Matt presented “Somewhere Holy” by Carl Phillips. It's a complex poem, at once fast-moving and hesitant, with telling digressions where the speaker/persona as well as the audience find it difficult to “read,” ie trust, the social situation. The desperation suggested by the syntax creates stakes that relentlessly increase, revealing vulnerabilities the speaker and stranger share—desire for human connection, no matter how addictive or dangerous.
In presenting it, Matt integrated his pacing notes from our first week. He also modified our enunciation notes in interesting ways.
Instead of focusing at the level of individual sounds, which wouldn’t have served the colloquial tone, Matt relied on breath at the level of phrasing and line breaks. It seemed this allowed him to mirror the speaker’s colloquial driving hesitation, conveying the fear of and desire for connection.
Narrative clarity was essential to deliver a listener an understanding of the poem, but this poem asks so much more from the audience and the presenter. Phillips is not merely telling the characters’ story for the sake of our intellectual understanding. The first inkling of that appeared in the tone of voice Matt used for the title.
He somehow blended skepticism, sarcasm and faith. That curious mix oriented me as a listener and compelled me through the poem's
hovering tension and its many layers of nuanced complexity.
It's tempting in any narrative to deliver finality at the end. Matt resisted that temptation so that where we arrived was a more profound destination. Here is an interview Phillips gave Elizabeth Hover discussing “Somewhere Holy” and the poet's intentions for resonance or resolution.