Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Toad's Favo(u)rite~Richard Brautigan

Cover of In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan; my scan

Hello, toads and toadettes, hedgewitch here. It's my turn to provide a favourite poem/poet, and this time it will be 20th Century American poet and writer Richard Brautigan (1935-1984.) Almost all his poetry is quite short, so I've selected several examples.

Brautigan wrote during the middle to end of the Beat era and the full onslaught of the 60's counterculture years with black humor and directness. His bio page at Poets.org, puts it this way: "Although Brautigan, whose work largely defies classification, is not properly considered a Beat writer, he shared the Beats' aversion to middle class values, commercialism, and conformity."

Brautigan had a difficult life, and wasn't with us long, but his poetry and short novels--which to me are long prose-poems--remain full of wry acceptance, hope and a sense of the flashing, absolute clarity that comes and goes, but always leaves something we need behind. Many of his collected poems can be found in The Pill Versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, first published in 1968 and still in print. He may be best known for his novella Trout Fishing in America, but his short poetry has a sad, childlike and clean feel well worth a read or reread. 

For those who'd like more on Brautigan, an excellent archive of facts, sidenotes and details as well as a bibliography of all his published works can be found at brautigan.net.

Below are a few examples that are among my favourite poems:

Karma Repair Kit, Items 1-4

Get enough food to eat,
and eat it.

Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
and sleep there.

Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
until you arrive at the silence of yourself,
and listen to it. 


© Copyright 1967 by Richard Brautigan,
from  All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
"Permission is granted to reprint any of these poems in magazines,
books and newspapers if they are given away free. " per brautigan.net

Hinged to Forgetfulness Like a Door

Hinged to forgetfulness
like a door,
she slowly closed out of
and she was the woman I loved,
but too many times she slept like
a mechanical deer in my caresses,
and I ached in the metal silence
of her dreams. 


© joyannjones

It was Your Idea to go to Bed with Her

Snowflaked as if by an invisible polar bear
---unlucky bastard,
you're sitting on the fender of her kisses
while she drives the car down into the
perfect center of ice.

~ both © 1970 by Richard Brautigan, from my purchased copy of Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt, Dell Publishing Co. Inc.

Lastly, for our resident victim of extreme haiku aversion--we all know who she is--I've included this one:

Haiku Ambulance

A piece of green pepper
off the wooden salad bowl:
   so what?

© Richard Brautigan, from The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster.

Finally, for those who like the spoken word, here's a video set to Brautigan reading one of his poems, Gee You're So Beautiful It's Starting To Rain:

All poems and photographs reproduced in accordance with Fair Use principles.


Susan said...

Thank you, thank you! I knew his novella but not his poems. My favorite of these is "Karma Repair Kit, Items 1-4."

LaTonya Baldwin said...

Knew the name but not his work. Thanks for the introduction. Want to read more, now.

California Girl said...

Read ˝Trout Fishing..." & "In Watermelon Sugar" in h.s. Have not thought or heard of him in years.

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

Yes, like Latonya, I was not familiar with his work and like Susan I did appreciate... Karma Repair Kit, Items 1-4

In addition I really enjoyed you pic prompts and mostly the you tube video with him reciting. It gave it this surreal intro to him, now passed. The beautiful back and form of the young lady on the swing
provided a seductive aesthetic


Fireblossom said...

Oh, I am laughing my tail off at the haiku ambulance! Ha!

I LOVE Brautigan, and he was one of my first favorites. I had a whole slew of his books. (I just checked to see what I still have. I have "The Pill vs. The Springhill Mine Disaster" and "Rommel Drives Deep Into Egypt". The rest were lost along the way, unfortunately.) At the age of 23, took a cross-country trip with friends, and we had a bunch of his books with us in the car and read them to each other as we drove. It was one of those memories that still feels perfect.

In a way, I'm surprised that our Hedgewitch loves such a brief and deceptively simple poet, but then again, I'm not. What a great choice, and such a treat to find this here this morning!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I am sadly not familiar with Brautigan's poetry, and I see this as a grave oversight. I love the pieces you shared with us for their precision and also the wry wit with which they are written.

humbird said...

Thank you, his poems sound simple and in same time very intriguing....

Helen said...

Oh, how I enjoyed your post, Hedge. I love the spareness of Brautigan, he was brilliant, funny, a gem.

I consider myself a "closeted" member of the beat generation! (three children under age 3 at the tender age of 21 .. spirit was willing, flesh weak.

Anonymous said...

Hearing that you love Brautigan (would not have guessed it) adds another layer to what I know of your mind. I'll never forget the time I learned about Brautigan's life. I had been reading him for years without knowing anything of his biography. When I did it came as a shock. I'm still shocked. And his poetry is as fresh as ever.

Anonymous said...

he's a strong, crisp voice with just the right amount of edgy. thanks for the share. I'm enjoying the links.

Marian said...

big fan, thank you, Hedgewitch! i agree... you are delightfully complex, yourself. :)

Susie Clevenger said...

Thanks for introducing him to me..I knew nothing of him nor his work. I am definitely going to do some reading!

Grace said...

He is new to me too HW ~ Thanks for the informative post & links ~ Will certainly check his work ~

Anonymous said...

perfect haiku for FB. :) good rewind, Joy ~

Lolamouse said...

My father gave me a beat up copy of "Trout Fishing In America" when I was in high school. I was blown away, confused, in awe, and obsessed with it. I still have it. Great memories. Thank you.

Kay L. Davies said...

I didn't think I remembered Brautigan (although I do remember the Springhill mine disaster) but when I went to the link, I recognized his photograph, the second from the right.
"Hinged to Forgetfulness like a Door" is a great title, and "the metal silence of her dreams" is brilliant.
I hope you're seeing this because it will mean you're still online.

Ella said...

I am fascinated with his voice and can't wait to read more of his work~
Thank you Hedge for this gift!

hedgewitch said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed the selection. I read a lot of Brautigan when I lived in his town, San Francisco, back in the early 70's--about all the poetry I *was* reading back then--and he still makes me feel young today.

(My computer is hanging on by a thread--tomorrow I am going shopping for a replacement.)

Anonymous said...

Laura, my late friend John Kellogg, an English teacher who dared to teach Shakespeare in the 70s, first turned me on to Brautigan. The volume of "Watermelon Sugar" is on my shelf, and he gave it to me.

I'll bet John never thought I'd be a poet, beyond my songwriting...

I love Brautigan. Thanks for highlighting some of my faves. Amy

Liz Rice-Sosne said...

Thank you so very much, this is a really wonderful review! I really appreciate all of the effort that you put into it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Hedge, thanks much for these. I did not know of his poems. Very cool. Hope your computer is better. ,k.