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These vigorous, sometimes brutal, poems are famillialy related as well as indebted to Frost s blank verse. . . . Read as a whole as they should be the cumulative effect of this truly accomplished collection is powerful, disturbing, and authoritative. I am filled with admiration for Mr. Stephens s work. Anthony Hecht
The sights and sounds and smells of day in and day out, of back and forth to the field, the tracks, the work site, of twilight and the inevitable next morning, of days lived in weary anticipation of the same: these are the themes, motifs, and rhythms Philip Stephens captures in The Determined Days. Stephens s natural voice and cadences transport us to far-ranging urban and rural locales in the Midwest, the Ozarks, and northern California. Against often bleak landscapes, his poems introduce us to a host of memorable characters: a former gravedigger who believes ghosts stole his first-born; a gang of railroad signalmen who get through their exhausting workdays by telling stories, arguing, and vying for what power they can gain in an indifferent world.
Throughout this volume of plainspoken narratives, Stephens captures the outer ruggedness and searching inner spirit of hardened but vulnerable men and women who tell tales tall and short, often reordering chaos and disappointment. Ironic, sometimes tragic, always provocative, The Determined Days is a startling poetic consideration of labor, life, and relationships that raises our hopes for contemporary American poetry.
The Sewanee Writers Series/The Overlook Press
At a time when humdrum verse is sunk in soundlessness, Stephens emerges as a member of the small but impressive avant-garde charged by awareness of the sound of meaning. This is an exciting and distinguished book. John Hollande
What an ear Philip Stephens has for the way people really speak! And talk is what Stephens people do as they strive to make sense of their hardworking and often violent lives. This is a world that poets do not enter very often, but there is great poetry to be found there. Philip Stephens finds it. The Determined Days is a major and original book of poems. Andrew Hudgins
Philip Stephens was educated at the University of Missouri at Columbia, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of California at Irvine. His writing has appeared in such publications as Agni, Southwest Review, The North American Review, and The Oxford American. He has worked variously as a meter reader, railroad signalman, newspaper reporter, and editor and currently works as a freelance writer in Kansas City, Missouri.