Richard Brautigan Poetry: American Poets Analysis - Essay

Richard Brautigan Poetry: American Poets Analysis

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Richard Brautigan’s poems are usually brief, often humorous, sometimes childlike in their innocence, and decidedly antipoetic. Much of his poetry sounds like prose, in the same way that the prose of his novels is often poetic. “January 17” (from Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt) reads simply, “Drinking wine this afternoon/ I realize the days are getting/ longer.” His best poems resemble brief haiku, and some have a Zen Buddhist quality to them. The short verse “Haiku Ambulance” (from his popular collection The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster) reads, in its entirety, “A piece of green pepper/ fell/ off the wooden salad bowl:/ so what?” His imagination is sometimes startling, and his images and metaphors often surprise the reader, although they rarely leave an aftertaste.

Many of his poems are nonsense verse; for example “The Amelia Earhart Pancake” (from Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork) tells readers that he is giving up trying to find a poem to fit this title, and in several cases, he prints titles with no poems beneath them, as in “A 48-Year-Old Burglar from San Diego” and “1891-1944” (both from Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt). A good number of his poems are about love, love found and love lost (some in his first collection are dedicated “For Marcia” or simply “For M”), and some have explicit sexual images and language at their center.

His poetic voice is simple and direct, capturing the rhythms of the spoken word and providing easy access to his thoughts. A few of his poems are longer than a page, but most of his poems are only a few lines long. However, “The Galilee Hitch-Hiker” section of The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster contains nine linked poems, all but the last featuring the nineteenth century French poet Charles Baudelaire in twentieth century America; the “Group Portrait Without the Lions” section of Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork has fourteen short poems (part 9, “Betty Makes Wonderful Waffles,” reads simply, “Everybody agrees to/ that”); and the “Good Luck, Captain Martin” section of the same collection has seven poems. The last poem in the series, “Put the Coffee On, Bubbles, I’m Coming Home,” consists of two lines, “Everybody’s coming home/ except Captain Martin.”

Brautigan’s rise was sudden. He was known as a West Coast poet for about a decade, until the publication of his first major collection, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster, in 1968, and for the next ten years—through his final three collections, Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt, Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork, and June 30th, June 30th—he was a popular poet who was closely associated with the San Francisco cultural scene of rock bands, flower children, and drugs. Many of the poems in the first and second collections...

(The entire section is 1196 words.)