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The Rest of Love Poems

Carl Phillips

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

80 Pages


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National Book Award Finalist
Winner of the Publishing Triangle Award for Gay Male Poetry

In his seventh book of verse, Carl Phillips examines the conflict between belief and disbelief, and our will to believe. Aren't we always trying, the poet asks, to contain or to stave off facing up to, even briefly, the hard truths we're nevertheless attracted to? Phillips's signature terse line and syntax enact this constant tension between abandon and control.

Indeed, the poems in The Rest of Love also plumb this very tension. Following his impeccable interior logic, always "passionately austere" (Rita Dove, The Washington Post Book World), Phillips explores the myths that we both create and return to in the name of desire—physical, emotional, and spiritual.


Praise for The Rest of Love

"[Phillips achieves] a delicately cadenced music entirely his own."—Roger Gilbert, Michigan Quarterly Review

"[The Rest of Love gives] us the swirling, hot-and-cold drama of love at its most fraught . . . Like John Donne, Phillips mixes the divine with the beloved [and] proves that the great English verse tradition of erotic religious poetry is alive and well."—David Orr, The New York Times Book Review

"Phillips has made over the years something not unlike a new musical scale. Singing the music of mythology, history, and philosophy, his 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

"In The Rest of Love, Carl Phillips offers 33 lyrics that intricately explore the paradox implicit in his book's title: that love and desire reside in the constant tension between excess and repose, release and restraint. Phillips plumbs this tension with a supple lyric idiom. He often writes in tercets that spill, like a stepped waterfall, one into the other, a flow channelled in each tercet by brief lines laden with interrogatives and apostrophes and punctuated by commas and dashes. This baroque syntax coaxes to life images that pucker, bloom, and sprawl . . . The Rest of Love is the scintillating record of a poet struggling to understand desire and to find a pattern of understanding within the struggle itself."—John Palatella, Newsday

"Furthering an idiom worked up over six previous books and showing no signs of exhaustion, Phillips delivers another brittle, electric set of poems on love, sex, masculinity, and their classical contours. In 33 lyrics divided over three sections, Phillips's unmistakable, short-lined apostrophes, riddled with exhalative em-dashes and pulled-up-short interrogatives, perform the kind of personal control that, before [his book called] The Tether, would have been a main component of domination, but has slowly modulated into conscious attempts at sharing one's physical and psychic lives fully—or as fully as possible: 'to what extent can this be said, and / it be true? and / it be false? / Under what conditions? // Under whose conditions?' Phillips finds a series of images, from 'White Dog' ('First snow—I release her into it—') to a donkey in Santiago ('He shot the ass / in the head. Simple.') to 'the boy at the bow' of a sculling crew ('the rest of the boys / sang back'), and works each singly and satisfyingly. And as with Phillips's other recent work, while the poems do not form a series, they seem to provide multiple and overlapping accounts of the title's excess (or its repose) without trying to define it. The result will not only please fans, but will send new readers back to recent books."—Publishers Weekly

"It's appropriate that this book is being published in deep midwinter, for it is pervaded by the sense of loss and melancholy often associated with that season. 'And you a stone / marked Gone Already—you / a leaf, / marked Spattered Milk,' observes the narrator of one poem as he leans against a window's 'old' glass and watches an approaching storm. Phillips, whose most recent book, The Tether, won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, is known for evanescent lines that practically float off the page like smoke. Here, he's a little less elliptical than in The Tether—some poems, like 'Hymns and Fragments,' are almost narrative—but the musing tone remains. As always, Phillips's poems breathe quietude, but despite the wintry tone he seems ready for a reckoning, facing up to a traitorous world ('Any force— / generosity, sudden updraft. Fear') and wrestling politely with God ('I wagered on God in a kind stranger'). The results are polished and penetrating."—Library Journal

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Read an Excerpt

Carl Phillips is the author of six previous books of poems, including Rock Harbor and The Tether, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. The recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, he teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.
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  • Carl Phillips

  • Carl Phillips is the author of nine previous books of poems, including Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006; Riding Westward; and The Rest of Love, a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

  • Carl Phillips Doug Macomber