“Phillips has the ability to be both enigmatic and reassuring in his work, always going past where you think the poem aims to go, and achieving something greater . . .” —Aaron Robertson of LitHub
From the publisher: A powerful, inventive collection from one of America’s most critically acclaimed poets. Carl Phillips’s new poetry collection, Pale Colors in a Tall Field, is a meditation on the intimacies of thought and body as forms of resistance.
The poems are both timeless and timely, asking how we can ever truly know ourselves in the face of our own remembering and inevitable forgetting. . . . This is one of Phillips’s most tender, dynamic, and startling books yet.
Carl Phillips teaches at Washington University in St. Louis. His recent books include Wild Is the Wind and the prose collection The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination. His work has been published in multiple issues of NER, most recently in NER 39.1.
Pale Colors in a Tall Field can be bought through Macmillan or at your local bookstore.
“It has been 17 years since Carolyn Forché published a book of poems, and In the Lateness of the World announces she is back . . . Drawing on her own travels and periods of reporting, on the world’s seemingly endless upheaval, these poems move beyond disquiet and creates the charged ethical field in which we all live, all the time, especially at that moment we move.” —John Freeman of LitHub
From the publisher: A new poetry collection of uncanny grace and moral force from one of our country’s most celebrated poets. Over four decades, Carolyn Forché’s visionary work has reinvigorated poetry’s power to awaken the reader. Her groundbreaking poems have been testimonies, inquiries, and wonderments. They daringly map a territory where poetry asserts our inexhaustible responsibility to each other.
Her first new collection in seventeen years, In the Lateness of the World, is a tenebrous book of crossings, of migrations across oceans and borders but also between the present and the past, life and death. The poems call to the reader from the end of the world where they are sifting through the aftermath of history. Forché envisions a place where “you could see everything at once . . . every moment you have lived or place you have been.” The world here seems to be steadily vanishing, but in the moments before the uncertain end, an illumination arrives and “there is nothing that cannot be seen.” In the Lateness of the World is a revelation from one of the finest poets writing today.
Carolyn Forché is an American poet, translator, and memoirist. Her books of poetry are Blue Hour, The Angel of History, The Country Between Us, and Gathering the Tribes. Her memoir, What You Have Heard Is True, was published by Penguin Press in 2019. In 2013, Forché received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship given for distinguished poetic achievement. In 2017, she became one of the first two poets to receive the Windham-Campbell Prize. She is a University Professor at Georgetown University. Her work can be found in NER 16.2.
In the Lateness of the World can be purchased from Penguin Random House or from your local bookstore.
“Here there are elegies for the self, litanies for the dead, a childlessness both mourned and celebrated, a life ripe with every hurt and desire.” —Traci Brimhall, author of Saudade and Our Lady of the Ruins
From the publisher: Fruit grapples with what it means to be childless in a world defined by procreation. Poems move between the scientific and the biblical, effortlessly sliding from the clinical landscape of a sperm bank to Mount Moriah as Abraham prepares Isaac for sacrifice. Exploring issues of sexuality, lineage, and mortality, Snider delves into subjects as varied as the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky; same-sex couple adoption; and Gregor Mendel’s death. Each poem builds into a broader examination of power and fragility, domesticity and rebellion, violence and devotion: heartrending vignettes of the aches and joys of growing up and testing the limits of nature and nurture. In language both probing and sensitive, Fruit delivers its own conflicted and celebratory answers to pressing questions of life, death, love, and biology.
Bruce Snider is the author of Paradise, Indiana, winner of the 2011 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize, and The Year We Studied Women, winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. He is co-editor of The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice (Pleiades Press, 2018). His poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, and Gettysburg Review. He was a Wallace Stegner fellow, a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and a Jenny McKean Moore Fellow at George Washington University. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of San Francisco. His writing has appeared in NER 37.2 and 38.3.
Fruit can be purchased from the University of Wisconsin Press or at your local bookstore.
Former Office Manager Lexa de Courval considers the persistent questions and mysteries found in “Beautiful Dreamer,” an essay by Carl Phillips, from NER 35.2 (2014).
“Beautiful Dreamer” demands your attention in the very first paragraph. I admire how Carl Phillips chooses here to write about what is difficult and also very real, and in doing so he creates images we will respond to differently—we might feel uncomfortable, or charmed, perhaps even angry. Regardless, I find myself contemplating the Blue King, and mesmerized by the beauty of his descriptions.
Of the many treasured pieces we published during my years at NER, I am still drawn to this work because I feel that it is courageous, and it came to me at a time when I was questioning the world around me on a deeper level. Our lives are filled with experiences that require us to rely on our instincts while sorting through truth and myth. Recently I have reflected on what it means to be human today, and how social media has created another layer to living behind a mask. We are not always how we envision ourselves, and at times are warriors within our own lives trying to heal and find our inner beauty. Asking probing questions and taking risks can be like being on a battlefield, particularly with the unsettling challenges in our current world.
For decades I have adored poetry, spending hours rereading intriguing lines to ask myself: Have I missed the point? How do I know this isn’t my selfish interpretation of something I need to happen in this work? Phillips comforts me in this as he writes about his own poem “Beautiful Dreamer,” and in response to poetry.
For months after having written the poem, I in fact found it difficult to know with any certainty, if not the poem’s meaning, then at least the meaning to which the poem might be gesturing. Many poets write toward a chosen subject, but I’ve always been the kind who writes from a supposedly clear space into a space of surprise, that is, where I find myself surprised—and not so pleasantly surprised, more often than not, surprised instead into a heightened awareness of something troubling.
