The Tether Poems

Carl Phillips

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

96 Pages



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Winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Prize

In this elegant and accesible book of poems, Phillips considers the substance of connection between lover and beloved, mind and body, talon and perch and tends the cable of mutual trust between soaring figure and shadowed ground. One of our most original contemporary lyric poets, Phillips is also one of our most allegorical; his work often turns to nature, myth, and history for illustration or imagery. Yet the primary attributes of his work must be its physicality, grace, and disarming honesty about desire and faith.


Praise for The Tether

"Passionately austere, [Phillips's] poems restore to us that curious admixture of formal regard and casual speculation."—Rita Dove, The Washington Post Book World

"[These poems are] intimate because [they are] interior, because of the eroticized energy driving so many of them . . . Piqued, stimulated, challenged, [the reader] feels grateful for what is overheard as this disciplined mind wanders, grateful for the lyric that outstrips all diversionary maneuvers."—Carol Moldaw, The Antioch Review

"Immensely magnetic . . . Phillips's poems argue for unsparing, inspired examination of that tethered falcon, the soul."—Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Possibly—probably—Carl Phillips articulates the ineffable hesitation of love better than other contemporary poets. Certainly The Tether forces us to think about everything that surrounds what is said—the silences, the nuances, the half-formed questions, the contradictions, and the assertions that need, of necessity, to be qualified almost as soon as they are uttered. These are 'poems in the act of becoming.' Maybe this is love's truest language."—Judith Kitchen, The Georgia Review

"[Phillips writes] batter-my-heart provocations worthy of John Donne [that are] subdued to a still, mature reverence."—The New Yorker

"[These] poems have a rare sensuality, and they successfully marry a brooding and philosophical outlook with high lyricism and musicality."—Kate Moos, Ruminator Review

"A stunning sequence of poems which is bound to bring the reader back again and again."—Sam Witt, Indiana Review

"The music here is an admittedly cerebral one, and the poems are enjoyable, like late James, as much for the length and intricacy of their twistings as for the actual content . . . Much of [this content] is passionately flourished. Many poems concern desire, the ways it may be satisfied, deferred, or disappointed: 'The hunt-was good; the kill, / less so, as you'd said to / expect. I don't listen, always." The metaphor of the hunt is one of Phillips's favorites, and he doesn't shy away from either the brutality or the tenderness it calls for. The empathy of Phillips's work, especially when set off against his remarkably austere language, is terrific and moving. The strength of these poems is their sinuosity of thought. In the best cases, that hard thought flowers into feeling and makes the poems memorable."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



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Carl Phillips is the author of four books of poems, including Pastoral and From the Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is an associate professor of English and of African and Afro-American Studies 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