Winner of the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem
I’m a song, changing. I’m a light
rain falling through a vast
darkness toward a different
Carl Phillips has aptly described his work as an “ongoing quest”; Then the War is the next step in that meaningful process of self-discovery for both the poet and his reader. The new poems, written in a time of rising racial conflict in the United States, with its attendant violence and uncertainty, find Phillips entering deeper into the landscape he has made his own: a forest of intimacy, queerness, and moral inquiry, where the farther we go, the more difficult it is to remember why or where we started.
Then the War includes a generous selection of Phillips’s work from the previous thirteen years, as well as his recent lyric prose memoir, “Among the Trees,” and his chapbook, Star Map with Action Figures.
Ultimately, Phillips refuses pessimism, arguing for tenderness and human connection as profound forces for revolution and conjuring a spell against indifference and the easy escapes of nostalgia. Then the War is luminous testimony to the power of self-reckoning and to Carl Phillips as an ever-changing, necessary voice in contemporary poetry.
“With the incomparably gorgeous, deftly poetic sentences that make up his work, Carl Phillips has been exploring intimacy, sexuality, and interiority for more than a decade.”—Corinne Segal, Literary Hub
"A master class in [Phillips's] deceptively gentle voice and striking depictions of raw humanity . . . Every selection provides a portal to this accomplished author's work. An important milestone in the still flourishing career of a most brilliant poet."—Booklist
"This selected offers admirers of Phillips’s work a chance to revisit his masterful poems, and new readers an opportunity to see the evolution of a vital presence in American poetry . . . These lyrically rich, insightful poems are full of palpable aching—’like the rhyme between lost/ and most’—and a human urge to understand. This remarkable compendium is a testament to the spirit of Phillips’s work.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)