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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.

What People Are Saying

Srikanth Reddy

"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."

TC Tolbert

“I violate limitation” says the speaker in Chase Berggrun’s R E D and how can I help it, I love her to no end. This is a book that celebrates, no, reifies the power of erasure to usher in (re)creation. There are echoes of Hélène Cixous who, in Coming to Writing, says: “In the beginning, there is an end. Don’t be afraid: it’s your death that is dying. Then: all the beginnings. When you have come to the end, only then can beginning come to you.” The gifts of transition. The gift of a body becoming “a determined echo hammering away.” How my own body needed these “hands full of sound.”

Natalie Eilbert

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.

Inside the Book

Perfect Bound
6" x 9"
Publication Date:
May 2018


From the Book



I was thirsty

I was a country of queer force

rushing east to see the strangest side of twilight

I was a woman    in the usual way

I had no language    but distress and duty

I have been taught to doubt my mother and fear tradition

but my queer tongue    would not    could not shut up

The afternoon sun seemed mighty    

and touched my arm with a delicate pain

A woman    kneeling in self-surrender to the new

weeping silver into great masses of greyness    the clouds

which ceaselessly walk and pause as though unmercifully urged on

Through the darkness I could see a stormy sea

a strange mixture of movements

Something slight and flickering seemed to mock my universal yes

I asked what this all meant

I struck a match    

and its flame somewhere far off in the distance plunged

Suddenly a faint and endless absence

began beetling around

the howl that swept

the ruined sky



Let me begin with observation

My concern is with agency

I was satisfied with my body

My desire is my own

my smile    my own

I unsealed the seriousness of sound

Freedom melted in the weatherworn abyss

Some weird effect of shadow

could allow an opportunity to resist

I took pleasure    in disobeying

I determined not to compose myself

I suppose I was not unchanged

I thought I felt desire kiss me with red lips

Never could I be a girl on her knees

I was a storm of a woman

transformed with red light 
heaving an imperious voice

forward into the dimness