Richard Carr  
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Surprising and revealing
It's a curious thing to be so thrilled by a collection of poems
whose subject matter is essentially a story of loss and
loneliness. Carr's skill is in making his language do surprising
and revealing acrobatics: "the electric fence dips down to the
creek / where the cattle find their way untended / through
coarse alfalfa and scattered thistles / for a drink – all the wars
have ended." It's refreshing to see rhyme and meter applied
with such novel grace that you don't know what's just
happened to you until it's too late. Carr's lines electrify as
much as the story he tells absorbs you.
Grant Clauser
Deep spiritual yearning
Not everyone who writes poems takes poetry seriously.
Richard Carr does. This collection about coming to terms
with loss, loneliness, grief, God and going on after tragedy
shows a master craftsman's touch. Discontinuities abound
(as they do in these circumstances) but they invite you into
the conversation. Rhymes are road signs in a search for order,
an elegant holding of things together when they might
otherwise fly apart. The images are startling, original, often
beautiful, sometimes breathtaking. I had to keep reading just
to see what would happen next. In the end this is a book of
deep spiritual yearning and buoyant surprise. Grave Reading
reminds us of what poetry can do...and why it matters.
Doug Wilhide
Filled with aliveness and energy
Dipping into Grave Reading is like a walk through an old
cemetery with time to consider the faded inscriptions. The
brilliance of the imagery contrasts with the dark subject
matter so that each short poem is filled with aliveness and
energy. Yes, there is loss and longing, but in engaging all our
senses, Richard Carr's poems confirm our waking moments.
Diane Pecoraro


Unsolicited Press


Available at Amazon


dead dead

witness the doctor's banal finesse
when he pronounces the dead dead
his hand slides into his white pocket
saying what he cannot express

a redwing blackbird perches in his eye
his black Mercedes vandalized with red paint
a garbage truck ran over his dog
the dog did not die

Vermeer's blue reflections lit her face
then fell to goose gray
the doctor's carbon silence erased the rest
except some lilacs in a vase

last address

her suitcase slashed open
she walked in tall grass
I cried pinecones for her
for me – she wept sea glass

comfort of white buildings
made the sky seem clearer
I cried for her in private
darkly in my blue mirror

the umbrella her last address
her white blouse all undone
she fed on grass and leaves
for me – wept apples and sun


her hands flopped like two toads
through the knife drawer
I sniffed at her suicidal whims
wrestled her to the floor

saved her from the fang of a scissor
clenched in her fist
better a shard of champagne flute
to suit her delicate wrist

once I struck her hand against the sink
to knock the razor down the drain
she pushed the fractured bone against my chest
as though to make me feel her pain


ice-skating together for a date
surrounded by champions and damned
Prokofiev – we felt like children who don't know
how to love yet – or how to let go

I pulled her closer and we fell
pushed her away and we drifted apart
we locked hands and felt like children who
want to love – don't know what to do

champions lifted each other high above the ice
under loudspeakers playing the mournful
wolf march – and we felt like children who skate
in simple circles – in love and out late


the stars she loved are muddled now
luminous jellyfish sunk in black tar
I wince to see them as they were
one star plucked from its constellation
rolls in my palm like a glassy cloud
I remember well the wish we made
the star – lights a memory of her face
struggles with itself – and flickers out


The devil everybody knows
Richard Carr's Lucifer is the devil everybody knows.  Mick
the Bastard and Juliet are frighteningly familiar, too.  Lyric
reflections on wild, willful abandon, Carr's latest sequence
limns a dark, doomed life with only a hint of the silver
believers pray lines blue-black storm clouds when they
loom overhead.
Brian Beatty
A sharply defined world
In Lucifer, Richard Carr achieves both what any good fiction
writer and any good poet strive to.  He draws us into a
sharply defined world and makes us care about its
inhabitants, doing so through language that is true to that
world yet transcendent:  "Juliet's shirt buttons are fragile,
holy wafers. / I take one in my mouth, press it with my
tongue tip, / pull the shirt taut like a white kite, / and let it
go."  Lucifer challenges us to love the unlovable and commit
the unthinkable, all while it sings in our ears.
Darci Schummer
Dangerously beautiful
Lucifer is not a dark companion.  He is the dark companion,
a useless blanket keeping you only more wet in the rain—
yet you won't take it off.  It's a cloak, after all, an illusion
of protection that sometimes we need, if only because it's
so familiar.  With Richard Carr's Lucifer, we peel the blanket
off and see it for what it is—in Carr's case, brilliance.  Dark,
dangerously beautiful, savage in its salvation.
Paula Lambert


Logan House Press


Available at Amazon



Lucifer clings to my ear like a tick,
drawing a little blood, which I should hide,
except he says never mind.

