Silverchest: Poems


A bracingly beautiful new collection from the author of Double Shadow

?After the afterlife, there?s an afterlife.?

In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we?re willing to commit fully to a life in which ?I love you / means what exactly?? In ...

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Silverchest: Poems

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A bracingly beautiful new collection from the author of Double Shadow

“After the afterlife, there’s an afterlife.”

In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we’re willing to commit fully to a life in which “I love you / means what exactly?” In poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny, Phillips argues for the particular courage it takes to look at the self squarely—not with judgment but with understanding—and extend that self more honestly toward others: It’s a risk, there’s a lot to lose, but if it’s true that “we’ll drown anyway—why not in color?”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Silverchest:

“I have a candidate for the author of the most interesting contemporary English sentences and it is not primarily a prose writer: the American poet Carl Phillips . . . Phillip's style has been remarkably consistent from volume to volume, upsetting our easy assumption that great artists evolve from phase to phase.” —Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker

“Bruised past ripeness, all the action offstage, overwhelmed with beauty and always threatening to dissolve, Carl Phillips’ Silverchest is an unlikely candidate for my favorite book of the year. Yet I doubt any new poetry collection has given me as much pleasure as this unusually—generously—slender, wintering tome. Part of that comes down to abundance: Phillips just writes so damned well, a rich ear interlocking his phenomenal powers of perception and imagination . . . The providence, here, when there is provision, is not so much in the world that Phillips describes as it is in the challenged art of description itself. Phillips’ humility brings him to beauty. And his inability to account for his place among the living has allowed him to make the interplay between illusion and awareness into the one book this year that most richly and persuasively, at least for me, reinstates the possibility of finding meaning in a world that is forever ready to revoke the sources of meaning in our lives.”  —Jonathan Farmer, Slate

“Phillips is a great poet of morality and desire and the complicated relationship between the two.” —Jared Bland, The Globe and Mail

“Silverchest is Carl Phillips’s twelfth book of poems, and while it is a book only Carl Phillips could have written (which I mean as praise and not as a claim of redundancy), it breaks away into a new territory and, at times, new voice, as it deals directly with landscapes informed by the natural world as much as by the sexual imagination . . . And while Phillips is arguably at his most personal, and therefore revelatory, with Silverchest, he is also at his most spare, while still keeping close to the strong lyric dialectic line that informs all of his other books. It’s a book that feels in tone and suppleness haunted not only by the past, but by what the present is trying to tell the future and beyond the future . . . Most of the poems are raw and short and thrilling the way shortness of breath is thrilling.”  —Michael Klein, Coldfront

Silverchest displays the gifts of an exceptional talent with palpable staying power. The lyrics often manage to combine a disarming speaker, elegant syntax and startling titles that index powerful acts of mind.” —Joseph Campana, The Houston Chronicle

“In these gorgeous, meticulously constructed lyric poems, nature and music—motifs Phillips returns to often—take on the role of correlatives, evoking the mind's own cadence, its certainty and thaw.” Publishers Weekly

Praise for Carl Phillips:

“The gorgeous, syntactically intricate poems of Carl Phillips strike me as always haunted to some extent by an autumnal, adumbrated sensibility, a subtlety of consciousness in intimate argument with its own tangential forays and asides into volition, rhetoric, and refusal. His is a ‘knowing’ poised on the glinting knife-edge verge of disclosure, of revelation.” —Lisa Russ Spaar, The Chronicle of Higher Education Arts and Academe

“[In Double Shadow] the poems themselves are like double shadows, pliable things wrought from the masterful artist, a man many consider to be the reckoning force in contemporary American poetry . . . During a time when much of American poetry is criticized for being poetry lite, Phillips can move us in a single poem from complete joy to utter heartbreak . . . The poems . . . hold a mystical, chiseled weight.” —D . Gilson, The Rumpus

“There is pain in isolation and pain in connectedness, in love. There is also pain in thinking, remembering, and wanting. This is the condition Phillips registers like a seismograph. But he has createda means to describe what remains otherwise indescribable . . . [Double Shadow is] a remarkably beautiful collection; many of the poems are as unforgettable as they are ineffable.” —Stan Sanvel Rubin, Water-Stone Review

Publishers Weekly
In Phillips’ 12th collection, as in previous collections, form pushes the writing’s nimble logic, with ruminations on desire and risk deploying Phillips’ trademark, kinesthetic syntax. But these poems reach an unprecedented vulnerability through conversations with the past—“About nostalgia, I am/ still against it”—as through a thematic effort to reveal the link between desire and power: “Nothing in this world/ like being held, he says, turning away, meaning// I should hold him…I have been to Rome,/ I have known the body, I have watched it fall.” Phillips interrogates causality and memory, exposing language as both an agent and a currency: “…I love you means, what exactly?” and “Is it days, really, or only moments ago/ that I almost told you everything,/ before remembering what that leads/ or has led to?” These hesitations are not merely rhetorical gestures; rather, doubt proves the only path to reliably exhuming the former self: “Funny how/ sorrow more often arrives before honesty, than/ the other way round. To my left, a blackness// like the past, but without the past’s precision.” In these gorgeous, meticulously constructed lyric poems, nature and music—motifs Phillips returns to often—take on the role of correlatives, evoking the mind’s own cadence, its certainty and thaw. (Apr.)
Library Journal
From the "squalor of leaves" in November, the "spell the leaves can make/ shuddering," and the "single leaf that/ won't stop tossing," to the stars that "each/ day become again invisible, while going nowhere" and the stars that "have been there, glittering, relentless, all along," to "Better wish again" and, a few pages later, "Make a wish," this new work from Los Angeles Book Prize winner Phillips (Double Shadow) is beautifully, breathtakingly of a piece. Despite all those wishes, this collection finds Phillips in a melancholy mood ("The snow fell like/ hope when it's been forsaken"). There's a general sense of resignation that relationships will end as they will always do ("making you wonder what fear/ is for, what prayer is"), even as the world and the stars stand by, solidly, dependably. The poems might seem too consistently downcast if it weren't for Phillips's superb craft, his ability to observe the interior and exterior worlds so keenly and infuse each line with reverberant acceptance and humanity. And then there's the little uplift at the end: the single leaf that won't stop tossing, casting its spell, is "you." VERDICT Highly recommended.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374534332
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 483,115
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl Phillips is the author of eleven books of poetry, including Speak Low (FSG, 2009), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Double Shadow (FSG, 2011), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis and lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

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