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PRINT November 1996

TOM PHILLIPS: A HUMUMENT, 1987

Some pre-Socratic philosophers conceived the cosmos as contained in a ring of fire, so that there were no stars like bright stones sparkling in the sky; rather, night’s dark sphere was colandered with holes through which the outer fire showed, and our spangled sky was illusory. Illusory or not, those holes through which radiance streamed formed constellations; meaning ran from point to point in every watching eye; and then the shapes assumed the features of Perseus and Orion, reflecting heroic lives alleged to have been lived here on our own fair fields. From windows of illumination through lines of meaning to a course of life: that’s how I like to think Tom Phillips’ extraordinary literary Elysium is cosmologized. There is initially the word hoard like the outer firmament of fire we cannot see, divided arbitrarily as the print fell, from page to page, with its prose going about its business

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