This is my condition.
I ride my bicycle home in the rain
on a summer day as hot as a factory.

In the apartment, bright, even in the rain,
I open a dresser drawer like a priest,
pulling slowly with both arms.

Lucifer quivers on my earlobe,
and I slide a hand under the jumbled shirts,
swift, like groping under a blouse,

and grab my stash.
I smoke in the afternoon, making no secret of this
my monstrous, beguiling, beautiful face.


Lucifer brings the sea mist
and milky light in the morning.
Breakfast with Juliet is cold cereal.
She slices bananas, back turned.

Last night we made dark love
when we should have argued,
slept as calmly as staring corpses
writhing with maggots inside.

Today I will look for work.
Juliet will kiss me deeply before I go.
This must end.
Daylight is hell for me and she knows it.


We drink, listen to the band, think about
finishing college but who has the money.

Lucifer shows me how to love music
by loving the musicians.

Mick the Bastard does not play or sing
but dresses the part,

and I love his hilarious intelligence.
He mocks and cuts, but it's funny.

Then he holds up his beer, and looks at it—
like it's the only thing he cares about.


Lucifer creeps into my private consciousness,
bringing a small amount of light.
The green glowing numbers on my bedside clock

swirl like a little zodiac when I am half awake
and night pumps through the room.
Committed to irreversible drunkenness,

I promise solemnly to sleep until noon,
or until time has healed the outside world.
How happy then.



Inventive, elegiac, haunting
Richard Carr has written a wonderfully inventive, elegiac,
haunting sequence that emerges directly from the
intersection of Berryman and Petrarch.  Dead Wendy—
the book's Laura—maintains her central place as a
constantly shifting, shimmering object of attention while
drinks are drunk, wars occur, and the past—composed
primarily of love and loss—gets carried inexorably forward
through time.  A key pleasure of these poems is their wry,
self-deprecating humor—presented with a dry, subtle
bravado—but the overall effect of Dead Wendy is
heartbreaking, and the presentation is agile and masterful.

Wayne Miller
Nightmarish and beautiful
These are nightmarish and beautiful poems, full of music,
horror, and wisdom.  Wendy will haunt you.  This is a new
kind of poetry, written by an important new poet.
Laura Kasischke


FutureCycle Press


Available at Amazon


The Boy's Version

There are no nurses here—no pills, no machines.
The sickbed is all the comfort you will get,
useless as kind words:  sleep well…  sweet dreams…
For like the goldfish in the dark pond outside,
a thought moves clearly in your mind:
I must not sleep.  I must remain cold.

You watch the faces of tongueless visitors
swim past each other among floating coffee cups.
One might surprise you—it's been so long—
if our old friend can climb the stairs.
You look toward him
as you look toward death.

But love, you start to say, is just as helpful as...
or unreal as...  These cold nights.  No one visits
at midnight, or three, or at liquid dawn.  Unreal...
You close your eyes to think, always thinking,
and fall asleep.  You smile in your sleep, and ask for water.
And I know you, Wendy—I know you are drowning.

Dead Wendy Responds

You have been a poor student of death.
But learn:
Death is not like sleep.  It is not forgetfulness, oblivion,
or nothingness.
Death is not decomposing flesh and skeletal remains,
not dirt.

Death is a long warehouse full of daisies
and kicked buckets.
Death is swimming with the fishes,
which you'd enjoy.
Death is a pale horse waiting for me in the meadow,
his neck bending exquisitely.

A rabbit in the claws of the cat—
that is life.
The brick wall spray-painted with the riots of our hearts—
that is life.
The silence that you bring to my grave
is life.

The Old Man Steps Forward

Wendy is afraid.
I must find a better way of burying her,
a blouse and plain business skirt
too vulnerable, too cold.
She holds a tiny lily of the valley between two fingers—
a very small prayer.

