The poems in Phases are as interested in the creeping penumbral edge of language as they are in the shadowy fact of faith. Playful experiments with form swing to the conceptual ring's apogee, while a colloquy across history and place center the proverbial orbit.
Poems playful, at times, epigrammatic, conscious of things Italian and incongruous—they are delightful and plain spoken, rhythmic and musical, at times difficult enough to slow the reader’s march through them, most times sufficiently welcoming and placed (e.g., the Pacific Northwest) to keep the reader coming back for more.
Phases proves…that poetry can be clever without being condescending, full without being congested, mysterious without being murky, fun (and funny) without being flippant, vulnerable without being self-indulgent, and touching without being sentimental.
Phases, then, offers the spectacle of a poet wrestling with the peculiarly modern angel of irony and thereby finding a fresh and convincing way into ancient mystery...[it] is a wonderful book, filled with energy and thoughtfulness.
The poems cover history and technology, art and heartache. They’re filled with flashes of insight and understanding. It’s a brilliant collection, and I don’t often use the word “brilliant.”
The Englewood Review of Books
Adept at engaging the reader with music and humor, keen to the ironies of modern culture...as a first collection, Phases marks an auspicious debut, auguring good things to come. Challenged to deepen their understanding of everyday life, readers will benefit from accompanying Willett on these travels.
“There are echoes of the world Hopkins knew in Willett’s collection, a world charged with the grandeur of God, but Phases is no mere act of mimesis. Willett’s voice is his own, and his verse offers astonishing moments of confrontation and consolation. These poems name the reality of our shared human experience, and sing with wild abandon.”
— Jeremiah Webster, author of After So Many Fires
“Mischa Willett has a music all his own, albeit a music informed by years of his attending to the inexhaustible songs that comprise both world poetry and sacred text. He plays, therefore, with received matter, and he employs surprising linguistic brilliance to compose oratoria that brighten the heart of his reader, even as they transpose the familiar, offering echoes of a prior song lovingly adapted to a new, an exhilarating voice.”
— Scott Cairns, author of Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems
“Mischa Willett’s Phases takes time in stride. These poems rub shoulders with classical figures and Biblical traditions, stoics and shepherds and sleep-deprived poets, the better to place the old stories in a contemporary light. I admire the epigrammatic wit, Martial-like in its cutting wryness. If the unexamined life is not worth living, these poems investigate the daily struggle to find one’s place in the bigger picture—‘like holding one’s breath / to remember the air.’”
— Kevin Craft, Author of Vagrants and Accidentals