Luc Phinney


Winner of the 2013 T. S. Eliot Prize

This prize-winning collection is rigorous, experimental, and intimate.

Weight N/A
Dimensions N/A

Ebook, Paperback

ISBN: N/A Categories: ,


Winner of the 2013 T. S. Eliot Prize

Hammering on high ladders and plumbing the Paris catacombs, the poems of Luc Phinney’s debut Compass take us to times and places as familiar as they are strange. These are landscapes of primordial language and of the everyday origins of fatherhood; of the urban and the wild, and of the human act of making. In the modern, tangled world these poems travel, but they always orbit home. This prize-winning collection is rigorous, experimental, and intimate.

Luc Phinney recalls the ancient notion of poet as maker, for Compass possesses the imagistic substance, auditory sway and verbal materiality of a made thing. Each poem is like an architectural structure whose lines have been measured, leveled and hammered into place, yet for all the hard labor that went into their making, their interior spaces are filled with the spirit of human affection. As tender and open-hearted as it is determined, as intimate and adoring as it is dramatic, Compass forms a wonderfully accomplished addition to contemporary American poetry.

—Sherod Santos, 2013 T. S. Eliot Prize judge

Luc Phinney’s first collection of poems, Compass, has the savvy of a man who understands landscapes in all their dimensions. He feels the stories in place and along the ground; his poems have blood and bulk and the delicacy of a sweeping wind. Compass is an original thing and I am sure readers will welcome this herald of a fine new poet on the scene.

— Dave Smith

Here is a book that celebrates the work of making. Walking a woman home and thinking of love, throwing a pot on a wheel, building a house with his hands, raising a child, speaking to us in poems, Phinney knows the work of making is pleasure. He sings and dreams in lush exact terms. He has made something useful. Here is a smart and joyful book.

— Steve Scafidi

Luc Phinney’s poems give us the heavenly vertigo of falling stars, falling rain, falling into sleep, falling in love. The music of that falling spills down his sentences, down stanzas and beyond into the next and the next. Yet this sensual and thoughtful poet knows where he’s going, as if he were possessed of the compass of his title. How does he do it? Let the reader simply revel in the song. As Phinney writes, “What bird / doesn’t cease on the chaise of the analyst?”

— Mary Jo Salter



Part 1: The Work of the Hands
Archaeologies of Knowledge
After College
God Speaks
At the Forge after an Argument
Ars Poetica

Part 2: The Work of the Song
Market Closing
Turnings of Fire
Sub Rosa
On Visiting a Brutalist Monastery near Éveux, France
Contemplating Proposing
Wedding Night in a Tipi
Hidden Lake
Early Ultrasound
At 9 Months
Kairos Being Born
A Father’s Vertigo
The Circumcision
Of Apples and Architects
Aubade, with Legos
A Night in the Hospital
Catoctin Lullaby
Propagations of Days

Part 3: The Work of the Echo
Midnight at the Cabin
Cabbage Moths
The Call
Larkin’s Blue Wonder
Accept No Imitations
A Dispensation from the Vows
Coyote Elegy
Travels in Requiem
On the Way to Catoctin
Lost in Fireworks
Listening for the Emperor of Ice Cream on a Rainy Afternoon
Stopping by a Mint Field on the Eastside Highway
The Pleasures of the Alphabet

About the Author


Luc Phinney has worked as a carpenter, contractor, site engineer, landscape architect, poetry lecturer, and park worker. His designs for buildings and landscapes have been completed in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming. While living in Montana, he designed and built with his architect wife, a house made from the boles of firs, steel, and travertine. This is his first book of poems.


[Phinney's poems] speak not to a dissonance between nature and building, but what exists at center, a desired harmony.

—Green Mountains Review

Compass is a collection that pays homage to the scaffolding, a carefully constructed exploration into the life space of work that breathes before things are as we see them.

Cameron Conaway, April 2014

Even this late in the Age of Emotion, it still seems daring for a man to write frankly and tenderly about being a father. The central section of Luc Phinney’s Compass covers that territory with humor, pathos, and pluck, as “half giddy, half sick,” he watches his sons grow up.

—David Starkey, Santa Barbara Independent,
April 2014

Book Review of “Compass” by Luc Phinney
Book Review of “Compass” by Luc Phinney
Book Review of “Compass” by Luc PhinneyCameron Conaway

You may also like…