The poems of Mutual Shores are delivered by one voice, but that voice has the tenor of many. Sterling is a poet straightforward in language and tone yet charmingly deceitful in subject––he draws an idea from the natural world then nurtures it, watches it grow. What results is a furthering of the human experience, a relativity that makes random the Chain of Being and leaves us where ‘the rain evokes / no patron saint’ and only a small green lizard / offers hope.’ Sterling, from him singular vantage point somewhere between the ground and the sky, says to us all This is what you should have seen.
“The gravity of these poems, their responsibility to feeling as to form, never precludes the possibility of humor, even of hilarity. Sterling sounds a representative American note, as winning and as unworldly as the Whitman he glimpses, conscious as he is of his own destination, conscious of the time as well. As his noble poet says, with characteristic understatement (undersong), ‘history’s so often questionable.'”
“A beautiful lyricism radiates through the elegant poems of Phillip Sterling’s debut collection, like he patterns of stained glass in Notre Dame’s rose Window––poems that view both ‘the earthy smell of light rain / clipping its early wings on glass’ and ‘some human smell, some sweat / diffused like light’ (‘A Certain Slant’) . . . Sterling’s is a right, new voice.”
“Richly quiet and intelligent, these multi-layered, well-crafted poems might tempt us to see them as contemplation perfectly restrained––but for the rumble, the earth shift, discernible and coming, underneath.”
“Sterling’s best quality as an observer is a persistent romanticism that allows him to see beauty in a ordinary lawn chair, “its tubing and taut straps host[ing] levels of light.”
—Vince Gotera, North American Review
Phillip Sterling was born in Michigan and raised among its lakes. He lives in Big Rapids where he teaches at Ferris State University. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, Western Humanities Review, andThe Writer’s Chronicle. Among his awards are a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, and two Senior Fulbright lectureships (Belgium and Poland).