Heaven

Longlist, National Book Awards 2015 for Poetry

Heaven by Rowan Ricardo Phillips book cover, 2015
ISBN 9780374168520
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Rowan Philips attends the 65th Annual National Book Awards on November 19, 2014 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips

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A spectacularly vibrant and continually surprising collection from one of the poetry world’s rising young stars “Who the hell’s heaven is this?”. Rowan Ricardo Phillips offers many answers, and none at all, in Heaven, the piercing and revelatory encore to his award-winning debut, The Ground. Swerving elegantly from humor to heartbreak, from Colorado to Florida, from Dante’s Paradise to Homer’s Illiad, from knowledge to ignorance to awe, Phillips turns his gaze upward and outward, probing and upending notions of the beyond. “Feeling, real feeling / with all its faulty / Architecture, is / Beyond a god’s touch”–but it does not elude Phillips. Meditating on feverish boyhood, on two paintings by Chuck Close, on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, on a dead rooster by the side of the road in Ohio, on an elk grazing outside his window, his language remains eternally intoxicating, full of play, pathos, and surprise. “The end,” he writes, “like / All I’ve ever told you, is uncertain.” Or, elsewhere: “The only way then to know a truth / Is to squint in its direction and poke.” Phillips–who received a 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award as well as the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award–may not be certain, but as he squints and pokes in the direction of truth, his power of perception and elegance of expression create a place where beauty and truth come together and drift apart like a planet orbiting its star. The result is a book whose lush and wounding beauty will leave its mark on readers long after they’ve turned the last page.

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