Cover image for The determined days
The determined days
Stephens, Philip, 1966-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
92 pages ; 22 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3569.T4518 D48 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The latest in the Sewanee Writer's Series published by the Overlook Press, Philip Stephens's The Determined Days presents far-ranging urban and rural locales in the Midwest, the Ozarks and northern California. In each of these bleak landscapes, Stephens introduces us to a host of unforgettable characters: a former gravedigger who believes ghosts stole his first-born: a young couple forced to stay the night at a motel run by a pornography-watching desk clerk: a woman haunted by a headless deer; a gang of railroad signalmen who get through their exhausting workdays by telling stories, arguing, and vying for what power they can gain in an indifferent world.Throughout this stunning collection, characters tell tales to bring order to their disappointing and already-determined days. Ironic, sometimes tragic, and always provocative, The Determined Days is a startling reevaluation of the ideas of labor, life, and relationships -- as well as the expectations of contemporary American poetry.

Author Notes

Philip Stephens was educated at the University of Missouri at Columbia, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of California at Irvine. His writing has appeared in such publications as Agni, Southwest Review, The North American Review, and The Oxford American.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Frost is apparently Stephens' master, for here are dialogues, narratives, and first-person reports, not necessarily of Stephens' own experiences, in shapely, conversational blank verse or, in the book's first and last poems, in iambic pentameter couplets with minimal imperfect rhyming. The subjects are Frostlike, and Wordsworthlike, too: events in the lives of people who work, get drunk, go a little crazy (with good reason), have odd encounters, and try to be friendly. Stephens' people are, however, less of Frost's world than of Philip Levine's: men doing dirty labor, social work, old-fashioned newsroom duty, and white-collar grunt jobs. Stephens has a realist fiction writer's flair for scene, speech, and character, and the incidents in his poems are as all-too-humanly true as those in a good John O'Hara short story. In poems like "Human Resources," in which the recently divorced narrator is egged into "hitting on" a woman in a bar, Stephens honors all his possible influences. He repeats the feat in virtually every poem in an excellent first collection. --Ray Olson

Table of Contents

Ditch Diggingp. 13
I. Hangmanp. 17
Marchp. 20
Blue Rose Motelp. 22
Vineyardp. 25
Public Relationsp. 28
The Headless Deerp. 30
Visitorp. 33
The Ordered Lifep. 36
Owl in the Snowp. 39
Salt of the Earthp. 44
II. Stripperp. 49
Undertowp. 51
Paradise, Missourip. 53
In the Neighborhoodp. 55
Ornamentsp. 57
Habitp. 59
Transferp. 62
Human Resourcesp. 64
III. Commutep. 69
True Storyp. 72
Tunnel Onep. 75
Solidarityp. 77
Seniorityp. 80
The Signalmenp. 83
Humanp. 85
God Shed His Gracep. 87
Climbingp. 91