In Riding Westward, Carl Phillips wields his celebrated gifts for syntax and imagery that are unmistakably his own--speculative, athletic, immediate--as he confronts moral crisis.
The singer turning this and that way, as if watching the song itself
--the words to the song--leave him, as he
lets each go, the wind carrying most of it,
some of the words, falling, settling into
instead that larger darkness, where the smaller
darknesses that our lives were lie softly down."
--from "Riding Westward"
What happens when the world as we've known it becomes divided, when the mind becomes less able--or less willing--to distinguish reality from what is desired? What is the difference, Phillips asks, between good and evil, cruelty and instruction, risk and trust? Against the backdrop of the natural world, Phillips pitches the restlessness of what it means to be human, as he at once deepens and extends a meditation on that space where the forces of will and imagination collide with sexual and moral conduct.
Brindled, where what's left of the light finds him, he cowers in front of me: one way, as I remember it, that a body having grown accustomed to receiving punishment expresses
receipt, or a readiness for it, or—wild, bewildered—the...
Praise for Riding Westward
“A master stylist . . . While Phillips's ideas are complex . . .His images ground us.” —Library Journal
“The poems in Riding Westward ring like peals of a bell--recognizable, separate and yet merging together, radiating from a single source . . . Again Phillips strikes the theme of radiating realities, this time working inward from the largest darkness of all, which is implied, to the darkness of night, to the smaller darkness of one person's remembered life. The cowboy's song--as all the poems in Riding Westward--is a comforting lament.” —Aaron Belz, St. Louis Post-Dispatch