Philip Booth Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Philip Booth’s poetry forms the basis of his literary reputation. He gave readings of his works on both radio and television, and he edited several volumes of poetry. His essay collection, Trying to Say It: Outlooks and Insights on How Poems Happen, appeared in 1996.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

The finely crafted poetry of Philip Booth has a strong, clear connection with his ancestral home of Castine, Maine, a colonial coastal village of fewer than seven hundred year-round residents. Through his poetry, Booth carefully captured this place; he was at home with its blustery winters, its tides and charts, its starkness, its dry humor, its sparse, homely conversation, and its flora, fauna, and animals. However, like Emily Dickinson, through an intimate closeness with one place, the poet spoke of a common humanity and universal themes.

Booth’s poems move from engaging openings to clear, satisfying conclusions and are meticulously placed in each volume, moving toward a final resolution of their themes. Booth husbanded his language, but his poems hold a richness of meaning and look with curiosity and wonder at the miracle of human life. The poet, whose works have been translated into French, Portuguese, Finnish, Dutch, and Italian, and have been lauded by fellow poet Maxine Kumin as having a “wonderfully consistent tone,” is recognized as one of the best of late twentieth century writers.

Booth’s first collection of poems, Letter from a Distant Land, was named the 1956 Lamont Poetry Selection by the Academy of American Poets. Additional honors include the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine (1955), Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellowships, grants from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1967) and from the National Endowment for the Arts, and awards from Poetry, Saturday Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Poetry Northwest. In 1983, Booth received an Academy of American Poets Fellowship. His 1986 collection Relations earned for him the Maurice English Poetry Award. In 2001, Booth was awarded the Poets’ Prize by the Academy of American Poets.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Booth, Philip. Interview by Rachel Berghash. American Poetry Review 18 (May/June, 1989): 37-39. The poet discusses his sense of place and roots in Castine, offering some biographical information. He also talks about his views on survival, his philosophy of poetry, and his collection Relations.

_______. Interview by Stephen Dunn. New England Review and Bread Loaf Quarterly 9 (Winter, 1986): 134-158. Dunn is one of the four former students to whom Booth dedicated Selves and from whom the poet says he is still learning. This interview offers good insight into the poems of Booth’s seventh volume, Relations.

Marquard, Bryan. “Philip Booth: Poetry and Maine Were the Core of His Life, at Eighty-One.” Boston Globe, July 12, 2007, p. D7. This obituary of Booth examines his life and work, with an emphasis on his connection to Maine.

Phillips, Robert. “Utterly Unlike.” Hudson Review 52, no. 4 (Winter, 1999): 689-697. Phillips contrasts Booth’s style and thematic focus in Lifelines with two other works in this celebration of poetic diversity.

Rotella, Guy L. Three Contemporary Poets of New England: William Meredith, Philip Booth, and Peter Davison. Boston: Twayne, 1983. Rotella places Booth in a New England regional context, providing biographical information and analysis of the poetry.

Taylor, John. Review of Lifelines. Poetry 177, no. 1 (January, 2001): 272-273. Taylor notes that Booth’s realism is often overcast with a dreaminess that invites introspection and meditation.

Tillinghast, Richard. “Stars and Departures, Hummingbirds and Statues.” Poetry 166, no. 5 (August, 1995): 295-297. Tillinghast appreciates Booth’s Yankee sensibility, close observation, and the way in which he avoids forcing his material into themes.