Poet's Sampler: Phillip B. Williams
Nov 3, 2015
Williams observes, with courage and fragility, his own mortality and promise.
The poetic line intersects and vivisects syllables, dust, and bones in the poetry of Phillip B. Williams. He invites his audience into an intimacy that is brutal and yet inestimably generous in its confession and compassion: “I have not been long in the meaning of shadow, the one shared bruise of all things.” To experience his poetry is to encounter a lucid, unmitigated humanity, a voice for whom language is inadequate, yet necessarily grasped, shaped, and consumed. His devout and excruciating attention to the line and its indispensible music fuses his implacable understanding of words with their own shadows.
Williams, whose debut solo collection, Thief in the Interior, will be published early next year, examines a notion of self-inflicted trespass: “it is the mind that imagines the shadow having its own language, its own dark idiom translating the body onto whatever surface will hold it. The shadow is the mind, the mind’s work, seen.” Bared as flower and fang, revealed as both prey and predator, the poet’s voice circles and interrogates what is nameless and unspeakable. Williams pulls his readers through profane fires, urging us to turn back to see what we have sacrificed, what has been taken, what has been denied, lost, given away, and what lies beyond comprehension. It is that comprehension and its risk, startling and tactile, that makes Williams’s voice original and revelatory. He observes, with courage and fragility, his own mortality and perilous promise: “The boy too stubborn to reveal his face. / Or too afraid of what his face reveals. / Was beauty thrown there, a field shocked / with black irises and the canvas, / the canvas not yet ready?”
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Neither Conquest Nor Surrender
Canticle to the Tune of a Waistband’s Slap
Though My Wings are Broken, They Still Make Me Animal
after Paul Celan
Failure of Tombs
November 03, 2015