poem index

poet

Richard Brautigan

1935-1984 , Tacoma , WA , United States
Richard Brautigan

Much of the information regarding Richard Brautigan's life and death is uncertain. He was born on January 30, 1935 in Tacoma, Washington. His father left home before he was born, and his childhood was apparently a troubled one marked by poverty. He did not attend college. At some point in the mid-1950s, he left home for San Francisco, where he became involved in the Beat scene. In 1957, Brautigan married Virginia Dionne Adler, the mother of his only child, Ianthe. (They would divorce in 1970.) 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's success as a poet was marginal. He published several slim volumes, all with small presses, but none of these received much recognition. It wasn't until the publication of Trout Fishing in America (1967), which many consider his best novel, that Brautigan caught the public's attention and was transformed into a cult hero. By 1970, Trout Fishing in America had become the namesake of a commune, a free school, and an underground newspaper.

In 1972, Brautigan withdrew from the public eye and went to live on in a small home in Bolinas, California. In the eight years that followed, he only rarely accepted invitations to lecture and consistently declined to be interviewed. In 1976, he made his first trip to Japan, where he lived off-and-on until his death. There he met Akiko, whom he married in 1978; the marriage failed, and they were divorced two years later. During the year of 1982, Brautigan taught at Montana State University in Bozeman. He then withdrew again. In October of 1984, his body was discovered at his home; he had shot himself in the head some four or five weeks earlier.

Richard Brautigan's poetry collections include June 30th, June 30th (Delacorte, 1978), Loading Mercy with a Pitchfork (1975), Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt (1970), The San Francisco Weather Report (1969), and Please Plant This Book (eight poems printed on separate seed packet envelopes, 1968). His novels include The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980), Willard and his Bowling Trophies (1975), In Watermelon Sugar (1967), and A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964). Brautigan's last novel was recently discovered and published posthumously, under the title An Unfortunate Woman (Rebel Inc., 2000).


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

June 30th, June 30th (1978)
Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork (1976)
Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt (1970)
The Octopus Frontier (1960)
The Return of the Rivers (1957)

Prose

Willard and His Bowling Trophies (1975)
In Watermelon Sugar (1967)
Trout Fishing in America (1967)
A Confederate General From Big Sur (1964)

by this poet

poem
Oh, pretty girl, you have trapped 
yourself in the wrong body.  Twenty 
extra pounds hang like a lumpy 
tapestry on your perfect mammal nature.

Three months ago you were like a 
deer staring at the first winter snow.

Now Aphrodite thumbs her nose at you 
and tells stories behind your back.
poem
If I were to live my life 
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers 
at the bottom of a pond 
and you were to come by 
   one evening
when the moon was shining 
down into my dark home 
and stand there at the edge 
   of my affection
and think, "It's beautiful 
here by this pond.  I wish 
   somebody
poem
Three crates of Private Eye Lettuce, 
the name and drawing of a detective 
with magnifying glass on the sides 
of the crates of lettuce, 
form a great cross in man's imagination 
and his desire to name 
the objects of this world. 
I think I'll call this place Golgotha 
and have some salad for dinner.