What I’m Reading: Empty Clip

Empty Clip, Emilia Phillips (University of Akron Press, 2018)

At the publication of Empty Clip, this is how Emilia Phillips, introduced it on her twitter feed:

This is my “book of fears”

It is true there is much fear in these poems–molestation, animal murder, hotel fights, campus shooters, prior tenant on the lam, suicide,  self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and on and on, poem after poem of frightful situations and the poet’s responses captured in pristine time capsules. So stomach up, because the rewards here are large. Phillips has developed, in this book, the uncanny ability to put the reader right into the scene of the poem, through exposing meticulous authentic details accompanied by pinpoint emotional responses. You feel these poems as much as read them.

While reading, I highlighted a number of phrases–way too many to share here– that struck me as prophetic. A warning. What can happen. What does happen. What has happened. What might happen again at any moment.

Lie down,
said the grass to the sky. 

the same
stiff casualness of someone
pretending they’re not on guard 

another girl in the class said, “Girls
get raped all the time here  I don’t know why
this time was so special.” 

back when I was looking down the barrel
of days of grief 

how the bullet grooved clean into the skin below
her clavicle. A button hole
a baby’s mouth. 

So yes, there is pain, distress, frightful memories. You already know about that, even if you haven’t been as close to the barrel of a gun as Phillips has. This happened. Face it with me. Feel it with me. And so, make it bearable or at least help me to resist.

But. Then. There is the lyricism– the translation of facts into emotions into lyrics, a skill Phillips is expert at.  This is the balm of language that demonstrates how horrifying experiences can be digested, how poetic sense can be made of of terror.

I watched instead
the tree in your parents’ yard
sway,turning out its leaves
like wrists 

in the way we say water
is blue, although it has
no color 

it knows
me like tomorrow
that a need lives
in lack’s because. 

We will never forgive one another
for being human 


But it is clear in these pages that we do forgive one another for being human because there is no choice if we wish to live. “Empty Clip” discharges the “Hollow Point” of life, by looking twice, by using a “Split Screen”. These are the section titles of the book warning us that there is always a bullet with our name on it and we must push forward anyway.





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2 Responses to What I’m Reading: Empty Clip

  1. onedressblog says:

    The opening sentence was something I responded to with “I don’t need or want that right now.” But through your review, I want to read it, very much.

  2. Pingback: Poet Bloggers Revival Digest: Week 27 – Via Negativa

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