Two Peas in a Pod: Luther Hughes Recommends

We’re pleased to share Two Peas in a Pod—a small column in which our favorite poets pair a book of poems with a book of prose.

The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips


Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed

When I think of risk, restlessness, and imagination, as it pertains to poetry and “the lyric,” Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed, 2018 National Book Award for Poetry winner, is what comes to mind. In The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips, Phillips interrogates what poetry can and should do, how one writes risk into a poem and how one is able to successfully reimagine an experience. But there’s more to this and to the way Phillips encapsulates the age-old critique: what’s at stake—and the more he pushes, the more the question transforms? What was once a mediation on poetry—as in the essay “Beautiful Dreamer” where he states: “The poem is a form of negotiation with what haunts us”—is now a mediation on power, mercy, and, at its heart, the human experience. This, too, happens in Indecency. Though not in that same order, Reed, too, interrogates risk and imagination, transforming the “I” and manipulating memory. In Reed’s poems, the speaker is restless, wondering, almost, through their own interiority as the body interacts (or is acted upon) with the world around them. This “interaction” is catalyst for the same questions Phillips poses about being human. In the poem, “Paroxysm,” the speaker states: “The question of living becomes one of / committing to your own extinction.” These books not only push us to question our lives, but they both offer us a new window into the question: what does it mean to be alive?

Luther Hughes

Luther Hughes is a Seattle native and author of Touched (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018). He is the Founding Editor in Chief of The Shade Journal, Executive Editor for The Offing, and Editor-at-Large of Frontier Poetry. A Cave Canem fellow, his work has been published or is forthcoming in various journals including, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, TriQuartlery, Four Way Review, and others.  Luther received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful.

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