Professor Philip Gross celebrates the ageing body in new book

Philip Gross

The TS Eliot prize winning poet Philip Gross has published his latest collection.

Love Songs of Carbon (Bloodaxe Books) is Philip Gross’s 18th book of poetry, and is a coming of age – inhabiting the ageing body with a confident, inventive curiosity. 

These are love poems, both to the person and to the body itself, even as – especially as – it faces entropy and decay. 

"Does that sound gloomy? Not a bit of it," says Philip Gross, professor of Creative Writing at USW and award leader for the flagship MPhil in Writing programme.

"The poems are just what they say, many of them written for my wife and friends – a way of enjoying and valuing life, and each other. 

"Our culture works so hard at telling us that our bodies should be glossier and younger. These poems celebrate us just the way we are.”

“This book is what it says on the cover, if carbon refers to the carbon-based life forms we all are – ones with bodies that age and decay and (in the case of a poem here about my parents’ ashes) that come back to carbon in the end.

Asked where the idea for the book came from, Philip said: ‘From the age that I am. This body. And the fact that I’ve written two books (Deep Field and Later) about accompanying my parents through their extreme old age and dying, and suddenly… look up and find there’s no one left in the family to do the job of being old. Or no one else but me."

Find out more about studying English and Creative Writing at USW.

Acclaim for Love Songs of Carbon

‘At the heart of all of Gross's collections has been his deep enquiry into and fascination with the nature of embodiment and existence – what water is and does in The Water Table, the role of language, and speech especially, in identity and the self in Deep Field and Later. Now in Love Songs of Carbon Gross tests and feels his amazed way through the mysteries of themultiple manifestations of love and ageing... Such exactitude of feeling and image is typical of all Gross's work, and no less inventively in this new collection. Characteristic too is his focused, sustained approach across the whole book: Love Songs of Carbon asks to be read as a song-book, to use the terms of its presentation, curated for the reader to turn and return to. From poem to poem, pace and metrics quicken and still and quicken again as the book progresses.’ – John Burnside & Jane Draycott, PBS Bulletin

‘Gross does appear to have come into his own, with fresh wind in his sails… Now in his sixties… he is working at quite a throttle and with a full-throated clarity that sounds, suddenly, like no one else around.’ – Conor O’Callaghan, Poetry London

About Philip Gross

Philip Gross is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Wales. 

His books include the Poetry Book Society Recommendations Later (2013) and Deep Field (2011), which was shortlisted for the Roland Mathias Poetry Award (Wales Book of the Year) and The Water Table (2009), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize.

His book I Spy Pinhole Eye (Cinnamon Press, 2009), a collaborative work with photographer Simon Denison, won the Wales Book of the Year Award 2010. He is also the author of ten highly-praised novels for young people.

Born in Cornwall, he lived in Bristol for many years, and now lives in Penarth.