Richard Carr

Richard CarrRichard Carr grew up in Blue Earth, Minnesota, and lives in Minneapolis. A former systems analyst, web designer, and tavern manager, he has taught writing and literature at several universities and community colleges. His other poetry collections are Ace (The Word Works, winner of the Washington Prize), Honey (Gival Press, winner of the Gival Press Poetry Award), and Mister Martini (University of North Texas Press, Winner of the Vassar Miller Prize). His chapbooks include Butterfly and Nothingness (Mudlark) and Letters from North Prospect (Frank Cat Press, winner of the Frank Cat Press Poetry Chapbook Competition).

Books by Richard Carr at the Backwaters Press

Street Portraits Street Portraits by Richard Carr

Author: Richard Carr
Format: Paperback, 78 pages
ISBN: 9780981693699
Published: October 2008

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Critical Praise for Richard Carr’s Street Portraits

Richard Carr is a genius of poetry. Unknown-until now-he has been writing at white heat, producing five books in the past four years, three of which won prizes in 2007: Mister Martini, the Vassar Miller Prize; Honey, the Gival Press Poetry Award; and Ace, the Washington Prize. All three characters-Mister Martini, Honey, and Ace-originate here in Street Portraits, among the heartbreaking portrayals of “all the monochrome denizens of the / . . . neon honking steaming street.”
• Barbara Louise Ungar
Author of The Origin of the Milky Way, winner of the 2006 Gival Press Poetry Award

I thought I was writing the best poetry in America, until I read Richard Carr.
• Stuart Bartow
Author of White Ravens and Reasons to Hate the Sky

Writing with unsentimental intensity, Carr inhabits the impulses and yearnings of the human heart. These exquisitely rendered poems are astonishing for their range and tone.
• David Hassler
Author of Red Kimono, Yellow Barn

Poems from Richard Carr’s Street Portraits

Self-Portrait in a Public Toilet

I cross the great concourse of the train station,
and veering around a circle of cops

conversing like playground attendants, their slow eyes
roving upward,

I duck into the public toilet.

Only desolate men come here—
to vomit, drink, inject, sleep,

or just get warm,
propped upright on the gritty tiles.

In the drafty sanctuary of a stall,
some come to pray,

or to confer
with the writing on the door.

Leaning into the mirror,
I bare my teeth:

they are straight, long,
dull chisels.

My beard flares, uncombed,
gray and white like pigeon shit,

and my eyes are watery and mean,
my face slapped red by the wind.

I wear the same black baseball cap all winter,
dark strands of wet hair clinging to my neck
like cooked spinach
flung against the kitchen walls.

Rivulets of melting snow course down
from the shoulders of my raincoat, a spring runoff

dripping on my canvas hightops—
already soaked in oily gutter slush.

I bend to drink cold water from the sink.

When I come out, the circle of police has opened
like a jaw,

and I hurry to my train,
shaking my wet hands discreetly.

A Being of Light Falling

A sunbeam passes down through the alley-canyon
like a being of light falling through the shadows and dead air,

rebounding off brick, tumbling over fire escapes,
and plunging at last into the black waters of night below.

In the grainy twilight of the apartment
the girl perches frog-like on a barstool.

She plays the clarinet—one note, very softly.
Listen, she says, this is the voice of a bee.

She plays a long, low note on her clarinet.
A scar cuts through her left eyebrow. The two halves

move independently, like twins, concentrating.
The reed stutters as the bee bumps flower petals.

The man knows that the bee lives in a horse pasture,
that there is clover for everyone (very sweet),

and the sun shines all summer.
Now he wants to teach the child another note

and in the night carries her instrument to the rooftop
and flings it into the void.

Door Man

His face glistens like a raw oyster,
his cheeks the color of his dirty feet.

He wears fingerless gloves,
holds a cigarette like a dart.

Today he doesn’t want anything
but to save his place beneath the arch of a bricked-up doorway

and for everyone to keep walking.
He scans the crowd as though he were the doorman

before the eyes of the building closed
and the mouth filled with dust

and yet he stood, hair grown long, beard gray,
as one by one buttons fell from his greatcoat

and coarse blue threads worked free
and flew down the street chased by sparrows.

Unconcerned by his state of decay,
he waves me on with the back of his hand,

and I obey.

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