RED by Chase Berggrun


R E D excavates from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, through the process of erasure, an original narrative of violence, sexual abuse, power dynamics, vengeance, and feminist rage, and wrestles with the complexities of gender, transition, and monsterhood.

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Our Bookseller says:

“I love the marriage of the feminine and the bloodthirsty when it’s used as a vehicle for empowerment—not as a way to portray a woman as a monster or women as monstrous, but as a being capable of determining her own destiny.” — Chase Berggrun, 2018

To begin with, here’s the high concept: RED is a work of erasure poetry that carves an entirely new narrative out of Dracula, written during the poet’s transition. This makes it the queerest thing to happen to Dracula since the 1993 movie gave Gary Oldman that haircut.

Now, the contents: they’re beautifully bloody Gothic poetry that speaks to Berggrun’s incredible patience, determination, and introspective mind. Drained of Bram Stoker’s misogynistic lifeblood, RED emerges like a transcendent act of violence. – Terry

Riot. Ruin. Storm. Fog. Smoke. Blood. Such words swirl and ravage and seduce the body, verb and noun in collusion with imperiled women. Chase Berggrun’s R E D is deathy goddy girly queer erasure supreme. They turn the “I,” that bossy mercurial pronoun, into a transcendent blade beyond confession. They take the broken thing of identity and endow it with the kind of agency that can only arise in the survivor, one who has seen madness only in what madness has already been done to them. The body queers, it splints, it is “afraid the dead remember,” and it theories and plots behind the scaffolds of husbands and men. Here is a selfhood that comes alive in declarative flourishes, as it maps a redemption that is at times a most delightful physical texture (“I am only taking one dress”) and at other times, damn near gnostic in its darkness (“Only God can guide us in the fog / and God seems to have deserted us”). If Sappho’s fragments were the result of the fragile papyrus on which her poems were writ, then it is the fragility of men that has helped bless Chase with their miraculous tool of erasure. Chase’s brilliant debut demands to be re[a]d with an exasperated, murderous clarity. Throw away the story you know about Dracula. Here it is real for the first time, in all of its chutzpah and necessary desecration: “Women have something in us that makes us rise.” Amen, amen. — Natalie Eilbert

“I tried to undress a mystery,” testifies the speaker of R E D as this haunting literary performance—somewhere between neo-Gothic burlesque and formal experiment in queer auto-theory—begins. Erasing Bram Stoker’s Dracula all the way down to its psychoanalytic minimalia, Chase Berggrun unearths a narrative not only of gender transition, but of the uncanny political and metaphysical transitions entailed by the metamorphosis of individual into chorus as well. By the end of this adventure in appropriation as self-disclosure, we learn that the “mystery” was self all along: “A detail in a pool of blood / the body gathered in an awkward kink / I dress myself in easy anything.” Rapt and unsettled, we readers find ourselves, too, both saturated and implicated in the sanguinary affair of desire, “drenched to a scarlet with want.” — Srikanth Reddi

RED by Chase Berggrun