“'We're not what / either of us expected, / are we?' Carl Phillips asks in his new book, Double Shadow. It's a good question, and it's one that raises another question, not only in this particular poem but through much of the book: whom, precisely, is the speaker addressing? The reader, perhaps—in which case we feel, or ought to feel, implicated and challenged. Or, quite plausibly, the question is directed toward a friend or lover, or a parent or child. But the thought also crosses one's mind—it's bound to—that it is the world itself that is here being both addressed and accused. It is often claimed, after all, that a lyric poem is a record of an encounter between the self and the world. And in Phillips' delicately beautiful but highly unstable universe, both self and world are the sort of things that seem to fail, more often than not, to behave as one might have expected . . . In some ways the perpetually shifting textures and shardlike quality of Phillips' language are reminiscent of John Ashbery, that pre-eminent poet of modern consciousness. But where Ashbery's universe is a theater of nihilistic yet playful hijinks, Phillips' is a somber, autumnal landscape, one that is illuminated by moments of ephemeral, ethereal beauty. The world of Double Shadow is an old world, a faded, tired and depleted world: it is late in the day, the major events have already happened, the light is fading, and darkness will soon be upon us.”—Troy Jollimore, Chicago Tribune
Carl Phillips is the author of ten previous books of poems, including Speak Low, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986–2006. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.