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North Carolina Miscellany



One might suggest that the tendency of good poetry to expose vulnerabilities is one reason why readers are drawn to verse. Two contemporary collections, Amber Drive by Kevin Rippin and Empty Clip by Emilia Phillips, expose the vulnerabilities of their readers and speakers with confrontational poems that cut to the core of today’s concerns.

“WE WILL NEVER FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER / FOR BEING HUMAN” a review by Hannah Crane Sykes Emilia Phillips. Empty Clip. University of Akron Press, 2018. Kevin Rippin. Amber Drive. Main Street Rag Publishing, 2018.

HANNAH CRANE SYKES is a native of Western North Carolina but currently lives in the Piedmont region. She earned her BA from Western Carolina University and her MA from UNC Greensboro. She teaches at Southwestern Community College and is a regular reviewer for NCLR. Her review’s title comes from Phillips’s poem “On Receipt of a Dick Pic.” EMILIA PHILLIPS is the author of two other poetry collections published by the University of Akron Press: Groundspeed (2016) and Signaletics (2013), and three chapbooks, most recent Hemlock (Diode Editions, 2019). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in literary publications including Agni, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. She is an Assistant Professor in the UNC Greensboro MFA Writing Program and Department of English. KEVIN RIPPIN earned an MA in writing from the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked as a corporate editor and writer and currently teaches writing at NCA&T State University in Greensboro. He has published articles, reviews, and poetry in numerous magazines and journals, including Southern Poetry Review, Poetry East, and Pittsburgh Quarterly.

In Amber Drive, Kevin Rippin presents blunt, fleshy poems that inspire the reader to pause to consider carefully the raw images and the feelings they invoke. The collection is divided into five unnamed sections that follow thematic patterns. Sometimes the themes are quite evident, as in the section about Amber Drive and people who live there; other times the themes are more abstract, all bound by the realistic voices presenting these lines. Even “love” poems in Amber Drive are singed with the raw feelings: of first love, for example, as in “Lilac,” which imagines the speaker’s parents perhaps driven by the scent of lilac infused and embedded in their memories of new love as the catalyst for their marriage. The mind willingly relents to the risk of love: “The mind does not care about the future // . . . . / . . . Everybody there / knows it’s too late, there’s nothing anybody can do to rescue them.” On the other end of the emotional spectrum, loss is given the same raw treatment, softened only by Rippin’s ability to turn a phrase. “Pheasants” draws a heart-wrenching dichotomy of depravity and plenty. The speaker reports, Some lunatic, crazed over a minor indiscretion or drunk after his exhausting day in the bar, blew away his wife and little girl. Christ, Christmas is coming and we are hungry for the slightest morsel of love we can find. Our plush tables overflow with fowl. We feast until we’re stuffed, famished again in an hour, never satisfied. Everything connects.

The rawness is felt especially in poems like “Deer Hunting in Girty.” Hunting season arrives with the tension of “your boy” dressed in his fluorescent kit and the city men . . . .... trying to recapture their animal instincts, their nerves frayed from the city, their Winchesters polished, their safeties off.

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2020  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2020  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.