Several of Brautigan's books were published during the decade of the 1960s, including Trout Fishing in America
which catapulted him to international fame. He was invited to poetry readings around the country and during the Summer of Love, Brautigan was considered the one writer who best represented the sentiments of the countercultural movement centered in San Francisco. More information and resources about Brautigan, his life, and work during this decade are below.
Highlights: Daughter Ianthe born . . . The Octopus Frontier published
Brautigan and Virgina lived at 575 Pennsylvania Avenue (Polk County Directory
The Octopus Frontier
, a collection of twenty two poems, published.
Daughter Ianthe Elizabeth
born at University of Californina Hospital.
Artist friend Kenn Davis
drove Brautigan to University of California Hospital where she was born.
Ianthe's Birth Certificate notes 575 Pennsylvania, San Francisco, California, as the family address.
Brautigan, wife Virginia, and daughter, Ianthe. Photograph taken in their San Francisco apartment. Photographer unknown.
Saturday, 30 July 1960
Brautigan gave a poetry reading as part of "An Afternoon Dance Demonstration and an Evening of Dances" presented by the Anna Halprin Dancers' Workshop in Marin County. The event also included an art exhibit by Manuel Neri and Joan Brown, dancing by Anna Halprin, A. A. Leath, John Graham, and others, new musical works by Stanley Shaff and Douglas McEachern, and lighting by Pat Hickey. The artistic director was Jo Landor (The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant Garde
. David W. Bernstein, ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008: 268).
The dance by Halprin, Leath, and Graham was entitled "The Flowerburger" and was drawn from the same titled section of Brautigan's The Galilee Hitch-Hiker
. More a performance piece than strictly dance, the dancers/performers moved about the stage while speaking words from Brautigan's poem, intermixing them, juxtaposing lines, creating new poetic prose. The group performed the dance around San Francisco, and around the country, for the next several years.
Monday, 8 August 1960
Brautigan gave a reading from The Octopus Frontier
at The Coffee Gallery (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach, on the same bill with Christopher Maclaine, a poet and filmmaker from Oklahoma (his four films: The End
, 1953; The Man Who Invented Gold
, 1957; Beat
, 1958; and Scotch Hop
This 2.5" x 2.5" black and white photograph, one of eight taken by a San Francisco Examiner
photographer identified only as "Edgren," was captioned as "Poet Richard Brautigan reading his 'The Octopus Frontier' to Gayle Griffin." Photograph from the collection of Gregory Miller. Used by permission.
The eight negatives were labeled as:
- Cops in back room talking to leftmanager Leo Riegler
- Crowd outside waiting to enter shop
- Poet Christopher McLaine
- Waitress (would not give name)
- Gayle Griffin listening to poetry
- Poet Richard Brautigan reading his "The Octopus Frontier" to Gayle Griffin
All eight original negatives were kept in the San Francisco Chronicle's
archive, in an envelope labeled "8-8-60." The envelope header reads "Beatniks—poetry reading; Leo Riegler, Christopher McLaine, Gayle Griffin, Richard Brautigan." The location is noted as "Grant Ave Coffe [sic] shop." The assignment caption: "Beat-nikles and poetry." Apparently, no prints from these negatives were ever published.
The movie "The Beach" (1995, 56' 40") recreates the atmosphere of San Francisco's North Beach district during the 1950s and early 1960s when The Coffee Gallery was one of the few venues where the rich mix of poetry, jazz, and art could be seen and heard.
"California Beat Era—The Beach" website
Wednesday, 21 December 1960
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading with Andrew Hoyem
, Allen Dienstag, and longshoreman poet William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed) at the Coffee Gallery (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach. Fritsch was the husband of poet Lenore Kandel
whose The Love Book
was tried on obscenity charges in 1967.
The handbill promoting the event was printed on 8.5" x 11" paper.
Highlights: Begins writing Trout Fishing in America
Brautigan's poem, "The Rain,"
published in Hearse: A Vehicle Used to Convey the Dead
. This was Brautigan's last appearance in Hearse
, and his last publication in similar small literary magazines for years. Brautigan, disenchanted with earning a living as a poet, was, based on the success of Lay the Marble Tea
and The Octopus Frontier
, his self-publishing venture as Carp Press, more interested to pursue writing short stories and novels.
Brautigan visited the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank of the San Francisco Medical Society where, for the final time, he sold a pint of his Type A blood to raise extra cash. He took his daughter, Ianthe, and wrote an unpublished poem, "The Belle of the Blood Bank," about her watching him having blood drawn from his arm via a catheter.
