Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness and has also translated the poetry and prose of many Catalan-language writers. He teaches at Stony Brook University and lives in New York City and Barcelona. (Author photo by Sue Kwon)
A poignant and terse vision of New York City unfolds in Rowan Ricardo Phillips’s debut book of poetry. A work of rare beauty and lyric grace, The Ground is an entire world, drawn and revealed through contemplation of the post-9/11 landscape. With musicality and precision of thought, Phillips’s poems limn the troubadour’s journey in an increasingly surreal modern world (“I plugged my poem into a manhole cover/That flamed into the first guitar”). The origin of mankind, the origin of the self, the self’s development in the sensuous world, and—in both a literal and figurative sense—the end of all things sing through Phillips’s supple and idiosyncratic poems.
“‘I had become / The injurer who makes things golden,’ writes Rowan Ricardo Phillips in this elegant debut collection. His is a world steeped in history and myth, both classical and urban, and his voice is almost exotic in its marriage of the formal with the demotic. Though Orpheus, Apollo, Eurydice inhabit these poems, the most prominent presence is the spirit of New York—its gold and mist and din, its injury, its beauty.”
“The Ground is a strong achievement that will secure Rowan Ricardo Phillips a place on the map of American poetry. Like all good poets, he writes from a zone of his own creation, mixing the traditions of his West Indian ancestry with American poetry. His poems have a calm, metaphysical colloquialism with tragedy at their center. Love, death, and human frailty may yoke us to violence, but Phillips is interested—like Emerson—in the idea of survival. He is a hopeful poet, a rising star.”
Farrar, Straus and Giroux