Poetry and Prose

Thomas Phalen




Poetry is first and always a love affair with words: love of words and words of love.

Poetry is the distillation from experience and sense of those essential elements: flavorful, volatile, powerful, that inform otherwise insipid existence with the illusions of significance and meaning. There is a reduction and a refinement and an intensification of the essence to its irreducible nature. It becomes piquant and startling. Without this alchemical reduction it is not poetry.

Poetry is that collection of words, textured by rhythm and sound, designed to evoke in the reader a simulacrum of the experience or sensation which led to the creation of the poem in the first place. Or it is that creative product which was the result of an experience or sensation had by the poet and it is the synthesis of that antecedent (experience or sensation) which the poet, through the poem, seeks to share.

Poetry is a tonic we have invented to tolerate and ameliorate, for a time, the cruel toxicity of existence. We invented it, as we did god in his heaven, to make life mythic and to keep us from madness and suicide in this pitiless abattoir. For a pleasant air of disaster attends us all.

Short Stories

My short stories are an excuse for my failure to have the stamina and steadfastness to write a novel. To the extent I am guided by any principle in writing short stories, perhaps I am guided by Poe’s Philosophy of Composition. The broad outlines of this piece of literary criticism are that the story should be short (“There is,” he wrote, “a distinct limit . . . to all works of literary art - the limit of a single sitting.”); that it be the product of methodical and analytical method as distinct from the fallacy of “spontaneous” composition; and that it have a “unity of effect,” which is to say that all elements of the story must be solely for supporting and strengthening a single purpose. My stories suffer from a failure to conform to any of Poe’s criteria, but they are as you find them and what I intended, more or less.



The poems you shared are marvelous. It would be a pleasure to produce an issue of The Lune featuring you in this work. There is something of “god” and “watchmaker,” I feel that easily transcends the political allure of dogma and theology...Grit and pulp are two words that come to mouth and mind while reading your poems. And the linguistic density-and-levity (dance?) of something essentially [Irish] in your poems is not lost on me, either.
— Joe Braun, editor, The Lune
Tom’s self-published collections . . . are among my treasured volumes. Mountain Wizard has been, amidst the mosh, a pool of beauty and clarity . . . There is so much that is admirable and delightful; . . . on one level there are the quick pirouettes in tone and register, the incredible sprung rhythms (à la Hopkins) and gorgeous sonics, the fruitful anachronisms; on another, the penetrating mind that gathers in the landscape—although seemingly effortless, the result of years of attentiveness and haptic training. The whole affects an enchantment that is the opposite of mystification: rather one feels as if one has gazed through to the core of the living cosmos, which is also to say, all the worthless crap that normally ruins the day falls away. Through a glass clearly.
— Gina Maranto, Graduate Program Coordinator, University of Miami
I’d say something wonderfully clever and full of good natured guy-joshing, but those were truly moving Tom. You hung your soul out for the world to see. Love you man.
— Gordon Mallon, Renowned Criminal Defense Lawyer
This is good stuff. Congratulations. If I could get an advance copy, I will incorporate it into my AP Lang and Comp syllabus for next year. You can hang with Joyce and Yeats and Heaney, et al. Your soul has plenty of stuff woven into the warp and weave (and weal), and timid it is not. There must be some of Harding’s Tinkers in you too as you have explored new realities.
— Kelly Blake, Poet, and English Literature Teacher


Beatific Visions ©1995

Ravaged Angel ©1996

Love to Ashes ©1998

Mountain Wizard © 2010

Achill Sounds © 2012

The Lune, Vol. II, No. I - Winter 2017

Alembic (Work in Progress)

The Orchard Stories © 2010 

About Me

Thomas Phalen is an Irish/American dual national, raised in the American West. He is a criminal defense attorney and his practice is devoted mostly to the defense of capital (death penalty) cases. He has been writing poetry very nearly all his life, but with a degree of diligent consistency for the last 30 years. He has five “self-published” collections of poetry that he has assembled over the past two decades. They are: Beatific Visions, Ravaged Angel, Love to Ashes, Mountain Wizard and Achill Sounds. Some of these poems were published in The Lune, Vol. II No. I, Winter 2017. He is working on and will complete a sixth volume this year, entitled Alembic. The things he does well are few indeed, but he is a fly-fisher, a poet, a gardener, a marathoner, a student of the French language, an ardent international traveler, and a woodworker. He lives with his beautiful and talented artist wife, Stacie, and their genius Border Collie, Finnbar. They have a house in Phoenix and a cabin in the woods of Flagstaff, Arizona. 

Upcoming Events

Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, August 15-25, 2018, Contributor in Poetry.