The Reading Series in the Classroom: Carl Phillips

Carl PhillipsThis week, in continuation with our series, “The Reading Series in the Classroom,” we here at Wordplay will introduce your students to the writing of Carl Phillips. Phillips will read at the Poetry Center this Thursday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. Phillips's reading will be best suited for high school students, but his poetry also appeals to a K-5 audience. Please print and read Phillip's poem, Civilization, with your students, and then follow the writing prompts below. Also, to encourage your students to answer the writing prompts, we've included this Extra Credit Worksheet, which you can download, print, and hand-out to your students. Finally, as extension activites, feel free to check out this great reading and interview with Carl Phillips on PBS Newshour's Art Beat. Also, local poet and teacher, Christopher Nelson, shares his insights about teaching the Poetry Center's Reading Series in the Classroom in this great interview on Wordplay. Hope to see you all at the reading on Thursday!

1. In "Civilization," Phillips often inserts italicized snippets of dialogue into the poem. In a journal or on a piece of paper, record dialogue that you hear throughout the day. Then, write a poem, inserting bits of the dialogue that you heard in italics.

2. In the poem, Phillips expresses that "I have no regrets." He goes on to list a series of things that he doesn't regret in life, preceded with the word "not." For example:

“had I

understood, though I have

 no regrets. Not the broken but

 still-flowering dogwood. Not

the honey locust, either. Not even

   the ghost walnut with its

non-branches whose

   every shadow is memory,


3. What are some things/aspects of your life that you do not regret? Using the repetition of not, write a list of things that you do not regret. For example: Not the broken arm, not the missing homework, not the purple hair.”

4. The first line of Civilization reads, "There's an art / to everything." Phillips goes on to describe "how / the rain means / April and an ongoing-ness like / that of song until at last / it ends." Take an everday, mundane task--like brushing your teeth--and describe the art that's behind it.

Carl Phillips is the author of twelve books of poems, most recently Double Shadow, winner of the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and Silverchest, forthcoming in 2013. He has also written a book of prose, Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry. His honors include the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Prize, and awards and fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets, to which he was named a Chancellor in 2007. Phillips teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Created on: 
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
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