Robert (Schaeffer) Phillips Andrew Curry - Essay

Andrew Curry

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Inner Weather]—designed "… to smash a witch who could not / fly …"—is more curious than interesting. The quote is from "The Weird Sister" which opens this series of poems authored by one of the most consistent of the young poets. Phillips is 30ish; but in "Rosedale Afternoon" he is as death and insanity. The poems appear to have been written between 1958–1965, constituting, perhaps, Phillips' "early work." Phillips knows the craft well—perhaps too well. His sense of humor is apparent and tastefully used.

The image of flying is Phillips' explicit focus here. He defines poetry as "flight, rising on its strength." But the majority of these poems never pulled me into that promised flight. I never flew and when I wanted to structure, tradition, technical devices … simply prevented me from doing so. Perhaps it is true that one concentrates on a poem's externals when he doesn't know what else to say. Fortunately, Phillips is his own best critical reviewer—

           Sleight of hand must be outgrown.
           Mere magic cannot stay the mind.
           The boy becomes a man of shop-worn tricks
           in a world with no trap door.

Andrew Curry, in a review of "Inner Weather," in Small Press Review (© 1968 by Dustbooks), Vol. I, No. 4, December, 1968, p. 71.