cover image In the Blood Pbk

In the Blood Pbk

Carl Phillips. Northeastern University Press, $15.95 (69pp) ISBN 978-1-55553-135-5

The publication of this volume introduces an unusually accomplished and innovative poet. The collection includes painterly poems, love poems, poems spun off of Greek mythology and Christian iconography, but at all times the work remains contemporary and strikingly self-assured. In ``Luncheon on the Grass,'' for example, the speaker ruminates in precise, idiomatic and witty language on the awkward position of the nude woman in Manet's painting. The real surprise comes as the speaker continues: ``Now, in a comparable state of outdoor / undress, I'm beginning to have a fair idea / of what's going on in that scene. . . .'' By employing an unusual perspective, Phillips thus opens the material up in both perverse and fascinating ways. This technique governs the entire text; it lends intellectual strength to the work and allows Phillips to examine complicated and contradictory issues. In one of the most moving poems Phillips compares ``the Famous Black Poet'' to his father: `` . . . his is the same unnervingly slow / rambling method of getting from A to B . . . '' Phillips has developed his own painful but luminous method for traveling that trajectory, and it will be most interesting to see where it takes him from here. (Nov.)