cover image The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination

The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination

Carl Phillips. Graywolf (FSG, dist.), $12 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-55597-681-1

Literature meets life in poet Phillips’s accessible contribution to Graywolf’s The Art of series. Phillips (Silverchest) offers seven essays on the craft and meaning of poetry to determine his approach to the theme of “restlessness.” The poetic sensibility itself is characterized by restlessness—a “daring” aspiration toward fuller meaning, feeling, and vision. Poetry, then, is the record of the poet’s arrival at this fuller—though never definitive—comprehension of life. The author is concerned with the relation between restlessness and constraint, both on and off the page. He presents a daring analogy of the constraints of poetic form to the constraints of the erotic life (monogamy and, more literally, bondage paraphernalia). Thus, one sexually frank anecdote illustrates the moral “constraints that... served as coordinates” for meaning, existing in dynamic tension with sexual restlessness and inspiring one of Phillips’s poems, which formally replicates that tension. Abundant autobiographical glimpses lend substance and specificity to Phillips’s tenet that “art and life are forever part of the same thing.” Phillips analyzes individual poems by Shakespeare, Herbert, Shelley, Frost, Gunn, and others, along with his own work. The result is a slim volume memorable for delicate insights, both local and general, and for its vivid grounding of theory in the life and personality of the poet. (Aug.)