Friday, 17 March 1961
issued by Borregaard's Museum in San Francisco listed Brautigan, [Burgess] Jess Collins, Paul Alexander, Harry Jacobus, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer
, Helen Adam, and other poets and painters scheduled to appear there. The Borregaard Museum, two floors of a Victorian house at 1713 Buchanan Street converted into a gallery by Ebbe Borregaard, billed on the broadside as "the largest private galley in San Francisco," was a landmark of the Sixties avant-garde.
The 8:30 PM free reading was arranged by Jack Spicer
. Brautigan read selections from the evolving manuscript for Trout Fishing in Amercia
focusing on his boyhood in Eugene, Oregon, and forgotten poem entitled "Alas, In Carrion Umpire" (Hjortsberg
early June-August 1961
Brautigan, wife Virginia, and daughter Ianthe moved out of their apartment at 575 Pennsylvania, turning it, and their black cat, Jake, over to now former roommate Kenn Davis
The family camped, during Summer 1961, at Silver Lake, Stanley Basin, Little Redfish Lake, and Lake Josephus, all in Idaho. Brautigan continued writing Trout Fishing in America
This photograph by Virginia Alder Brautigan Aste, taken during the camping trip, shows Brautigan posing atop an abandoned truck.
Brautigan trout fishing in Idaho, during his 1961 camping trip with wife Virginia and daughter Ianthe. Photograph by Virginia Alder Brautigan Aste.
Back in San Francisco the Brautigan's rented an apartment at 488 Union Street, between Montgomery and Kearny Streets, above Yone's Bead Shop, next door to a laundromat, and two blocks from Washington Square Park. Brautigan returned to part-time work at Pacific Chemical Laboratories, 350 Clay Street, San Francisco, preparing doses of powdered barium (Hjorstberg
Highlights: Separates from wife, Virginia
Brautigan and daughter, Ianthe, in Washington Square Park, San Francisco, California. Photograph by Virginia Brautigan (Aste).
Brautigan finished writing the manuscript for Trout Fishing in America
Monday, 12 March 1962
Brautigan started a new novel, entitled The Island Cafe
. Subtitled Part of a Short History of Bad Movies in California
, the manuscript focused on what Brautigan eat for lunch each day at the Star and US Cafe, minute details he noticed there, and the film titles and show times at the Times Theater. After about three weeks, Brautigan abandoned the project, filing the manuscript in an envelope on the back of which he wrote "Never finished Novel."
Shortly after midnight, Christmas Eve, Brautigan and his wife, Virginia (Ginny) Dionne Alder
, separated after Virginia revealed she was having an affair and had fallen in love with Anthony (Tony) Frederic Aste
, Brautigan's friend. Brautigan and Virginia, remained separated for several years and were divorced 17 February 1970 in San Francisco, California.
Lewis Ellingham and Kevin Killian note, "Virginia—Ginny—Richard's girlfriend," they said, engaged in an affair with Aste, newly arrived from Salt Lake City, Utah, starting in the spring of 1962. They eloped and married (Ellingham and Killian
said the separation occurred a year later, in 1963, and was unclear about the reasons (Ianthe Brautigan
Ron Loewinsohn (poet and friend of Brautigan) said the friction began soon after Ianthe was born, when Virginia "was stuck at home with the kid and he'd [Brautigan] be out prowling with his buddies." As for the affair between Alder and Aste, Loewinsohn said Brautigan was in the habit of bringing people to the apartment for dinner and parties. "One of these guys [Tony Aste] eventually got it on with Ginny." Aste and Alder, and daughter Ianthe, left San Francisco for Salt Lake City. Brautigan was devastated and started drinking and taking pills (Peter Manso and Michael McClure
Keith Abbott was more direct:
Tired of being left with the baby, Virginia had an affair with one of Brautigan's friends [Aste] and moved with him to Salt Lake City. This devastated Richard (Abbott 45).
Early in 1963, Virginia, Aste, and Ianthe drove from San Francisco, California, to Salt Lake City, Utah. They returned to California in early October 1963 and rented an apartment on Bay Street, near Fisherman's Wharf. Later, the new family moved to Sonoma County's Valley of the Moon. Virginia and Tony eventually had three children: Ellen, Mara, and Jesse (born 1970-1971?). After separating from Aste, Alder moved to Hawaii, late in 1975, and pursued a career as a teacher and political activist on The Big Island.
Brautigan's reaction to Virginia's revelation of her affair with Aste was immediate. He packed some clothes, his notebooks, and the evolving manuscript for A Confederate General from Big Sur
and telephoned Ron Loewinshon, who agreed to provide temporary housing at his apartment at 1056 Fourteenth Street where he lived with his wife Joan Gatten. Loewinshon drove to Brautigan's apartment to pick up his friend. Brautigan slept on the couch, waking later in the morning.
