Since the 1970s, Robert Phillips has built a reputation as one of the outstanding American poets of his generation. Now, in his fifth full collection of verse, that reputation is both confirmed and consolidated, These are thoughtful, substantive poems that may make the reader smile and reflect. There are autobiographical poems about the poet's childhood on Delaware's Eastern Shore, elegies for the recent dead in American arts, extended metaphors on suburban existence, and a long section of poems in which the poet courts, wins, then loses the Muse. Both in voice and performance, "Breakdown Lane" is a consistent and engaging volume.
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Phillips's ( Personal Accounts ) fifth collection of verse is about loss and lost directions in a life of diminished expectations. In the title poem, he writes of being passed on a highway by a brother, father, wife, rival; when his confident younger self drove by, it ``really hurt.'' The poem concludes: ``I'll just stagger / toward the horizon, not / knowing what's ahead . . . / or why I am crying.'' A sequence of poems called ``An Affair with the Muse'' documents love found and lost, but here Phillips's passion lacks energy. His loss seems less important than it might be. ``Happiness,'' perhaps the most successful of the love poems, gives us ``sunrise in Eden,'' while the next poem in the sequence laments, ``You could have answered just one of my letters.'' The last of the book's four sections, ``American Elegies,'' offers poetry written for Charles Ives, the art critic John I.H. Baur, and the poets Howard Moss and Muriel Rukeyser, as well as other poems, among them one about stray socks in the laundry: ``Learn to count on nothing.'' In the elegy for Rukeyser, Phillips writes: ``Her poems still burn.'' Clearly, the lives of those concerned with art rouse his enthusiasm. But as a whole, this book fails to generate much heat.
Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information, Inc.Review:
"Breakdown Lane follows Robert Phillips's most recent book by eight years, and it is good to see him back in the saddle again with, among other delights, a bemused meditation ('Drive Friendly') on the etiquette of driving in his brave new Texas landscape." -- Hudson Review
"Three cheers for Robert Phillips; we need more poets like him." -- New York Times
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Book Description The Johns Hopkins University P, 1994. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110801848555
Book Description The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0801848555