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Speak Low: Poems

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Speak Low: Poems.pdf | Language: English

Speak Low is the tenth book from one of America's most distinctive―and one of poetry's most essential―contemporary voices. Phillips has long been hailed for work provocative in its candor, uncompromising in its inquiry, and at once rigorous and innovative in its attention to craft. Over the course of nine critically acclaimed collections, he has generated a sustained meditation on the restless and ever-shifting myth of human identity. Desire and loss, mastery and subjugation, belief and doubt, sex, animal instinct, human reason: these are among the lenses through which Phillips examines what it means to be that most bewildering, irresolvable conundrum, a human being in the world.

These new poems are of a piece with Phillips's previous work in their characteristic clarity and originality of thought, in their unsparing approach to morality and psychology, and in both the strength and startling flexibility of their line. Speak Low is the record of a powerful vision that, in its illumination of the human condition, has established itself as a necessary step toward our understanding of who we are in the twenty-first century.

Speak Low is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Poetry.

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 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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Book details

  • PDF | 80 pages
  • Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (March 31, 2009)
  • English
  • 3
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Guest on October 2, 2017

    I really liked the enjambment and imagery in these poems. There are more than I can count on my hands that could become new favorites. Very good!

  • By Robert Beveridge on December 1, 2010

    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."Color of rust, russet. Color of fall. I can lay me head/on the wet sand that is nobody's chest now--not a chest,/at all--or I can lift it. Why not lift it? More fugitive than/lost, more spent than stranded, if I've been no stranger/to disillusionment,//nor am I enslaved to it...."("The Raft")****

  • By James Kelly on November 4, 2013

    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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