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The Stone Gatherer

There is a candour to Esther Phillips’s affecting collection of poems, The Stone Gatherer, that can be quite disarming. In poems that undress the foibles of family – a father’s masks and a mother’s ‘fortissimo’ – there is tenderness and affection despite the pain. Here is a poet’s voice that seeks and finds grace notes in the spaces between experience.


Esther Phillips
Date published
4 May 2009

Hers is a poetics that locates itself in the landscape of Barbados, displaying a facility for the Barbadian dialect and the lyrical West Indian English of the major poets that have come before her. The collection’s structure is a woman-centred movement of poems that begins with the complex coming-of-age journey of a child, through an adulthood of romance and crushed emotions, through the rewards and anxieties of motherhood, to the contemplative and reflective place of maturity where a woman assumes the role of elder, protector of the community, and of prophet. Phillips embraces all of these roles in her poems, allowing us to enjoy what becomes an expansive narrative through time and life’s changes. She shows herself to have the wit and intelligence of an artist committed to the use of verse to test the meaning of experience. And yet in all of this, we are often most struck by Phillips’s eye for detail, her sense of landscape and her willingness to locate her poems in the world that moves and breathes around her.
In The Stone Gatherer, one has the sense of an artist collecting stones of different shapes and dimensions, arranging them in such a way that there is space enough for them to breathe and for us to pause to think and feel.

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Esther Phillips

Esther Phillips gained an MFA degree in Creative Writing in 1999 from the University of Miami, and won the Alfred Boas Poetry Prize of the Academy of American Poets for her poetry collection/thesis.

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