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Speak Low: Poems Paperback – March 16, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This 10th book from the prolific Phillips (Quiver of Arrows) is a quiet yet wounded reflection on Phillips' signature subjects: relationships, distances, identity, and damage. Phillips' remarkable ability to be clear yet illusive, as well as his dizzying syntax, are ever- present as the poems coil into places of confusion: Oh, sometimes it is as if desire had been given form, and/ acreage, and I'd been left for lost there. Amazement grips me,// I grip it back. Rendering visceral moments with surprising leisure, like blood with a drawl to it, Phillips searches slowly but relentlessly for answers to unanswerable questions: who's to say what will not be useful? Critics who find Phillips' poems overwrought at times are unlikely to change their minds now, but for his many fans, this collection is more evidence that Phillips is making good on his offer to show you what it looks like/ when surrender, and an instinct not to, run side by side. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

This 10th book from the prolific Phillips is a quiet yet wounded reflection on Phillips' signature subjects: relationships, distances, identity, and damage. Phillips' remarkable ability to be clear yet illusive, as well as his dizzying syntax, are ever- present as the poems coil into places of confusion: 'Oh, sometimes it is as if desire had been given form, and / acreage, and I'd been left for lost there. Amazement grips me, / I grip it back.' Rendering visceral moments with surprising leisure, 'like blood with a drawl to it,' Phillips searches slowly but relentlessly for answers to unanswerable questions: 'who's to say what will not be useful?' . . . this collection is more evidence that Phillips is making good on his offer to 'show you what it looks like / when surrender, and an instinct not to, run side by side.'"--Publishers Weekly"Theme and style join perfectly in Speak Low . . . In poem after poem, the speaker turns to address questions of power. The style of the poems, as they frame and shape these questions, feels at once pliant and masterful . . . As in Rilke, Phillips' lines give his language a near-sculptural form, something like a fountain. The poems are structures of alternating firmness and give, as the sense spills from line to line. (Jenny Mueller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Singing the music of mythology, history and philosophy, [Phillips's] poems are delicately crafted to sound like common speech even though there is nothing pedestrian about them. Because of their dexterity, they are approachable without sacrificing their loftier aspirations. (Dionisio Martinez, The Miami Herald)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374532168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374532161
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,547,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carl Phillips is the author of 9 previous books of poems, including Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006; Riding Westward; and The Rest of Love, a National Book Award Finalist. His most recent collection, Speak Low, is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2009)

Love and power intertwine in Speak Low, the most recent book by Carl Phillips, and that can make for a discomfiting mix for those of us who don't follow the same path. Balanced against that is the fact that Phillips is not an impulsive poet; his work is introspective, measured, capable of conveying the attraction in a way that makes it understandable for us normals while still conveying the discomfiture:

"...I even think they look, more/than a little bit, like rough sex once it's gone where, of/course, it had to--do you know what I mean, his smell/on you after, like those parts of the gutted deer that/the men bring home with them, fresh from the hunt,/as if you were like that now, the parts, not the smell, I/mean as if you were his, all you'd ever wanted to be,/and how you almost believe that?..."
("Distortion")

On second thought, that probably wasn't the most introspective OR measured passage I could have chosen to illustrate that point. Compared to the rest of the book, it's almost breathless with passion. But you get my point, right? If you actually try to describe said rough sex you're heading straight into porn territory. Instead, Phillips takes a left turn into Hemingway's hunting camp, and BDSM becomes something even the lunkest-headed redneck is capable of at least grasping, if not identifying with.

As such, I'm putting aside my usual disclaimer of "if you like that sort of thing" when I review books that deal with this subject. Even if you don't, this is well worth your time. Phillips is an excellent poet, a guy who understands that word choice is important and understands how those carefully-chosen words fit together in order to make something beautiful.
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By James Kelly on November 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
Carl Phillips is a strong poet, mixing the literary and the sensual, the natural and the intellectual. While I enjoyed a great many of these poems, I also felt like something was lacking, something that would have put them over the top, making them transcendent and truly classic. These are dense, challenging pieces, no doubt, and they are rich with image, allusion and beauty.
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