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Phillip Sterling

Phillip Sterling

Phillip Sterling was born in Michigan and raised among its lakes. He lives in Big Rapids where he teaches at Ferris State University. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, Western Humanities Review, and The Writer's Chronicle. Among his awards are a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and two Senior Fulbright lectureships (Belgium and Poland).


Mutual Shores

Mutual ShoresMutual Shores

$14.00 paper | 66 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-932826-95-4
Publication Date: Sept. 2000
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An Inland Seas Poetry Book

The poems of Mutual Shores are delivered by one voice, but that voice has the tenor of many. Sterling is a poet straightforward in language and tone yet charmingly deceitful in subject––he draws an idea from the natural world then nurtures it, watches it grow. What results is a furthering of the human experience, a relativity that makes random the Chain of Being and leaves us where 'the rain evokes / no patron saint' and only a small green lizard / offers hope.' Sterling, from him singular vantage point somewhere between the ground and the sky, says to us all This is what you should have seen.

"The gravity of these poems, their responsibility to feeling as to form, never precludes the possibility of humor, even of hilarity. Sterling sounds a representative American note, as winning and as unworldly as the Whitman he glimpses, conscious as he is of his own destination, conscious of the time as well. As his noble poet says, with characteristic understatement (undersong), 'history's so often questionable.'"
        —Richard Howard

"A beautiful lyricism radiates through the elegant poems of Phillip Sterling's debut collection, like he patterns of stained glass in Notre Dame's rose Window––poems that view both 'the earthy smell of light rain / clipping its early wings on glass' and 'some human smell, some sweat / diffused like light' ('A Certain Slant') . . . Sterling's is a right, new voice."
        —Cynthia Hogue

"Richly quiet and intelligent, these multi-layered, well-crafted poems might tempt us to see them as contemplation perfectly restrained––but for the rumble, the earth shift, discernible and coming, underneath."
        —Alice Friman

"Sterling’s best quality as an observer is a persistent romanticism that allows him to see beauty in a ordinary lawn chair, “its tubing and taut straps host[ing] levels of light."
        —Vince Gotera, North American Review


In My Anger Your Touch

In my anger your touch
is that of a washerwoman
soaping crooked paving stones
down a cold and narrow one-way
street each morning, as her
mother did, her mother’s mother.
The bucket steams as we go by,
hurriedly, on our way to school,
salon lavoir, grocery store,
—anywhere, as long as we’ve
passed before she squeegees
to the curb dogshit and lye.
Every day the same.

Every day the same:
something in the way we rise
to night’s deposits, riverdrift,
rain’s remains, the crumpled,
peeling odds or bitter ends of
what, in time, may taint love
loves us just the same.
At the corner you turn
half-way to glance at where
she bends, her apron laughs.
Then take my hand.
Every place must have its god
and here is no different.