A river runs through Patrick Phillips’s collection Chattahoochee, and through a family saga as powerful and poignant as the landscape in which it unfolds. Here are tales of a vanished South, elegies for the lost, and glimpses of what Flannery O’Connor called the “action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.” In language delicate and muscular, tender and raw-boned, Phillips writes of family, place, and that mythic conjunction of the two we call home.
Poems by Patrick Phillips
“The resolve in Patrick Phillips’s first book of poems is relentless. He wastes no time getting to the center and wastes no language once he’s there. Not that his poems are pure; rather that they are stubbornly and exactly what they are: reenactments of childhood memory in the precise and even pristine terms of the original drama.”
—Stanley Plumly, author of Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems and Marriage in the Trees
“The ‘intensity in the seeing’ that Theodore Roethke believed good poetry possessed is everywhere present in Patrick Phillips’s clear-eyed debut collection, Chattahoochee. The world Phillips evokes is a half-paradise of childhood innocence half-lost to the earthly imperfection of adult experience. It is a world illuminated by bright and dark fire, a world where awe and wonder find a voice, and where memory leads—by story, metaphor, and music—to the ‘oldest room in the house’ where, Phillips tells us, ‘the world began.’”
—Michael Collier, author of The Ledge
“The poems in Chattahoochee have clearly taken to heart W. C. Williams’s dictum that contact with the local is the only road to the universal and is finally the true measure of a work of art. Patrick Phillips’s depiction of the small town Georgia community in which he was raised is by turns harrowing and tender, full of communal warmth and racial hatred, family intimacy and social justice. That he doesn’t simplify his vision of the Southern world that formed him, that he honors his own ambivalence, is a measure of Phillips’s humane inclusive vision, an inclusiveness that keeps his keen sense of place from becoming mere regionalism; it’s what enables him to find a social and political history within the particulars of personal experience. This is an unforgettable first book.”
—Alan Shapiro, author of Song and Dance: Poems
Winner of the 2005 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The award is presented annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise.