April Penn 's response to Anne Carson's "Autobiography Of Red" is here. We'll be back to write interactions with Red Doc in 2031.
An Eruption Of Red
Applause For Anne Carson
Autobiography of Red grows legs and arms
and jumps off my bookshelf.
I don’t know if I am inside or outside of the volcano,
confesses the book after it gathers itself off the floor.
I try to reason with the book.
No, that’s not what happened.
I smeared some period blood on page three
where Anne Carson has quoted Gertrude Stein.
Geeze you’re even better than if we hired Richard Brautigan
to write his version of Where the Wild Things Are.
And I want to know. I am the kind of reader
who insists on every flash of light and where it falls.
So let the lava rise up to speak of interior things!
Hear me! The lava has risen!
I see everyone reflecting in the eye of the fried guinea pig.
Even in fragments, there is unity.
Everyone is red.
Any idiot can put on a pterodactyl suit and jump into the volcano,
but no one can make you more jealous
of their metaphorical depth than Anne Carson.
Here's my third shot at the second interaction with Anne Carson's Autobiography Of Red. I wanted to steer it well wide of the last one, even though I really liked it. So this is more like some of the early poems in the collection.
II. The Journalist Resigns
None of our photographs show us the way we wish to be resolved
The man who lives in
neighborhood wants Adam inside him
His first text
We just don't have men like you
here So sexy What
will you do
with me All this a response to
motel bathroom selfie Recognition of
song lyric in his profile
to meet him at the motel
It is early still He texts
There is no room
four here The guy at the desk says
rooms start with one hundred
Hotel instead of motel He is
bad with directions and names
Calls Adam andrew when explaining he
forgot condoms and neither of them
looks like the photographs
they both just took an hour ago
I am wearing every inch of road
in this stupid town and
need a shower
He closes the bathroom door
for two minutes Adam
arranges the bed the suitcase his hat
Checks his phone for advice from his future self
Parker he wants to be called
says I have this friend
You'd like him He wants to
watch you fuck me
There is not enough room Adam thinks
what with our bodies and
the voyeur version of me
who will be writing down the inevitable mistake of our bodies
I'm not in
to that Adam says
while parker shrugs off his towel
There is not enough
shower for both of them
The bed is a different mistake
Knees bumping elbows
Parker sits on adam's chest and
(in the corner of the room
adam is taking notes How
they refuse to face each other How they know
they are assembling a model
with half the pieces missing and
nothing looks like it should
from this angle Adam pushes
(in autobiography of red by anne carson
Greydon the dragon boy has a journal he
records his intimate thoughts in Adam
has a journal too but
he worried he was treating everyone like a story
where he was
shining protagonist Knowing himself fork
with missing tines
Sneakers scuffed by arrogant time He shouldn't
write this Parker didn't
consent to be
known as from adam's old neighborhood
A litany of misgivings
Having his knees
focused on instead of the ass so
amply positioned Parker asked for
none of this misalignment)
The are both finished and dressed
before the possibility of conversation
Adam doesn't mention the angry
text from a woman he barely knows How he kept thinking
you always pull people into your drama was coming from a woman
intending to pull him into her drama Her drama being
currently the desire to be right in a conversation
five years forgotten
Parker doesn't admit he ran into three
friends on his way over and couldn't come
up with a convincing reason for walking through
the tourist end of town
How he suspected they knew this would not be
his first time in a motel room
with the wrong man
Each of them just wanting this want to be overwith
Inspired by Anne Carson's Autobiography Of Red, recommended by Kári Tulinius.
The style and format of this poem is modeled after Appendix C of the book: "Clearing Up The Question Of Stesichoros' Blinding By Helen"
1. Either poetry can change your life or it can not.
2. Heather suggests to Dean that he should read Anne Carson’s Autobiography Of Red with the same tame words that I recommend. Should. Enjoy. Narrative. Story. Sexuality. Island. Family. Volcano. Red. All these gentle things that flow toward you at a pace that, when compared to the way work and relationships are constantly crashing you against the surprisingly giving rocks of your everyday, seems reasonable.
3. When the book is returned with no new pages folded or creases on the cover, Heather asks how Dean enjoyed it. I have no speech in me.
4. Dean says It was ok. It didn’t change my life or anything.
5. Things that have changed my life are not the death and everyday unfairness of the current police state, but a free granola bar from someone who doesn’t want me to adapt to their religious beliefs, or a train that shows up when expected, or poetry. Every poetry changes my life in some way, even the poetry about how flowers represent grief in ways I have no context or wikipedia for. Poetry about help-me is the hair of someone you love brushing against your neck when you forgot you weren’t alone. Forced rhymes about politics are a parade route shutting down my way to work, and standing in a detour is someone I have missed and can talk with for hours instead of inventorying books or pouring whiskey.
