Poems, 2007–2020

Carl Phillips. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-60376-2

Combining new and old poems from the last 13 years with sections of his lyric prose memoir, "Among the Trees," this selected offers admirers of Phillips's work a chance to revisit his masterful poems, and new readers an opportunity to see the evolution of a vital presence in American poetry. There is a deceptive looseness in Phillips's poems, which are conversational and intimate, heightening the poet's abiding concern with nuance. He begins "The Difficulty": "It's as if the difficulty were less about what happened—/ the truth presumably—than how little/ what happened resembles the story/ of what happened." Often, he lays two ideas side by side as a way of exploring how beings (fathers, lovers, dogs, to name a few) affect one another: "what isn't love—at all—/ can begin to feel like love" ("Of California"); "as if to be plundered meant at least not being alone" ("Among the Trees"). These lyrically rich, insightful poems are full of palpable aching—"like the rhyme between lost/ and most"—and a human urge to understand. This remarkable compendium is a testament to the spirit of Phillips's work. (Feb.)