A Mid-West native from Cleveland, Ohio, J.R. Phillips has spent the majority of his years in Los Angeles, California. His father was an immigrant from the U.K. & his mother was second generation Irish American. He attended university courses at University of Oregon, Cal Ploy San Luis Obispo and received his undergraduate degree from the Cal State University Northridge where he studied under the guidance of famed California poet Ann Stanford. He is currently enrolled in the Graduate Program at Antioch University. He has recently published two books of poetry from Red Luna Press--Living in Lotus Land and A Mirage of Suspended Gardens. Three earlier publications are no longer in print. A handful of select poems were published in the Centennial Edition of The Wallace Stevens Journal, Wormwood Review, and an anthology entitled Men in the Company of Women.  He is co-host and founder of the Valley Poets East Reading series in Studio City, California. Mr. Phillips makes his living as an investment advisor in one of the largest California-based investment banks in the U.S.

 

Three poems from A Mirage of Suspended Gardens, (Red Luna Press)

A Mirage of Suspended Gardens

In winter the Hollywood hillside
Resembles the moors of England.

One can almost imagine Oberon & Olivier
Making their way to the up most peak

Where, once ascended, they stand suspended
Peering down from the summit of the Hollywood Sign.

One can almost imagine the heather
And the lupine scattered across the green hilltop

Where an English rain and a North Country wind
Transforms the California landscape

To a mythical land of Romantic musings,
Of cinematic semblances and fictive desires.

One can only imagine as imaginings come easy
In this land of porcelain palaces and ethereal gardens.

And when our imaginings no longer serve to sooth us
We simply change the channel as often as we like.


A Canticle To The Bells

In Florence the days are as one
And the mornings peel back the night
In a litany of church bells that clang
And clammer in the polyphonic sky.
Bells become words to waken an ancient world:
Et in Spi-ri-tum San-ctum, Domi-num,
Sanctus, Sanctus, San—ctus Do-minus
De-us Sa—ba—oth, Sa-ba-oth, Sa-ba-oth.
Let us live and love and care little
For the dullard debts and the stolid ties
That bind us to the wheel and grind us till forgotten.
For the bells breathe light on the Piazza San Marcos,
On the Piazza della Signoria, on the Uffizi
And the Academy (where looms David the goliath).
And the bells breathe light on the rust-colored roofs
Of the Cupola and the Campanile and the Duomo
And all the streets and rivers outlined by the path
And the shops and the houses and the statues.
The bells breathe light and break open the skies
And clang and clammer and clutter the air
To waken an ancient world, revive a weary traveler.


Beauty

(Variations on a theme by B.H. Fairchild)

as so many moments forgotten but later remembered
come back to us in slants and pools and uprisings of light,
beautiful in itself, but more beautiful mingled
with memory, the light leaning across my mother's
carefully set table, across the empty chair
beside my Uncle Ross, the light filtering down
from the green plastic slats in the roof of the machine shop
where I worked with my father so many afternoons,
standing or crouched in pools of light and sweat with men
who knew the true meaning of labor and money and other
hard, true things and did not, did not ever, use the word, beauty.

—B. H. Fairchild

It seems such a simple word. Beauty. What Keats described
as the essence of Truth, the essence of understanding. What
Fairchild saw in the precision of machinery, a light illuminating
the metal roofs of workshops and the hoods of automobiles
and the quiet unspoken beauty of men and women in the dark,
seeking a private space to share their bodies.
How could I, or anyone, ever attempt to top you with such a task?
You nailed it, dear friend. The self-defining placement of words
to reveal who we really are,
how the beauty of a knock-out punch by a heavyweight fighter
or an athlete held suspended in air above a basketball rim
or how an assassin’s bullet, viewed by a workshop machinist
reflecting on the murder of a young President
could find no other word as essential and true.
And what of the bombardier’s heat-seeking missile
or the arsonist’s ecstasy of a burning inferno
or the devastating chaos of warfare and natural disasters?
How all these bright burning visions that waken our eyes
and vibrate our tongues
stand in stark contrast to the breathless utterance of the poet
whose eyes behold how a shimmer of sunlight
can form a dance of diamonds across an ocean wave,
how the moon can cast a silvery glow,
how a chapel in Rome can bring gods down from the clouds,
how an ancient palace in Florence can send a poet’s mind to wander
over distant spaces and half-forgotten dreams,
how a Chopin nocturne or a Charlie Parker moan
can raise the utterance of a sound beyond its simple reverberation.
So we grope for a word, a sound to add clarity to our sensations
and the word Beauty aspirates our lips.

 

JR Phillips

 

 

2012 JR Phillips


 

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