Fugitive Red


In some old prints and paintings, the chemically unstable nature of red pigments causes the color to fade over time. The fugitive red we find in Karen Donovan's first collection of poems could well be the hue of a lost home. With intelligence and wit, Donovan charts the unchartable, hunting down evidence, markings, odd collections of voices, the outlines of a beautiful but elusive ruin. Donovan is well equipped for her task. Her tools are the microscope, the telescope, the Secchi disc, the leaf blower, the V-8 engine, the enthymeme, the sonogram, prayer, analogy, a jar of pickled eggs. Her fellow travelers are the hatchling spider, the bee, the woolly bear, the slime mold, shad swimming upstream, mud swallows, stray dogs, the drunk, the chemotherapy patient. Her quest takes her from an Amtrak bar car to a hawk hospital to a post office in Tuscaloosa. Along the way she invokes a host of named guardians, including Tycho Brahe, Einstein, Athena, Victor Lazslo, Leopardi, and Socrates. The result is a collection of poems that blends observation and memory in surprising and original ways.

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