The boy is never afraid.
He raises his head out of the foxhole,
snaps three pictures of incoming fire,
and sinks down.
He jots notes.  Wendy crosses his mind,
but he concentrates on the wide-open faces of soldiers.

Wendy is waiting for him.
Their thoughts are alike.
They will walk in a monochrome garden,
admiring its stillness.
There can be no promises made concerning death,
yet all swear love forever.


A contemporary Jacob
In Imperfect Prayers, we are invited to overhear answered
and unanswered prayers in all their keen and flint-edged
edginess.  Sharp, pointed, the poems confront the sacred
and the profane and find them often to be made of the
same elements, the same common dust.  As in moments
in John Donne and St. John of the Cross, you can almost
imagine the poet is picking a fight with his divine beloved,
double-daring the God to act, to be known, to show his
hand.  The mode here is not devotional, but confrontational,
a contemporary Jacob wrestling with the questions of the
flesh and the spirit.
Eric Pankey
Compelling theodicy
Richard Carr has discovered that, when it comes to
wrestling with the facts of our matter, one must not blink,
nor hedge one's bets, nor ignore the suffering in the midst
of beauty, the beauty in the midst of suffering.  Neither glib
dismissal nor giddy swoon, these poems perform a serious
coming to grips with the God Who Is.  This is unusual and
compelling theodicy, and—I daresay—efficacious prayer.
Scott Cairns
Late-night cries for mercy
Richard Carr's ten-line Imperfect Prayers are not religious
poems.  They are late-night cries for mercy, meditations
on the spiritual truths of grocery shopping and dental
procedures, and maddened love letters to the creator
of constellations and children without limbs.  As Jacob
wrestled with the angel, this poet struggles toward
intimacy with a mysterious, sometimes infuriating God,
confessing that "[he] will never comprehend him." 
Comprehension—perhaps not.  But with the creator
"cupping both his hands over [the poet's] fist and jittery
pen," Carr searches for God—and, I believe, finds him—
in a frozen lake, a buzzing cicada, a flickering computer
screen:  "everywhere his unbearable odor and love."
Tania Runyan


Steel Toe Books


Available at Amazon


God tells me to make poems about his creation,
green lakes with acres of blue sky,
the sudden boiling of thunderheads,

also bricks, the two-story storefront,
the gift shop with its candles and little boxes of stationery,
the bistro next door, monochromatic, unfriendly in daylight,

and the piles of uncollected garbage in the alley,
twenty-seven bags attracting only three flies so far
who buzz loops in the air in their joy,

and I will fly loops in the sky.


I tell God it will be difficult to obey him
because I don’t believe in flying men
except in a man-made airplane

and in my dreams of silver wings,
for even with all his famous might,
he could not lift me an inch above the bed

but in fact does all he can to throw down the airplane,
fill it with spiraling, dizzy terror
and crush the screaming thing against the earth,

which jolts me in my sleep.


God assures me that imperfect prayers are heard,
that the bad prayers of the dying
help a little,

that breast tumors and switchback roads
can be survived
with concentration and adequate training,

and as for the mystery of suffering,
the protruding bone of it,
teens in car wrecks, fleas, nothing on TV tonight,

death dissolves it quickly, like a sugar cube in black coffee.


I object to the secrecy,
knowing coffee contains caffeine,
then not knowing,

visualizing the water molecule as three ping-pong balls,
only smaller, and more colorful, like doughnut sprinkles,
agitated but clinging together in the boil

inexplicably, bound in theory
like a family ready to explode, the daughter volatile,
and no amount of coffee can stop it

or expose the agent of their grief.


God sympathizes,
our headaches his headache,
our endless war inextricably linked to his,

our prisons, interrogation rooms, lethal injections
hard to quit,
like the habit of punching some bastard’s face in the bar

or talking down to a friend
as though to a lesser being, in a lower order of drunken angels,
like backhanding your girlfriend across the jaw that night

knowing precisely the origin of evil.


