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Pagan Operetta

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Pagan Operetta


Pagan Operetta (1998) is a collection of poetry and experimental prose by Carl Hancock Rux. It won the 1999 Village Voice Literary Prize.[1]

Loosely inspired by Homer's Odyssey, the collection is structured as a poetic memoir. Rux begins the first section is structured as a poetic memoir; the first section reflecting on its authors early childhood in foster care after the death of his grandmother ("Blue Candy"); an early experience with sexual abuse ("Red Velvet Dress Lullaby"), his biological mother's schizophrenia and institutionalization, questions regarding the identity of an unknown father ("Wasted Seed"), the jazz music and spousal abuse of his adoptive parents (Living Room) concluding with a surreal short story entitled Asphalt (which would later inspire the novel of the same name) about a boy walking through the ruins of an urban landscape as rose buds blossom from his skin. The second section ("Elmina Blues") details a life changing experience in Ghana, West Africa where the unnamed protagonist goes to avoid a dying childhood friend and discovers Ghana's shanty towns, an illiterate teenager who seduces middle aged tourists and an ill-fated sexual encounter with a prostitute. The third section is a collection of poems positing socio-political questions, among them the commodification of the tragic black male identity ("No Black Male Show")and the challenge facing young writers looking forward to success ("Miguel"). In these poems, Rux recalls pondering his black male identity while watching a play by Anton Chekhov with Cornel West and attending a party seated next to a dying Allen Ginsberg.

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