Carl Phillips

I’m one of those poets who pushes more deeply at something with each book, as opposed, perhaps, to casting the net more widely, in terms of subject matter. It’s why I think of all of my books as a single, sustained kind of meditation on—oh, on the ways in which the forces of being human (desire, for example, loss, conquest) shape a sensibility over time. . . .

Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Los Angeles Times Book Prize

National Book Award Finalist




[Phillips writes] batter-my-heart provocations worthy of John Donne [that are] subdued to a still, mature reverence.
The New Yorker
Carl Phillips has forged an entire poetry career in describing the nuance of emotional states, finding and naming that wilderness of layered feelings that inscribe the truest experiences. The complexity of being adrift and alone, but also realizing one’s capability in such a state — swimming unassisted — is sad and exhilarating, confusing and deeply edifying. And so are the ways Phillips approaches all of his territories: history and myth, Virgil and Homer, the garden and its bees, the sea, the forest, the prairie, the lover undressing, the bed.
— Rachel Richardson, Los Angeles Review of Books
The writing dazzles with transcendent metaphors, complex connections and linguistic flourishes.
The Washington Post

Carl Phillips is the author of 14 books of poetry, most recently Wild Is the Wind (FSG, 2018), winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, called it “haunting and contemplative as the torch song for which the collection is named.” His selected poems, Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986-2006, was published by FSG in 2007. Other books include The Tether (FSG, 2002), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Double Shadow (FSG, 2012), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Silverchest (FSG, 2014), a finalist for the Griffin Prize. A four time finalist for the National Book Award,  and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, his other honors include the Lambda Literary Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Award, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Academy of American Poets, for which he served as Chancellor from 2006-2012.

His literary criticism and translations include The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination (Graywolf, 2014), Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry (Graywolf, 2004), and Sophocles’s Philoctetes (Oxford University Press, 2004).  

A renowned mentor to a generation of poets, Phillips discussed his process with David Baker in the Kenyon Review: “I work intuitively, wrestling toward a temporary answer to questions that emerge from a struggle that is ultimately utterly private. I think I’m just lucky that my private struggles happen to be, as well, human struggles, so that the poems happen to resonate with other people besides myself. But I’ve never expected that, or sought it. It’s why I can easily swing into anxiety when I’m giving a reading—it truly feels like I’m revealing something very private. Of course, it’s not as if the poems are baldly confessional, and the actual struggle, the specifics of it, are never in the poem; that’s part of the transformative work that a poem has to do.”

Born in Everett, Washington, Phillips earned a BA from Harvard, an MAT from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA in creative writing from Boston University. Before teaching English at the university level, he taught Latin at several high schools. He is Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches creative writing.



Open and right-click to download