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Carl Phillips’ poetry of metamorphosis of everyday life

Carl Phillips

Poetry is an abstract element in nature. One always feels the words, despite themselves. However, almost every poet in history was once shy to publicise their work. Carl Phillips, a professor of English at Washington University, describes the evolution of his poetry in a Cut & Paste Podcast of Saint Louis University. Regarded as one of America’s influential poet, he started as a scribbler. While teaching Latin in high school, he attended a faculty workshop by the poet Martin Espada. The latter urged Phillips to seek state grant after witnessing his work in a writing exercise.


Looking through Phillips’ works

Receiving this grant, Phillips turned into an avid poet and writer. In the podcast, he recalls memories to be his calling in writing poems. From cooking dinner to walking his dog, Ben, his poetry revels in the granted things of life. His work speaks freely about spirituality, sexuality, mortality, and faith. His poems find honour and recognition in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006). Winner of various prestigious awards, he also leads the creative writing graduate program at his university. He expresses pure delight for this position as he is the only person in the group who is black and queer.

Spectacular turn in Phillips’ poetry

Although not one to write on a specific theme, Phillips describes the uncharacteristic turn in his poetry due to current events. His poem ‘Swear It’ is a response to the national crisis created by the death of George Floyd. The poem celebrates life and addresses the fear of always being hunted for one’s colour and race. Written from a psychological and an emotional place, the poem talks of what it is to be alive and not among the dead.  Phillips explains how hard it is not to write anything politically charged when you are black, and queer too.


Phillips and his poetry are sources of inspiration beyond words. Realistic and original, his works urges readers to accept the originality and realism of life. It seeks to celebrate life in the small moments that we take for granted.


Dibyasha Das