On Anaïs Duplan’s ‘Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus’
Duplan’s genre-bending collection deals with dehumanization, self-identity, and injustice, both honestly and personally.
Poetry | Essay
5.5” x 7.5”
Perfectbound Trade Paperback
Review Format: eBook
Monster House Press
Bloomington, Indiana, USA
I know that I can’t go looking for freedom in (or with) what is purely free, because what is purely free as yet doesn’t exist in my world.
(“A Love Song to Dean Blunt in Three Parts: Part 3,” p. xii)
Defying genres and challenging expectations, Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus redefines what it means to be the confessor and the listener. It invites the reader into a zone of vulnerability where the words become like a mother, protecting and guiding, never missing the opportunity to give a tough-love approach when necessary. There is a cyclical flow to Duplan’s writing that makes it easy to submerge into the text on any given page, resulting in the hybrid nature of the work genre-wise. In “A Love Song to Dean Blunt in Three Parts,” this is particularly apparent, as biography turns into social critique, culminating in the author’s statement that:
I perform my death for you because you have demanded my death. You have exploited my work and my work has become that exploit. This process will kill me and you will celebrate my death. You will celebrate what my death has done for you, not knowing you are celebrating.
There is no definitive “goal” to the three parts; it is difficult to say that “A Love Song to Dean Blunt” is about x and only x. Instead, the first-person voice can be read as a parallel to Blunt’s character, uniting the two without making it feel like one is speaking for the other. There is a sage-like quality to the voice, accusation becoming criticism becoming the energy of the every day, things one might not stop to consider being brought to the forefront by Duplan as they write:
[i]f you refer to a human as a body, then you have dehumanized someone.
The invitation is to look beyond the immediate and familiar, to reconsider our actions in how we understand space in a social and physical sense. Similarly, society and the individual are indivisible not only in the obvious ways, but also in the way writing and the general creative force that is found in the individual, the writer, in this case, seeks to find a way of being in society. It is yet another body which, much like its human counterpart, is often equally mistreated and subject to unwanted exploitation from the public who receives it. It is striking to see the discussion turned into another form of confession, this time through the eyes of a writer who
stop thinking about Bluets and how if this becomes
a chapbook will people compare this to that? This
is nothing like that. I haven’t even thought about
formatting yet. No one will read this book and almost
everyone will prefer Bluets. What do you want? A
(“[Hunger is the bane of my existence],” p. 35).
It is a voice that is not often heard or expected, much like the history of dehumanization that existed, and continues to exist, in the parallel of “the white body” and “the black body.” Duplan doesn’t ask for acceptance or call for a moment of still attentiveness. Everything happens at a constant heartbeat, with movement as the central driving force. Change doesn’t wait for a pause to speak; it makes itself heard, finds ways of shrinking in scale to sink into the most intimate crevices in each of us has.
Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus brought me out of my comfort zone and into a state of sharp focus. Duplan’s way with words is a spell of an entirely new caliber, and paired with the topics of self-identity and injustice it seems to overtake both the speaker and the reader in waves. Just as cures are sometimes developed by first going through the sickness itself, Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus is the bright vial of an antidote that is needed not just in the small press community, but also in our heart of hearts. It is an honest and personal and absolutely necessary read.