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I've been doing this writing prompt with students, and loving it: write a letter to your favorite character, explaining what connects you, who you are, why your love. Ask your questions. Then write your dream response, from that character back to you. Start with the start. Here's my own first effort at this, a letter to Geryon, the little red monster at the center of my favorite book, Autobiography of Red. If anyone wants to write a letter, please post it here so we can think together about what makes our most beloved characters real, what makes them matter so much.

Summer, 2016

Dear Geryon,

Small red monster with the wings – how many times I’ve read the lines you made and seen – as if they’re real or 3-D, the pictures, even Rabbit Giggle tied with ribbon, even the fly you shot with a 15-minute exposure as it died. For me, you keep that fly alive. For me, you’re real, as true as any myth that runs beneath you, as a subject, not just object, not just monster, not just letters put together by a poet I admire, but you’re you, flying high above your own life, changing mine.

Here’s were we met. The Grolier, a poetry shop in Cambridge when I was so young I see myself as a stick figure in the memory, big-eyed and kind of shocked a lot of the time, by the suddenness of twenties, being a grownup but not grown up, being alone, poetry school, the ways in which the words and days and numbers all had colors. Beautiful but strange to spend so much time in my mind. I was always choosing words. I wore a giant helmet. I’d been riding on the back of someone’s motorcycle, but I took the helmet off and set it with umbrellas, picked up a book: Glass, Irony, and God. I read it standing, did not leave the store, but sent myself back to that same shelf for more. More. On a mission, I came to (and held, because it was a book), the world you live in, Autobiography of Red. And right away I got to live there sometimes too, on your red island, scared of Hercules because the ancient story has it that he killed you and your little dog – for no reason except he was assigned. It was one labor. Can I say here just how much I didn’t want you to die? Each time I read your autobiography, I glitter with the colors you see, what you make words do, the sculpture – a tomato with a cigarette glued on – I think it’s of your Mama, though you never say. I know you used some crispy paper and your mom asked you, “Maybe next time use a one dollar bill instead of a ten for the hair.” You were five then. She winked at you and you winked back with both eyes. She loved you, and I love you, too. Here’s why:

You changed your mind and mine, time after time – you did not die! Not in your own lines. There, you cast the world in a different kind of light, so all my Mondays, white, and Tuesdays, which were always blue, took on new hues. And here, inside this rhyme, is news: it’s hard to show someone the world glowing, spinning on an axis not the one we knew. In your head, roses scream in sunlight, mornings sometimes mean the world pouring down on you and loneliness has an opposite. For some people, including me, you are the opposite of loneliness.

How you compose, record the world matters more than I can say, and when you finally fly straight over a volcano, I fly, too, feel like I can write some real lava, fuse new atoms, be like you: a fragile monster making meaning, looking out, up, down, around, and finding finally that the world has taken its own picture. One of you.

Your bright red life gives me so many ways to change, to make what matters most to me, be brave.


Love, Rachel
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