R E D

Chase Berggrun. Birds LLC, $16 trade paper (76p) ISBN 978-0-9914298-8-2
In Berggrun’s striking debut, a book-length erasure of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, that text becomes fertile soil for cultivating complex story of sexual awakening, domestic abuse, and liberation. “I am young and desperate/ If I have to I will burn the world,” the unnamed protagonist declares, heralding a riveting contribution to a genre that often leans too heavily on concept. Indeed, if flipping Stoker’s novel into a feminist narrative is a somewhat straightforward reversal, Berggrun’s poems convey that narrative’s stark circumstances with a poignancy and rage difficult to achieve: “I had trusted him my husband/ even half believed his words when he said/ I would have an ordinary life without dread.” The brief prefatory note on process, indicating that the book “was written at the same time its author had begun their own gender transition,” gives deeper symbolic resonance to the material transformation of text. When the speaker asserts that “I am sane though proving it has been dreadful,” readers hear her triumphant reclamation of agency after abuse and recognize its resonance with the process of gender transition in a transphobic society. Capped by a challenging conclusion, Berggrun’s assured composition is neither beholden to the original nor so distant as to be unclear in its motivation. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2018
Release date: 05/08/2018
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