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Carl Phillips is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts. He taught high school Latin for eight years and is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Speak Low (2009) that was a finalist for the National Book Award and Double Shadow (2011), also a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He has received numerous awards and honours, including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Award in Poetry, a Lambda Book Award and the Thom Gunn Award for Best Gay Male Poetry, as well as fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Library of Congress. Phillips was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. He teaches at Washington University, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Silverchest

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2014 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

Carl Phillips is a poet of the line and a poet of the sentence, both at once.

Carl Phillips is a poet of the line and a poet of the sentence, both at once. Rubbing these two intangible structures – one musical, the other linguistic – against one another is an ancient way of kindling verbal and intellectual fire, and Phillips does it in poem after poem with casual mastery. The lines are carved in low relief, shaped by internal assonance, not by end-rhyme, while the sentences trace a perfectly grammatical yet occasionally dizzying switchback trail, using the standard resources of prose to climb far beyond the prosaic domain. Phillips’s Silverchest consists in large part of reflections on a love affair gone bad. It is a gay male love affair in this case, but the anguish, the self-doubt, the sense of abandonment and loss, are captured here with a tenderness, depth, and precision that can dance through sociocultural fences as easily as deer can dance across the grass. Silverchest speaks, as great books do, out of its own profound particularity, to and for something wordless and shared by us all.