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 does. 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.
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.
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