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2009 National Book Award Finalist,

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Carl Phillips
Speak Low
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Photo credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths


"We believe, wishing for what, by now even we can't put a name to,” says Carl Phillips in his book's title poem "Speak Low." We believe because his poems offer us hope through the constellation of the body and soul, suffering and salvation, and, ultimately, many truths. Like a constellation, these poems forecast and guide with light. Through deep structural and syntactic dexterity, Speak Low illustrates life's tension between desires of the body and the weighing of our actions by the spirit.


In his tenth book of poems, Carl Phillips examines the moral and psychological fetters that we impose on ourselves and that are imposed on us, as well as the possibility of achieving some meaningful freedom from both. Moving effortlessly from the body as a site of conquest to the human history of power, Speak Low weighs the human cost of ambition, desire, and risk. What is meant by a fully lived, authentic life, and what must be sacrificed to achieve it? Phillips addresses these topics with his characteristic clarity and originality of thought, beautiful imagery, and linguistic dexterity. Speak Low is the record of a powerful vision that continues to illuminate what it has meant—and can mean—to be alive and human in the world.


Carl Phillips is the author of Speak Low and nine previous books of poems, including Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006; Riding Westward; and The Rest of Love, a National Book Award finalist. He teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.


Carl Phillips' Wikipedia Entry

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Conversation: Poet Carl Phillips
Posted by Jeffrey Brown , April 28, 2009

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Excerpted from Speak Low by Carl Phillips. Copyright © 2009 by Carl Phillips. Published in April 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


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