Frightening and comforting
Richard Carr's brilliant fifth book, One Sleeve, collects all
the resonating themes of his earlier work, turbocharges
them, and demands that the reader, stripped of all
pretense, illusion, and self-pity, face the human condition
of our time.  From these dark poems shine great beauty
and a strange, tentative-yet-tough kindness, while simile
and lyricism transform each poem into a mythology that
is both frightening and comforting.
Nancy White
A fractured universe
Carr's narrator picks scabs off his philosophical wounds
while his alter ego, "One Sleeve," attempts to make
sense of a fractured universe.  "Irony is the new certainty,"
declares Carr's ambivalent speaker, caught between the
physical sensations and philosophical problems of this
world and the next.
David Hulm
A protean voice
The very first poem announces that Carr will not be playing
by the rules.  "He thinks of himself in the third person /
except sometimes when he talks. // I talk between people. /
I aim for the space between passersby."  Breaking the rules
allows the narrator to speak with/as a protean voice that
makes him always multiple, inciting us—we passersby—
into remaining, like One Sleeve, "awake, counting beams
of snowlight / hovering in the slats of the blinds."
H.L. Hix


Evening Street Press


Available at Amazon


One Sleeve Goes to the Park to Think

One Sleeve goes to the park to think.
Sitting on a green bench

or standing like a tree,
he is always thinking,

like a watch that never stops,
a TV never turned off.

He thinks of himself in the third person
except sometimes when he talks.

I talk between people.
I aim for the space between passersby.

If they look and say What?
One Sleeve puts his head down.

One Sleeve Is Not Afraid of Death

One Sleeve is not afraid of death.
It's the state of nonbeing after death

that troubles him.
One Sleeve will miss having himself around.

I'm going to miss having Beethoven around,
LP records, old piano scores,

the clok clok of the metronome,
my hand twitching like a dead insect.

My room too small for a piano, too quiet for music,
I no longer play.

And so the heart quits beating.
The blood stops flowing.

The brain ceases to compute and command.
Without stimulus or impulse,

the light of the mind scatters.
The sparks of the evening's last firework fall.

In darkness lie memories in motionless pools,

The fingers stop twitching.
One Sleeve is afraid of this.

I Look Down the Subway Stair in the Rain

I look down the subway stair in the rain.
The underworld fills with people

escaping the rain.
One Sleeve mocks the symbolism,

as though there were two realities,
one the shadow of the other.

When the sun breaks through,
I go down the stairs,

my shadow stepping daintily beside me,
its long arm reaching for the handrail.

There is only one way to avoid the symbolism
and the mockery.

Go down under ground where only shadows go.
One Sleeve's fingers slide along the handrail

unable to grip it.
He is sorry to go this way.


Gorgeously sad
Richard Carr's Ace is a gorgeously sad novel-in-verse.  In
a series of intimate 14-line poems, Carr follows the tragic
love story of Ace and Carol, a love story born of junkyards. 
The poet carefully rescues and polishes discarded lives,
gives voice and dignity to the disastrously troubled.  Ace
is emotionally complex, honest, and deftly crafted.
Denise Duhamel
Beautifully rendered
Ace offers us four vividly wrought characters bound together
by the ineffable yet invincible ties of family.  While all the
lives here are "a blur of failure" in one sense or another,
each is nonetheless haunted by "the fog and debris of
lingering possibility"—possibility of love, of forgiveness,
of redemption—even after death.  In this beautifully
rendered sequence, the gifted Richard Carr proves himself
not only a superb poet but a first-class storyteller, keeping
us turning the pages with admiration and gratitude.
Christopher Conlon


Word Works Books


Available at Amazon


Auto Parts

I started my search for him in the salvage yard
in and around the junked cars and vans
somehow all the same color and sprouting the same
        yellow weed
imagining him already grown into a boy
and playing where I played
climbing the stacked wrecks keenly
for the view across the rail yard and down to the river
though I was not so sentimental
that I would go to a playground looking for my daughter on
        the swings
for of course I knew the girl and knew she was old enough
        to be in a bar
drinking working whatever
whereas I had never met her son
and so thought of him in a state of joy
a grandson among the auto parts.

A Suitable Calling

I would call the boy Ace
after myself
a name I picked up for being awkward as a kid
sideswiping parked cars
twisting up my bicycle in crashes
a sarcasm
a jeer
hey Ace nice flying
but a title I later polished clean
running errands for the local dealers
never failing to deliver find or find out
so that it became my logo
my business card
though maybe not a suitable calling for the boy.

