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Then the War: And Selected Poems, 2007-2020

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A new collection of poems from one of America’s most essential, celebrated, and enduring poets, Carl Phillips's Then the War

I’m a song, changing. I’m a light
rain falling through a vast

darkness toward a different

Carl Phillips has aptly described his work as an “ongoing quest”; Then the War is the next step in that meaningful process of self-discovery for both the poet and his reader. The new poems, written in a time of rising racial conflict in the United States, with its attendant violence and uncertainty, find Phillips entering deeper into the landscape he has made his own: a forest of intimacy, queerness, and moral inquiry, where the farther we go, the more difficult it is to remember why or where we started.

Then the War includes a generous selection of Phillips’s work from the previous thirteen years, as well as his recent lyric prose memoir, “Among the Trees,” and his chapbook, Star Map with Action Figures.

Ultimately, Phillips refuses pessimism, arguing for tenderness and human connection as profound forces for revolution and conjuring a spell against indifference and the easy escapes of nostalgia. Then the War is luminous testimony to the power of self-reckoning and to Carl Phillips as an ever-changing, necessary voice in contemporary poetry.

ISBN-13: 9780374603762

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Farrar Straus and Giroux

Publication Date: 02-01-2022

Pages: 224

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Carl Phillips lives in St. Louis, where he teaches at Washington University.

Table of Contents

Then The War 1


Invasive Species 5

Of California 6

That the Gods Must Rest 8

The Enchanted Bluff 9

Little Shields, in Starlight 11

Morning in the Bowl of Night 12

Blue-Winged Warbler 14

Not Wild, Merely Free 15

He Didn't Raise Hand or Voice 17

In a Field, at Sunset 19

The Difficulty 20

In a Low Voice, Slowly 21

Fixed Shadow, Moving Water 22

Somewhere, right now, a hawk 23

Sing a Darkness 25

Among the Trees 27


While Night Still Keeps Us 49

Then the War 50

As the Rain Comes Down Harder 52

Something to Believe In 54

The Blue Door 55

Rough Surf in Moonlight 56

Like the Sweet Wet Earth Itself 57

On Coming Close 58

Electric 59

Soft Western Light 60

Everything All of It 62

Blurry Finally in Too Soon Each of Us 64

Only Portions of the Map Still Legibly Survive 65

Archery 67

Initial Descent 69

To Autumn 70

Of the Shining Underlife 71

Anywhere Like Peace 72

Entire Known World So Far 73

Night Comes and Passes Over Me 75

This Far In 77

From Speak Low

Speak Low 87

Mirror, Window, Mirror 88

Captivity 89

In a Perfect World 91

Distortion 92

Storm 94

Now in Our Most Ordinary Voices 96

The Raft 97

From Double Shadow

Fascination 101

Continuous Until We Stop 102

The Grass Not Being Flesh, Nor Flesh the Grass 103

The Need for Dreaming 104

Almost Tenderly 105

Glory On 106

Civilization 107

Immaculate Each Leaf, and Every Flower 110

Heaven and Earth 112

From Silverchest

So the Mind Like a Gate Swings Open 115

After the Afterlife 116

Black Swan on Water, in a Little Rain 117

Neon 118

Your Body Down in Gold 119

Anyone Who Had a Heart 120

Dominion 122

But Waves, They Scatter 123

Silverchest 124

From Reconnaissance

Reconnaissance 127

The Darker Powers 128

Steeple 130

Capella 131

For Long to Hold 134

Foliage 135

The Strong by Their Stillness 136

Faintly, with Falling Stars 137

Spring 138

From Wild Is the Wind

Swimming 141

Brothers in Arms 142

Musculature 143

Not the Waves as They Make Their Way Forward 144

Gold Leaf 145

What I See Is the Light Falling All Around Us 146

If You Go Away 147

For It Felt Like Power 149

Monomoy 150

Wild Is the Wind 151

The Sea, the Forest 153

From Pale Colors in a Tall Field

On Being Asked to Be More Specific When It Comes to Longing 157

Pale Colors in a Tall Field 159

For Nothing Tender About It 160

Dirt Being Dirt 161

A Little Closer Though, If You Can, For What Got Lost Here 162

Yet No Less Grateful 163

Is It True All Legends Once Were Rumors 164

Overheard, Under a Dark Enchantment 165

If It Must Be Winter 166

Defiance 168

Star Map with Action Figures

And If I Fall 173

Dangerous Only When Disturbed 174

Wake Up 176

On Triumph 178

Unbridled 179

We Turn Here 180

To Lie Down. To Wear Nothing at All. 181

Reasonable Doubt 182

Fine 183

And Swept All Visible Signs Away 185

Honest in Which Not Gently 186

Self 187

Soundtrack for a Frame of Winter 188

Star Map with Action Figures 190

My Monster 192

All the Love You've Got 193

Notes 197

Acknowledgments 201

Index of Titles and First Lines 203