Poet Carl Phillips takes to the trees in his new book, Pastoral

"I read somewhere that pastoral verse is notorious for being an inward, elitist field. But what can you do?"


of dusk, come. Sky of songbirds,

come with it, mouths gaped not

in song but for those night-flying

insects that now, but too early, too

readily, ascend. Like everything

living, they are flawed, and they

must die. Hour when most palpable

-- the always, unspooling .... It is

why I sing for them, I think. That

it must, all of it, go. Insect. Bird.

The event between them that -- is

need until, unflinchingly, it isn't.

(from "Hour of Dusk")

What you can do is believe that no gesture is archaic. You can understand that poems begin with the writer's concern, which may then become your concern. You can accept that one reason -- archaically -- people have always gone to art is because it takes them elsewhere, sometimes into the terrain of their very selves, the regions they didn't know or avoided.

The pastoral is an endangered landscape, a troubled one, which Phillips preserves with language appropriate for it, unapologetically poetic: "At this hour of sun, in clubs of/light, in broad beams failing, I do not/stop it: I love you."

"I love you" -- another bold archaic gesture worth preserving, best kept in human places, not the hard drive.

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