The Most Human Human Contest by Carlo Matos
Slash Pine Press, 2015; 32 pp
Reviewed by Kristina Marie Darling


Carlo Matos's stunning new chapbook, The Most Human Human Contest, reads as an exploration of violence and containment. Presented in dense prose blocks, the poems depict a speaker's life as a cage fighter, offering readers a graceful matching of form and content all the while. Just as aggression, fear, and conflict are held within the seemingly small space of the fighters' cage, these neatly presented paragraphs contain worlds within them. Consider this passage, "I don't remember walking out to the cage. I don't remember what song was playing. I don't remember the cage door locking—usually my favorite part" (29). What's fascinating about this poem is that Matos makes ambitious philosophical claims about the nature of violence with subtlety and wit. In many ways, he suggests that because aggression is neatly contained in such a way, there's no longer a risk that it will spiral out of control, since it is relegated to a controlled environment. Reminiscent of René Girard's provocative claims in Violence and the Sacred, Matos philosophizes while at the same time dazzling the reader with his subtle stylistic choices. The visual appearance of the poem on the page mirrors this idea of containment, while at the same time complicating it, suggesting the precarious nature of our attempts to control violence. In short, The Most Human Human Contest is as finely crafted as it is contemplative. This chapbook is an accomplished addition to Matos' innovative body of work.