We are often troubled by the page and how real it can be; we know what our hearts feel, yet we sometimes question our innate being. Poetry can take us down a dark alley, but we are compelled to know what we will find there. Is it real or is it a dream? Are we hiding behind a disguise of what we imagine? This essay will challenge you to face your dreams and desires.
Was it Dante’s Inferno or The Iliad of Homer that first brought forth the expression to eat one’s heart out, which appears here in Stephen Crane’s rather bestial stanza of a creature eating his own heart? Is it power we seek when we punish or are punished—to claim one’s glory and revel in someone else’s doom?
I enjoyed Phillips’s selections from Shelley and Crane reflecting on power, and on how for some, punishment can often become as addictive as pleasure. “We can never really know another’s heart,” he writes. But if it is our own heart, we are compassionate, and “it’s better to eat of what we know.” He quotes from Crane’s Black Rider series:
“But I like it
Because it is bitter
And because it is my heart.”
Phillips brilliantly describes how a poem is an “interior dialogue we have with our other selves,” how we “write in response to being human.” “The poem is a form of negotiation with what haunts us,” he writes, “. . . insofar as what haunts us is, in part, who we are.”
I was the Blue King. I led the dance.
One might have chosen to skirt the encounter in the park with which Phillips opens this essay, yet he chose to look it in the eye and be mystified, and to attempt to clarify for himself what he really saw. Phillips challenges us to seek understanding in the world around us and be surprised. He continues with the subject of loss in “Untitled,” a poem by Lorine Niedecker. We feel emotion for the subject that is difficult to put into words—Paul / when the leaves fall. Is there beauty in mourning? We do not want to live our lives alone, but sometimes to be human is to feel very alone as we face death and hardships.
Phillips invites us into the work of these other writers, and into their stories, as he brings them into his own exquisite writing. Writers are compelled to record these times, and we relive each day through the histories of others as we create our own moving pictures. What is real and what is a dream, history or imagined, heroic or heartbreaking? Phillips encourages us to write, to seek meaning and confront the challenges in our everyday lives.
Having worked at NER and Bread Loaf for many years I have been continually inspired by authors like Carl Phillips and by their presence in my own life. I remember seeing John Ashbery, whose passages Phillips describes in his final page, surrounded by young scholars in a crowded room. I remember reading Seamus Heaney from a hefty Norton Anthology in college and then what an honor it was to meet him in person and receive his poem, “Du Bellay in Rome” for NER’s 34.2. I cherish the sound of Julia Alvarez lecturing on little children saving the world through medicine. People and place are life and these surroundings make up who we are and how we live.
Phillips leaves us with provocative questions: Are we living, dreaming, or haunted by the moment? What is beauty and how do we make peace with our own inner demons? Admittedly, I cannot know Shelley’s “Ozymandias” or the Blue King of “Beautiful Dreamer,” though I can come to know them through Phillips. While pondering these alluring pages ahead, I hope you will keep dreaming and be enchanted. And, are we not most beautiful while we sleep?
“Beautiful Dreamer” by Carl Phillips
Lexa de Courval was Editorial Assistant and then Office Manager at New England Review from 2009 to 2016. She is currently the Academic Coordinator at the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs at Middlebury College. She previously worked in local museum education programs at both Shelburne Museum and Henry Sheldon Museum, and for the Bread Loaf School of English.
“A complex but emotionally effective tribute to the Irish author.” –Kirkus Reviews
These—plus a meditation on the transformative power of the undying work of Samuel Beckett—make up the interwoven strands of this short work by poet and critic Michael Coffey. Written according to a sequence laid out by Beckett in his notes to the unpublished “Long Observation of the Ray,” of which only six manuscript pages exist, this rhythm of themes and genres comprises a complex, mesmerizing work of fiction that has its roots in reality.
Michael Coffey received his BA in English at the University of Notre Dame and an MA from Leeds University in Anglo-Irish Literature. Former co-editorial director at Publishers Weekly, he has published three books of poems, a collection of short stories, a book about baseball’s perfect games, and co-edited a book about Irish immigration to America. Samuel Beckett is Closed can be purchased online through OR Books.
Publishers Weekly has starred the review for Phillips’s fourteenth collection, Wild Is the Wind: “. . . These 35 poems are as haunting and contemplative as the torch song for which the collection is named . . . As ever in his work, emotional dynamics resist easy resolution and the speakers unsparingly evaluate both the self and exterior world.”
Carl Phillips is the winner of the PEN Poetry Award and the Lambda Literary Award, and Double Shadow, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His work is forthcoming in NER 39.1. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.
Wild Is the Wind can be purchased directly from the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
From the publisher: A reckless wager between a tennis pro with a fading career and a drunken party guest—the stakes are an antique motorcycle and an heiress’s diamond necklace—launches a narrative odyssey that braids together three centuries of aspiration and adversity. A witty and urbane bachelor of the Gilded Age embarks on a high-risk scheme to marry into a fortune; a young writer soon to make his mark turns himself to his craft with harrowing social consequences; an aristocratic British officer during the American Revolution carries on a courtship that leads to murder; and, in Newport’s earliest days, a tragically orphaned Quaker girl imagines a way forward for herself and the slave girl she has inherited.
In The Maze at Windermere Gregory Blake Smith weaves these intersecting worlds into a brilliant tapestry, charting a voyage across the ages into the maze of the human heart.
Gregory Blake Smith is the award-winning author of four novels, including The Maze at Windermere and The Divine Comedy of John Venner, a New York Times Notable Book. His short story collection, The Law of Miracles, won the Juniper Prize and the Minnesota Book Award. He has received a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and the George Bennett Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Smith is currently the Lloyd P. Johnson-Norwest Professor of English and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College.
The Maze at Windermere can be purchased directly from the publisher, Viking (Random House).