second strawberry

... learns to write

12 strawberries
    I wrote poetry for seven years to learn
how to write a sentence
because I really wanted to write novels.
   

Richard Brautigan


At the end of 1955 Richard Brautigan moves to San Francisco. His aim: to be a writer. His means: The own imagination. He mixes with the Beat scene, but in the history of the Beat Generation he plays just a very small role. He's more off-beat than beat.

Richard Brautigan delivers his first sign of life in the world of literature in winter 1956. It's the poem »The Second Kingdom« in the quarterly published poetry magazine Epos. In the summer edition 1957 of Epos a further poem is published.


A young poet

No forms have I to bring except
handkerchiefs wet with neon tears,
and pumpkin pictures of the country
where a man is closer
to the dirt of his seed.

No forms have I to bring except
spidery old people
living in webby houses
and waiting to die.

No forms have I to bring except
the wild birds of heaven
in all their glory.

No forms have I to bring except
misanthropic merry-go-rounds,
and haunted toilets
and cups that breathe the eyes
of contended lovers.

No forms have I to bring except
the colours of the soul
painted on the world.

Source: Claudia Großmann, Richard Brautigan: pounding at the gates of american literature, p. 25f


In the 50's Richard Brautigan publishes some single poems, two small poetry books (»Lay the Marble Tea«, »The Octopus Frontier«) and »The Galilee Hitch-Hiker« with a gigantic edition of 200 copies. Some of these poems are published in the collection of 1968 »The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Desaster«.

Not until the beginning of the 60's Richard Brautigan tries seriously to fish in prose waters but his working style remains that of a poet.

 
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I write quickly, but think about things for about 20 years.

I get it down as fast as possible, ...and on an electric typewriter, 100 words per minute. I can't spend time on character delineation and situation, I just let it come out. And when it doesn't want to come, I don't sit around and stare at the typewriter or anything, I just go down and see about two or three movies - the worse they are the better. And for some reason that loosens me up and gets things going again. That's what I do when I'm stuck.

Quoted after: Claudia Großmann, Richard Brautigan: pounding at the gates of american literature, p. 33f

 
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When the first draft is finished fine tuning begins: sentence after sentence until it sounds right. This excessive operating method isn't only for Richard Brautigan much exhausting.
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He would often call me up during these editing sprees, sometimes late at night, and read me a sentence. His idiosyncratic tic was to read only one.

»What do you think of this?« he'd say, and read it again. »What do you think?«

The sentence was invariably straightforward and without many complications. I never knew what he thought was wrong with it. I can't remember when I was of any use to him on a particular sentence. I'd ask him to read the other sentences before or after the one that bothered him, but he never would. He'd obsessivly reread the same sentence over and over, never able to articulate what it was that was bothering him.

Finally I'd say that I thought it was fine. He'd agree, but dubiously, and hang up. Perhaps an hour later, he'd call back and read another sentence and ask me if that sounded right. This could go on for a few days, and then he would call up, apologize profusely for troubling me, and invite me out to dinner as payment.

Keith Abbott, Downstream from trout fishing in America, p. 45f

 
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Well, he's able to read, he's able to write but something is missing for a complete writer ...
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