PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Sasha Dugdale On Vision Yehuda Amichai's Blessing Chris Miller on Alvin Feinman Rebecca Watts Blue Period and other poems Patrick McGuinness's Mother as Spy

This review is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Cover of Wild Is the Wind
Florian GargailloExit Wounds
Carl Phillips, Wild Is the Wind (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), $23

I know death’s
an abstraction, but I prefer
a shape to things, though the shapes
are changeable.
    (‘If You Go Away’)

These lines tell us much about the sort of poetry to be found here, in Carl Phillips’ fourteenth collection. His aim throughout is to take subjects of a metaphysical nature and shape them into sound, image and rhetoric. It comes as little surprise, then, that abstractions populate the book and serve as its chief players. In order of appearance: memory, discipline, morality, honesty, regret, indifference, death, power, history, love, trust, hope, despair, and so on. Sometimes Phillips dresses these up in startling metaphors, as when he dismisses – and thereby evokes – the notion of memory as a ‘mechanical bull’ (‘Wild Is the Wind’).

This approach makes the abstractions livelier than they might be, though as agents they remain oddly passive:

      – So here we are again, one-handedly fingering
         the puckered edges of the exit wounds
         memory leaves behind

Memory here cuts flesh, and shapes that wound by giving it ‘puckered edges’ like lips readied for a kiss. Yet the word ‘memory’ itself gets shuttled all the way down to the third line so that it lands as an afterthought. The verb attached to it is not ‘wounds’, which stands as its own noun, but ‘leaves behind’: a letting-go or a giving-up. Abstractions in this volume are wont to become places: ‘Morality seemed an ignorable wilderness / like ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image