The winner of the Sewanee Review’s 2019 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry is Carl Phillips. Phillips has authored 14 books of poetry, including Wild is the Wind (2018) and Reconnaissance (2015), as well as two books of criticism: The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination, and Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry. He has received numerous literary honors, including the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
The 33rd Aiken Taylor celebration will take place Feb. 26 and 27. University Vice-Chancellor John McCardell and Sewanee Review editor Adam Ross will present Phillips with the award at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Convocation Hall, after which Phillips will read from his body of work. On Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m., poet, novelist, and critic Garth Greenwell will lecture on Phillips’ poetry in the McGriff Alumni House. Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You, and is currently the John & Renee Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi.
Phillips’ poems reveal a searching intelligence, and a curiosity about the world at its most elemental. In his poem, “Sky Coming Forward,” from his National Book Award-nominated collection Double Shadow, he asks, “What if, between this one and the one / we hoped for, there’s a third life, taking its own / slow, dreamlike hold, even now—blooming, in spite of us?” Such questions of impermanence suffuse his work, and encourage us to approach the poems (and, perhaps, our own experiences) with the same ineffable wonder. As Garth Greenwell explains, “Phillips has fashioned himself as our great searching poet of ambivalence—ambivalence conceived not (as we sometimes use the word) as signifying vague or unformed feelings, but instead opposing desires held in suspension, exactingly measured and found to be of equal weight.”