cover image Empty Clip

Empty Clip

Emilia Phillips. Univ. of Akron, $15.95 trade paper (60p) ISBN 978-1-629220-99-4

Phillips (Groundspeed) responds to violence with an unyielding sonic lyricism and filmic narrative images that are both highly personal and mediated. The poems reflect on American gun culture and related violence, as well as the poet’s personal intersections with these landscapes. In “Hollow Point,” a memory of a pet’s death frames an inhumane world by removing the border between human and animal: “the way the dog’s head opened/ like laughter/ into grief, the hollow points/ screaming skull and brain/ into the dining room wall.” These poems find some comfort in the inherent value of fellow humans, however uncomfortably close they may be. “We will never forgive one another/ for being human, which is a part of what makes us/ human,” Phillips writes in the hilarious “On Receipt of a Dick Pic.” Her poems approach difficult material with suitably deadpan humor and dazzle when disrupting institutional messaging, seen in such titles as “The CIA Live-Tweets the Assassination of Usama Bin Ladin Five Years Later” and “Campus Shooter Powerpoint and Information Session.” Phillips uses repetition and juxtaposition to press for further conversation on American gun violence and what it means to live through it: “because repetition// makes muscle// makes muscle/ memory// of violence// the dead make us// alive or so// we tell them.” (Apr.)