Groupie Freaky

My old lady was cherry
straight blond short shorts groupie freaky
who called me across the river for some wild dancing
her act
and kept me coming back until we got married
for about nine hours
after which she had our kid Miss Princess
and graduated to bartending
which is when I lost interest in her career
though I kept tabs on her for a long time from a distance
until recently when I heard she died
Carol her name was Carol died
of cancer AIDS suicide bones breasts killers killers
OD probably.


Miss Princess learned vagabonding from her mother
and ran away without graduating from school
as we all did in various states of combustion
the girl in particular setting fire to bridges
her mother's apartment
her boyfriend's hair
someone's car
in order to make her pregnancy pure
all her own
and all alone she would have her baby and raise him better
        than whoever
never pausing to wonder who would help her in all this anyway
maybe no one
and therefore I wanted to see the boy who as a consequence
        of his hardship
would be magnificent.


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
2007-2008:  Mister Martini, the Vassar Miller Prize;
, 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
With a roving poet's eye, Carr penetrates the hearts and
minds of others to reveal these astonishing "street portraits,"
little snapshots of the human soul.  These deft, empathic
poems are remarkable for their insight and range of tone.
David Hassler


Backwaters Press


Available at Amazon



His hair is like an eagle's nest,
huge and messy.  The rest of him
is thin, though still hard-knuckled.

Spiders in the cracks of the pavement
mock him.  He speaks in short bursts
as though commanding a dog,

except there is no voice.  Then the mouth
stops moving, and his eyes turn upward, green
tarnished black around the edges.  His field jacket

is buttoned all the way up, the left pocket
torn down. I do not salute him.
He cups his hands to receive my charity.

Frankie's Kiss

She photographs the homeless joyfully.
Like a butterfly collector gathering specimens,
she captures their upturned faces.

The images are beautiful in their stillness,
the eyes—just the orbs of the eyes—
gone blurry in the chloroform of halted time.

At the appointed hour I meet her by the opening of an alley.
She emerges victorious,
and I become suddenly thirsty looking at her smile,

an empty brown bag:
coffee and nicotine color
her large, square teeth.

But I love her kiss—her stiff, gritty lips, the way
her tongue reaches in, trying to drink from my mouth,
guzzling nothing.  She laughs and of course

I am like one of her subjects,
a stuttering old man
exposing himself to her.


The borders of the photograph harden,
and from within a sharp, brittle microcosm,
the stopped streetwalker calls out to me
forever. In the dark stasis of the shot

I have grease-penciled her small handbag red.
No one hits her in the face tonight.
She does not call her father.
Her child is never born and has no birthday party

with one candle on a Twinkie.
And yet her thin, musical voice
still chimes in my head
and breaks the glass lock of stillness

and all the monochrome denizens of the photograph
flood into the neon honking steaming street.


Delightful and ambiguous
This sequence of compact poems is musically subtle,
visually surprising...deeply moving.  More than this,
though, Honey is an ambitious, intricately unified book,
part brilliant lyrical meditation and part surreal
Bildungsroman.  In it, Richard Carr creates a character
whose search for truth and self (accompanied by the
Bearded Lady, the Poet, the Boy, and the Hapax) is
delightful and ambiguous.  Honey is a poetry collection
unlike any you're likely to encounter.  It is a wonderful,
breathtaking achievement.
Kevin Prufer
A tour de force
Honey is a tour de force.  Comprised of 100 electrifying
microsonnets, Richard Carr's invention recalls Berryman's
Dreamsongs, for brilliance and wit...  Open to any page: 
language and image startle and delight, like "Einstein's
blown-fuse hairdo."
Barbara Louise Ungar
You can always tell a poet by the company his poems keep. 
On my poetry shelf Richard Carr's Honey will find itself a
near neighbor to the books of Russell Edson, Charles Simic,
James Tate, and Bill Knott.  They may be "strange to the
bees," but they will, I predict, become familiar to you...
William Slaughter
Honey explodes the mundane and visits the extraordinary
in extraordinary ways.
Kathleen Volk Miller


Gival Press


Available at Amazon



I am in search of the Hapax Legomenon—
the single utterance.
I thought my friend the Bearded Lady
was the solitary instance of her kind,

a shooting star written in the sky only once,
never elsewhere or again,
but she cried and said she was not alone.
I was cruel to forget—

some days she looks like an ordinary woman.


