Carl Phillips Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although primarily known for his poetry, Carl Phillips is the author of a book of prose, Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Art and Life of Poetry (2004), which includes meditations on the Metaphysical poet George Herbert, the role of cultural identity when interpreting poetry, and literature as an aesthetic art. Drawing on his training in Greek and Latin literature, he also translated and published Sophocles’ Philoctetes in 2003.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

With the publication of his first book, In the Blood, which was awarded the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize in 1992, Carl Phillips was ushered in as an exciting new voice in contemporary poetry. Subsequent collections continued to be critically acclaimed for Phillips’s approach to craft through mythology, spirituality, and philosophy, as well as for his frank exploration of issues of sexuality, race, and the vulnerability of the body. Cortège was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Lambda Literary Award in poetry. Phillips received the Lambda Literary Award (2000) for Pastoral, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001), and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2002) for The Tether. He has been heralded as a significant contributor to literature as a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry for From the Devotions, The Rest of Love, and Speak Low. The Rest of Love is especially notable for its complex portrait of gay issues and was honored with the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize from Saginaw Valley State University and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry (both in 2005).

Other literary accolades include fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Academy of American Poets (2006), and the Guggenheim Foundation, and two Pushcart Prizes. Phillips was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and became a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Hamilton, Kendra.“The Current Toast of the Poetry World.” Black Issues in Higher Education 19, no. 5 (April 25, 2002): 26-27. Presents a brief profile of Phillips and his reaction to being awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his fifth collection of poetry, The Tether. Phillips discusses his early aspirations in poetry and his work as a tenured professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Hammer, Langdon. “The Leaves Rush, Greening, Back: Carl Phillips.” American Scholar 75, no. 4 (Autumn, 2006): 58. Examines selected poems that reflect Phillips’s fascination with the erotic nature of spirituality. Hammer contends that many of Phillips’s poems, while eliciting unique romanticism, still contain elements of skepticism and self-doubt that can be traced back to the poet’s own complex childhood.

Phillips, Carl. “Carl Phillips.” Interview by Christopher Hennessy. In Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets, edited by Hennessy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. Phillips discusses how race and homosexuality can create displacement in a poet’s professional and personal life.

_______. “An Interview with Carl Phillips.” Interview by Charles Rowell. Callaloo 21, no. 1 (Winter, 1998): 204. Phillips details his poetic influences, reaction to his first book, In the Blood, and being honored with the Samuel French Morris Poetry Prize, and the impact of this publication on African American writing.

Ploughshares. Review of Quiver of Arrows. Fall, 2007, 219. Notes that the collection draws from eight books of poetry, showcasing those pieces that reflect the poet’s central themes.

Smith, Jordan. Review of Speak Low. Antioch Review 67, no. 3 (Summer, 2009): 604-605. Highlights the poet’s emphasis on the physical and spiritual dualism of the body.

Weir, John. “Revealing Rhymes.” Advocate 758 (April 28, 1998): 62-66. Considers the poetry of gay contemporary poets, including Phillips. Weir focuses on From the Devotions and elaborates on Phillips’s ability to create poetry that not only celebrates gayness but also embraces small everyday joys of living, universal themes for all readers.