I only had 30 minutes to speak to poet Carl Phillips, which was just enough time to access his worldview, yet a woefully insufficient amount of time to truly get at the thickness of his poetry. It was by far the friendliest interview I have ever conducted. Phillips was flexible with his schedule and would make a joke in the same breath as a philosophical aside. I reserved us an awkward space near the lobby of the Nathan Hale Inn on the University of Connecticut campus where we sat across from each other in armchairs looking over a small table. People continually passed by, but we were relatively alone.
With an impressive catalogue of 12 books of poetry and two books of criticism, as well as being a professor and winning countless awards, Phillips seemed almost as honored to be interviewed as I was honored to interview him. Phillips wore a blue button-down shirt and had a neat crop of facial hair. I couldn’t help imagining him as a quality professor, for he made my questions seem smart when I thought them vague, and he always doubted the adequacy of his answers, as if he wasn’t giving me enough to go on.
Phillips is about as established as an American poet can be, but his manner seemed unchanged by the fact that the Long River Review was interviewing him, not the Kenyon. When we had wrapped up, he thanked and complimented me before being rushed away to speak to a group of high school students an hour removed from UConn.
Read the full interview at the Long River Review.