Author Q & A with Jack Phillips
February 23, 2022
This week we are bringing you an interview with poet and Naturalist Jack Phillips. Jack lives in the Missouri River watershed of eastern Nebraska and is the founder of The Naturalist School, a nonprofit organization devoted to poetic wildness and the consilience of creativity and ecology. His poem “Felis Ellipses” appeared in our latest issue.
We asked Jack to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his poem. His response was just about as poetic as his poem!
“Friends, poetry is a path, a lens, a raw impulse, and a for me — and for all who seek it — a way to connect with the wildly creative pulse and tissue of the cosmos. The sticky-slip of a tadpole on your skin or the baby-rattle wings of a dragonfly tug at the soul draws us deeply into the planetary body we share. Right here and now. On this day my friends and I slunk a frozen creek right through urban Lincoln and soon realized that we were so close to a bobcat in heat we could smell her. As I read her spoor-poem, her little press and step presently melting the snow, I composed a bit of ephemera of my own.”
We then asked Jack if he has any upcoming projects he’d like to share or promote.
“Yes! Frequently on Sunday mornings, we gather in a native place to saunter, write, make ephemeral art, listen to wild silences. No experience required — only feral desires and good boots. See thenaturalistschool.org.”
Many of Jack’s poems ooze the “Good Life” vibe, so we were especially interested in what he thinks about when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.”
“I have left Nebraska several times, thinking that I would remain in Alaska or Egypt or the Levant, but this is home. Of course, few of us are truly native here. My childhood sloughs and wooded creeks, sandy meanders, pop-up meadows have vanished; the wild Nebraska of my youth has largely disappeared. But a ghost wilderness survives, and it is good. Can you feel it?”
Yes, Jack, we can!
Jack is the author of The Bur Oak Manifesto: Seeking Nature and Planting Trees in the Great Plains and co-editor of Natural Treasures of the Great Plains: an Ecological Perspective (with Paul Johnsgard and Tom Lynch). His poetry has appeared in Wild Roof, Flora Fiction, EcoTheo, The Closed Eye Open, Canary: a Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis, and THE POET.
Thanks, Jack, for being a part of our winter issue and for participating in this Q & A.
~The Good Life Review Team