Monday, October 19, 2009

Improvisation for Carl Phillips

T. Renner, "Improvisation for Carl Phillips," 2009, acrylic on coated card stock, 5" x 7".

Carl Phillips is finalist for National Book Award
By Jane Henderson
Post-Dispatch Book Editor

Washington University professor Carl Phillips is a poetry finalist for this year’s National Book Awards.

Speak Low, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, is one of five titles in the poetry category, the National Book Foundation announced today. The awards will be given Nov. 18 in New York.

Phillips has won many poetry honors, including the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts poetry award. He was a National Book Award finalist in 2004 and 1998.

Of the latest nomination, he said today he was "honored, surprised, excited."

He doesn’t necessarily expect to win, but says "it is pretty special to be singled out at all.... Many of the most significant poets in American letters have never won the award or been nominated." In April, poet Jenny Mueller reviewed his latest book for the Post-Dispatch, saying "Theme and style join perfectly in Speak Low, Carl Phillips’ 10th collection of poetry. In poem after poem, the speaker turns to address questions of power. The style of the poems, as they frame and shape these questions, feels at once pliant and masterful.”

Poetry awards and nominations can bring new attention to a book, Phillips says, but it’s "not like an Oprah book."

This semester at Washington University he is teaching a course about American poetry since the 1950s. Phillips has lived in St. Louis at least part time since 1993, but still owns a cottage in Massachusetts, where he lives during part of the year.

Here is the list of finalists for the National Book Award in poetry:

Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

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