These days I can barely remember the birthdays of my friends and family, let alone favorite cultural figures. Luckily, Garrison Keillor always keeps me in the know when I listen to “Writer’s Almanc” every morning on NPR. Today I was especially glad to be listening because I was reminded that today is the birthday of my favorite writer: Richard Brautigan. (Listen to today’s broadcast here.) I think that people either understand Brautigan or they don’t. You love his work or you raise your eyebrow and move onto something else. For me, Richard Brautigan’s work has been hugely influential as well as inspiration. I have to thank my friend Jen Linck (of Craftsbury, Vt, in case she ever is looking for mentions of herself online – please write!) for introducing me to his work back when we were in high school. Though I have a hard time staying in touch with her, I think of her every single time I see my Brautigan books on the shelf. And so, in honor of what would have been his 73rd birthday, here are a few of my favorite poems:
“I Cannot Answer You Tonight In Small Portions”
I cannot answer you tonight in small portions.
Torn apart by stormy love’s gate, I float
like a phantom facedown in a well where
the cold dark water reflects vague half-built
and trades all our affection, touching, sleeping
together for tribunal distance standing like
a drowning train just beyond a pile of Eskimo
Everybody wants to go to bed
with everybody else, they’re
lined up for blocks, so I’ll
go to bed with you. They won’t
Do you think of me
as often as I think
A few years ago I read “You Can’t Catch Death,” a memoir written by his daughter Ianthe. The book does a great job of making him a real person, and I consider it required reading for anyone who wants to really learn more about him. Hopefully there are a few readers out there who adore him as much as I do. And, maybe even better yet, maybe someone new will discover how amazing his words are.