Momentum and Breath: on Elise Partridge’s The If Borderlands & Stephen Kampa’s Articulate as Rain

The If Borderlands: Collected Poems
By Elise Partridge
(New York Review of Books, 272pp., $16.00)

Articulate as Rain
By Stephen Kampa
(Waywiser Press, 96pp., $14.25)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been as riveted by a poetry collection as I was by The If Borderlands. Elise Partridge’s work is mostly new to me, but it possesses such meticulous, formally attentive understatement, such a range of subject matter, and such philosophical curiosity and wisdom, that it is surely the equal, to my mind, of poetic thinkers like Clampitt, Bishop, and Schnackenberg.

‘Mortal as I’d Always Been’: C.K. Williams’ Falling Ill

Falling Ill: Last Poems
by C.K. Williams
(FSG, 2017, 64 pgs., $23)

Those looking for consolation in C.K. Williams’ final book (Falling Ill, FSG, 2017), written after an end-of-life diagnosis, won’t find much of it. But there is spare beauty, control, honesty, mitigated terror, and love. Especially love.

Spring Hiatus

This house with the small backyard here it is I drowse. The wind strews
blossoms from the crabapple boughs; they catch in in the grass, in the vines,
like snow. In front, a tree, riotous and pink, fills
the narrow window I clap my eyes on. A garden,
alongside a street.
I am teaching nothing. When I wake,
the day lies before me as water to wash in. My children keep close to my body;
shade passes by. I have lost the sense of my century I am
a child myself I love my boundaries, dripping with green.
Why is my neighbor in exile here? A grasping that held me is gone.

The Beatitudes of Rowan

Heaven
By Rowan Ricardo Phillips
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 61 pp., $13.00)

Rowan Ricardo Phillips is quickly making a name for himself, and for good reason. His second full collection of poems, Heaven, following in the footsteps of several successful verse essays, is something of an experiment. In it, Phillips rejects anti-poetics and opts for the landscape of high art (The Odyssey, the night sky, music, the ocean, Hamlet, a mountain peak), overtly engaging such canonical poets and theorists as Wallace Stevens, Derek Walcott, and Robert Frost (not to mention Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare). The volume offers a worldlywise and humorous—yet nonetheless honestly contemplative—perspective on what poetic bliss might mean for a readership of spiritual and intellectual cynics.