The Boy went out in a butane shirt
with sleeves of blue flame
spent the hot night
sniffing crotches at the strip joint

and on his back tasting delicious feet
a cinnamon odor tingling
in one nostril
thickening on the tongue—fell asleep

under a blanket of floorboards
woke in wreckage.


The Bearded Lady displays herself on a sofa
stuffed with hairbrushes.
A rawhide mirror reflects the odor
of her nakedness.

Slow eyelids strumming the air,
she eats and calmly vomits my white-cake friendship,
eats and calmly vomits
the eggshells and blisters of my resistance.


We are strange to the bees,
and myriad, like droplets of sun and rain
colliding in the misty blue vistas of their heaven,

though profusion means everything to the sapient hive,
and they love the musical hairstyles of flowers,
minuet, gavotte,
even poorly imitated in our droning art.


I met the Boy on a hot tar roofscape
openly among the exhaust vents and broken bottles.
He gave me a lucky bracelet
made of needles.

Humidity spilled over us.
His lips tasted like double-A batteries,
tangy and electric,
and I was a tenement of blown lightbulbs and rattling window glass

shaking in his arms.


I find the Hapax in the bathroom
nibbling pills.
My polite, antique cough does not disturb her.
I snap away her towel.

A pretty pink dragon tattooed on her translucent shoulder
glistens with fresh pinpricks of blood.
Her boiled hair
smells of lemon biscuits and chocolate.

My steel fingernails grind
against her mask.


A good drink
A good poem can be compared to a good drink—both will
leave you with good taste, both will leave with something
to reflect on, and both will leave you the slightest bit
intoxicated.  Mister Martini follows this analogy and
reflects upon the relationship between father and son,
the journey from youth to facing death, all written in a
beautiful style by prolific poet Richard Carr.
Midwest Book Review
Carr's Mister Martini is full of ferocious poems, each one
uncoiling on the page like a bullwhip.  He treats the father
and son with both unsentimental intensity and powerful
W.T. Pfefferle
Truly original
This is a truly original book.  There's nothing extra:  sharp
and clear and astonishing.
Naomi Shihab Nye
A powerful concoction
In nearly three decades of working as a poet, Carr has
now blended a powerful concoction of resonant imagination. 
Sip each poem in Mister Martini and discover how each
poem plays off the other, yet each can stand on its own. 
Be warned, however, that as easily as one martini may
follow another into drunken revelry, these tart poems
may intoxicate and linger.
David Hulm


University of North Texas Press


Available at Amazon



My father was an inventor of martinis.
He acquired archaic languages,
collected Renaissance textiles.
But mostly he made martinis.

He worked at night in a closed room.


Martini chilled among purple crocuses,
served with two drops of spring snow
gathered from the petals.


We were like atoms smashed together
creating dazzling light and destruction.


Martini made of tears
squeezed from the eyes of pimps.


I worshipped the gods of our city
in my father's place,
bearing to their altars
offerings of crusty bread and marbled cheese.

Although he believed in the deities—
the God of Mercy and Humiliation,
the Oracle of Horsemanship and Enterprise,
the Golden Idol of Cancer, Tongues, and Weeping—

he despised them all as competitors and louts.


Martini observing the city from a great height
as the lights come on in the apartment towers
and darkness fills the lamp-dotted park,

squinting at the old marquees
that glitter and wink in the long street-canyons,

turning to its son and saying:
You are a martini admired only
by the ruined and the thirsty,

a clear, pure libation,
garnished insipidly
with a chrome-plated bullet.


He wanted his eyes cryogenically preserved
in separate tanks,
his friends among the organ farmers
untrustworthy and powerful.


Martini displayed in a bell jar,
the hollow-pupiled olive
whitening with age.


In the darkest velvet lounge of my heart
I knew I would become him,
reject him, kill him,
and so exceed him.  But not in that order.


Martini sipped by Socrates
surrounded by his friends.


Copyright © 2008-2015 Richard Carr