Best Poet St. Louis 2001 - Carl Phillips
Carl Phillips has promised that he won't publish a book next year, so this category will be open to others in 2002. Phillips, who directs the creative-writing program at Washington University, doesn't think of himself as prolific, but the pub dates of his five books are enough to make most everybody else embarrassed: In the Blood (1992), Cortege (1995), From the Devotions (1997), Pastoral (2000) and The Tether (2001). The most recent work is his most raw, most chilling book. The poems are ordered in the sequence in which they were written, moving from themes of betrayal and loss to forgiveness and redemption -- not a bad trajectory to take in a book of poems, or in a life. "Doom is/always in style somewhere/and, where it isn't, will/come back" is one of the more indifferent tones The Tether takes. The mood improves in the second half of the book, but not before the world is seen in cold light -- a vision that haunts and adds moral weight to these rough contemplations.