Revolving around the deaths of the poetÆs parents and first wife, The Clearing is a sustained meditation on the nature of love and its transformations. Perpetually dissatisfied with memory and what one poem calls ôthe falsehoods about deathö we tell ourselves, WhiteÆs poems turn on emotional openness and probing inquiry.
ôHow moving it is to find a book so haunted by tragedy and death that is, in addition, soberly life-affirming. A clearing is an empty space, but it is also a habit of mind, an act of clarification. Philip White knows painÆs truths, the most awful of which is that the dead donÆt come back. After such knowledge, he then recognizes that æmind-changing sorrow dribbles away.Æ His poems record irreplaceable loss, and they also represent one manÆs resilience and his ability to feel and love again. The Clearing is a very promising debut.ö ùWillard Spiegelman
ôPhilip WhiteÆs remarkable sequence conveys with great force the emptying of self and world through the loss of a sustaining love, and the grim, gradual outliving of that state. Though anything but metronomic, his poems have a versatile formal strength, and can, for instance, make use at moments of the sonnetÆs structure. Even when confronting a world void of meaning, White has an admirable descriptive power, and nothing could be more vivid than these graveside lines from æEast LawnÆ:ö
First the flowers were thrown,
then the earth. I remember the rich incremental
dark by shovelful smothering their flaming colors
like a cloudbank slowly blotting out stars.