I Lie Here in a Strange Girl's Apartment Analysis

Richard Brautigan

The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Like almost all of Richard Brautigan’s poems, “I Lie Here in a Strange Girl’s Apartment” is short (three stanzas, fourteen lines) and written in free verse. The title, which is also the first line, not only provides the setting of the poem but also suggests the dynamic that is the subject of the narrator’s meditation: the narrator as he sees himself in uncomfortable relation to this “strange” woman. The language of the poem, characteristic of Brautigan’s style, is colloquial and deceptively direct—though the final stanza makes it clear that the author’s appreciation of the abstract and surreal should not be underestimated, as it tends to vastly complicate otherwise simple images.

The structure of the poem appeals to a kind of minimalism that introduces only what is necessary in order for the payload of the poet’s meaning to be delivered to the reader in the most direct, significant, and unburdened fashion. In the first stanza, the narrator presents himself as a man lying (presumably in bed) in the apartment of a woman who is “unhappy.” As he watches her move “about the place,” he reveals that she has both a sunburn and a poison oak rash. The curious similarity between these two ailments makes it unclear whether she is unhappy because she is afflicted with this double irritation or whether her unhappiness is being characterized by Brautigan’s use of the metaphor of the skin conditions. She is clearly uncomfortable. Her...

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Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

As with many of his contemporaries, Brautigan playfully explores the disparity between poetic devices (such as metaphor) and minimalist description (which eschews such poetic devices) by abutting the two in the same poem. The colorless second stanza avoids poetic imagery altogether, refusing to make the woman’s actions any more vivid to the reader. Brautigan resists poeticizing his subject, employing a dull repetition to reinforce the quotidian aspect of the scene: “She turns the water on,/ and she turns the water off.” The metaphor of the third stanza, however, achieves an almost absurd extreme of poetic artifice—especially in comparison to the previous stanza. Here Brautigan employs a metaphor that is so broad, so indulgent in its poetic license, that the reader is apt to forget what, exactly, the metaphor refers to by the end of the stanza. Indeed, the final line has the air of a reminder, returning readers to the woman whom they may have let slip from their focus: “Their eyes are filled with the sounds/ of what she is doing.” By presenting the reader with two distinct reading experiences—one completely unqualified by metaphor, and the other overwhelmed by it—Brautigan calls into question the uses of the poetic device itself.

Even if the final stanza were to stand on its own, one could not help but notice that Brautigan exerts an extreme degree of pressure on the final metaphorical device. Whereas a metaphor is meant to qualify or...

(The entire section is 512 words.)


(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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