6. How does a poetry not always change your life?
7. Heather because I am speechless says Changing your life is a pretty high bar for a poetry collection. I just meant did you like it?
8. Of course I love the man who suggested I read Autobiography Of Red but not in a manuscript full of unrequited lust way. When we met, I confused his native origin for his sexuality, being Scandinavian and being Queer being similar mosaics when being squinted at through LSD. The confusion was barely an hour and reached the bar of changing my life.
9. Odinn and I met of course through poetry as Heather and I met through poetry as Dean and I met through poetry as Heather and Dean met through poetry and what is life but a series of friendships forged by an art you sometimes hate?
10. Dean shrugs.
11. My father lives on an island I hardly ever visit. Heather has been there with me. Dean has been there with me. Odinn lives in Iceland again, which is a different island.
12. A drunk also student asked Odinn what language people speak in Iceland. Icelandic he said. Right said the drunk and I speak Americanish. Do you speak German or Dutch?
13. What does it take besides a common language to change a life? In high school, a sort of friend came out as gay a week before his graduation. I was a Sophomore who knew men’s bodies existed but not how they felt or tasted. I invited myself to his room with no logical pretext and we flipped through our yearbook pointing at boys we found attractive before blowing each other, each of us coming into portions of brown paper towels ripped off a roll he’d stolen from the men’s room. We didn’t see each other or talk again for thirteen years, when we friended each other on Facebook, pretending the only thing we had in common was singing tenor in the select choir.
14. Sex is a language I speak fluently but barely understand.
15. In Autobiography Of Red, a dragonishboy falls in love with an older boy whose love destroys him which is a modernization of one of the Labors Of Herakles, which is also every relationship I’ve ever had, except that sometimes I am dragonboy Greydon, sometimes I am Herakles, but often I am merely the cattle or the dog destroyed trivially so that Herakles can get at his actual target.
16. No character in a tragedy deserves more sympathy than any other character. Everyone in a tragedy has been deliberately placed in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person so that misery or jealousy or a volcano of misunderstanding can wipe out the victims and let the survivors suffer their continued existence.
17. Everything I’ve ever read or experienced is a form of tragedy.
18. Tragedy is a form of poetry and poetry is a thing that constantly changes lives, or poetry is a form of living that is in a constant state of tragedy, or some Tuesday you will be in a car blasting Paul’s Boutique and eating soft pretzels with someone you care about and one of you will probably die before the other one and is all this singing and driving worth the eventual grief?
19. Of course it is. What’s wrong with you?
20. Grief is what’s wrong with me. And it hasn’t even happened yet.
21. When you take someone to meet the island of your family make sure you love them. Do not let your family see your indifference. Better a stage fight. Better a Thanksgiving Dinner of upturned gravy and who you Know they were fucking when they told you they were going to a science fiction convention, than the uninteresting silence of reading Buzzfeed articles with someone you can’t even bother to dislike.
22. Where does the red come in? My hair when I was younger and more certain what I wrote would never hurt anyone? The fire engine I thought I could becoming. The impending middle aged convertible that might loom had I not surrendered driving so I could live in a city with an art I barely recognize and people constantly leaving? Something as trite as anger?
23. A split watermelon on this July porch is more pink than red and faster to disappear than misplaced emotions.
24. Saying Nothing is as laborious as living is both melodramatic and an undeniable truth.
25. I’d rather read about someone’s horrible adolescence than listen to it or watch it unravel in front of me.
26. I am a volcano reaching out to a city of people I love, not understanding why people are running from the obvious destruction of my arms.
27. #26 is the stupidest, most egotistically ignorant thing I’ve written in months. Someone will identify with it. Someone will laugh at it. Someone will nod their head, pretending it even makes sense.
28. My favorite stories are ones I should identify with but don’t. I love what I mistakenly think I will eventually understand.
29. The train I take to work is red. Does that count?
30. The fence around my third story porch is painted red and has successfully kept any of my friends or roommates from plunging to their injury. I have talked with Dean on this porch. And Heather. I wrote a letter to Odinn on this porch but never mailed it. I want to believe we are all safe.
31. Life changes poetry and poetry changes life and even a Taylor Swift song is a type of poetry and even what I am doing with my only day off from work this week is a type of life. I didn’t set this bar but I guess I should thank whoever made these changes so attainable.
32. Heather asks me if The Autobiography Of Red changed my life as I haven’t actually said anything for this whole discussion. And I say something that I immediately forget.
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.