Carl Phillips reanimates the darkness and silence of the stories that imperceptibly shape us. Trained as a classicist at Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, Phillips plumbs human myths and social narratives in order to explore what Booklist has called “the tension between love, belief, and reason.” With irreverent intelligence and rigorous formality, his poems make the mythical resonate at a modern and human frequency. “Myths are unsheathed and glisten,” writes the poet and critic J.D. McClatchy. “History is held and pondered. Violence shimmers, desires are silhouetted against the light of love and death.”

Phillips’s tightly-controlled poems are studies in deliberate contrast: grounding abstract language with visceral and evocative imagery; enlisting the broad landscape of history and mythology as the staging ground for considerations of contemporary life; making space for the consideration of desire, intimacy, faith, and resistance among an epic formality. Writes The Chicago Tribune, “Phillips is a poet unafraid to address the oldest lyric concerns: how to sing the beloved, how to sing his passing, how to honor the unruly, demanding ethic of love. His poems are acts of attention; their exquisite observations render the world a space for epiphanic encounter.”

The author of seven books of poetry, Phillips’s many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the Academy of American Poets Prize, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in such journals as The Nation, The Paris Review and The Yale Review. His most recent collection, The Rest of Love, was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award. He is a professor of English and African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.


Poems by Carl Phillips



Sudden Scattering of Leaves, All Gold




    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2005