POETRY

Living Weapon: Poems

Farrar. Feb. 2020. 96p. ISBN 9780374191993. $24. POETRY
COPY ISBN
In his third collection (after Heaven, a National Book Award finalist), Phillips bookends a core set of poems between two longer prose pieces. The opening one, which has a Borgesian fairy tale–like quality, concerns a man who flies over New York and perches on the spire of the World Trade Center—“Flight is like untying the air itself, fold after fold and layer after layer”—while the closing piece is a travelog about Barcelona. In between, poems tackle current subjects such as digital vs. analog life, climate warming, and the Charlottesville, VA, white supremacist march. Several are based on myth; a couple of the best follow the Ars Poetica form. In “Night of the Election,” a Seamus Heaney poem disappears and an oyster “Appeared on a plate, languid, the color/ Of vanilla, moist fennel, raw silver,/ Crushed hay, sunk ships, quince and Jupiter.” Unfortunately, too many poems use repetition and sometimes rhyme to poor effect: “the worlds in it burning, ways/ Of I am now burning, feeling the Bern/ In the back of a cab without being burned,/ Then being burned. I wonder what learned.”
VERDICT An uneven but interesting collection showcasing life in New York City today, sometimes veering toward dull, ordinary language and sometimes singing with their take on society. For larger collections.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

Get access to 8000+ annual reviews of books, ebooks, and more

As low as $13.50/month