Stopping By

Stopping by with Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of seven previous books of poetry, prose, and translation. The recipient of a Whiting Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, the Nicolás Guillén Outstanding Book Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and the GLCA New Writers Award, Phillips has been a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, and an NAACP Image Award, and has been long-listed for the National Book Award for Poetry. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at Stony Brook University and the poetry editor of The New Republic. His book in progress, I Just Want Them to Remember Me: Black Baseball in America will be published by FSG in 2025. He lives in New York City and Barcelona.


What is your first memory of poetry?

My mother's recitations of Shakespeare at home.

What is a poem/book/piece of art that changed or greatly influenced your life? Why/how?


This question reminds me of something St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions: “What is time then? If nobody asks me, I know; but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I do not know.” I don't trust narratives of influence. Influence is a messy, feral thing. If I can make a quick narrative of it, it didn't really influence me.

What is the last thing you read that moved you?


Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1977

What was the first concert you attended?

My childhood best friend Desmond Armstrong and I airplayed Side 1 of Prince's1999 for his parents and friends in their living room. Dez was on air guitar. I was on air piano. We should have charged. Desmond was taken from us way too soon. He was the subject of "Grief and the Imaginary Grave" in The Ground.

What's an additional talent you secretly wish you had?

Drawing.

What is your morning routine?

Wake up before the sun rises and set out to meet it.

What is one of your guilty pleasures?

J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!

Is there a public space you feel particularly attached to?

The Met.

What do you want people to take away from your work? 

I don't. The work is the work. First chill, then stupor, then the letting go. I think there's a little something for everyone in my work. But when I let it go, it belongs then to the readers: they can take away from it what they want.

Could you let us know if you are working on anything you can tell us about right now? 

I'm writing a book called I Just Want Them to Remember Me: Black Baseball in America, that will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux soon. And, as always, I have some poems in my head that I'll get to eventually...eventually.

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