Brautigan started a journal in a new spiral bound notebook entitled "The 20th Century Marriage in Flight" in which he recounted the events of the early morning, calling them "A Hell-of-Time." Brautigan named the characters in the recounting by the first letter of their first name. Ron Loewinshon was "R" and Virginia (Ginny) was "G." Later, Brautigan erased each reference to "G," replacing it with "Y."
Tuesday, 25 December 1962
Brautigan returned to his Union Street apartment to spend Christmas Day with his family, and to, as he wrote in his journal, "play at the man of the house for a little while longer." Then, "I go get drunk."
Following his separation from Virginia, Brautigan lived with Ron Loewinsohn and his wife, Joan, for about three months. While there, Brautigan used the back porch as a writing studio, working on the manuscript for A Confederate General from Big Sur
, keeping each chapter in a separate envelope.
According to Bill Morgan, Virginia's affair with Aste brought Brautigan and Jack Spicer together. Spicer and Brautigan spent a great deal of time together at Cho Cho Tempura Bar, 1020 Kearny, owned by Jimmy Sakata. Spicer had a crush on Aste and this odd love triangle was the subject of his poem "The Holy Grail" (Morgan. The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour
. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2003).
Years later, in 1984, Brautigan borrowed a Smith & Wesson .44 magnum handgun from Sakata and used it to commit suicide in his Bolinas, California, home.
Highlights: Publishes Change
Brautigan and Ron Loewinsohn
decided to publish a literary magazine. Brautigan suggested the name, Change
Wednesday, 1 May 1963
Brautigan and Loewinsohn published the first issue of their literary magazine Change
(Peter Manso and Michael McClure
65). Only one issue was ever published and it consisted of mimeogaphed sheets (8.5" x 11") with a photograph taken by Joan Gatten, Loewinshon's wife, of Loewinsohn and Brautigan on the front cover, dressed in black, looking like serious poets, standing in front of a billboard advertising "the fastest car on Earth." Featured first publication of Brautigan's short story "Coffee."
Brautigan moved out of Ron Loewinsohn's apartment and into one of his own at 1482 Washington Street. From here, faced with lack of income, Brautigan moved four times before the end of the year seeking less expensive housing. Brautigan's only income was from his part-time job at Pacific Chemical measuring out barium swallows.
Brautigan met Anna Savoca, an Italian woman from Brooklyn, and a student at San Francisco State University. Anna made no secret of her love for another man, but still Brautigan was infatuated. He courted Anna with poetry. Eight unpublished poems survive, the earliest dated 5 June, and entitled "Another Poem for Anna," suggesting at least one earlier draft. Another poem written for Anna describes weighing out the ingredients for barium swallows at Pacific Chemical where Brautigan worked part-time.
Basically, Savoca amused herself with Brautigan. In early October she broke off the relationship. In response, Brautigan cut his wrists superficially, smeared his blood on the walls of her apartment, and waited for her return. She was unimpressed and moved to Virginia City, Nevada, to live with Clayton Lewis for a year before marrying the son of a Potrero Hill dowager, the man she used to keep Brautigan at a distance (Hjortsberg
Tuesday, 16 July 1963
Brautigan moved to apartment 3 at 1565 Washington Street.
Sunday, 1 September 1963
Brautigan moved to an apartment at 1327 Leavenworth Street. Here, he finished writing A Confederate General from Big Sur
. Brautigan gave Donald Merriam Allen
a copy of the manuscript, who sent it to Richard Seaver at Grove Press who quickly asked for a two month option.
Friday, 11 October 1963
Brautigan moved to room 3 in the Mitchel Art Hotel, 444 Columbus Avenue. A week later, lacking money, he could not pay the rent and his room was locked, with his books, papers, and two manuscripts inside. Brautigan stayed with Andy Cole in his apartment.
Brautigan and his first wife, Virginia (Ginny) Dionne Alder
, separated 24 December 1962, when he learned of Virginia's affair with his friend, Anthony (Tony) Frederic Aste
. Virginia, and daughter, Ianthe, moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, with Aste. Early in October 1963, they returned to San Francisco. Brautigan wrote about the changes he saw in Ianthe in a series of unpublished stories. In one, "To Love a Child in California the Way Love Should Be," he writes about the heartache of having to leave after visiting with Ianthe for only one-half hour. Her crying, he wrote, followed him down the stairs as he walked away.
The October-November issue of Evergreen Review
featured four chapters from Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America
: "The Hunchback Trout," "Room 208, Hotel Trout Fishing in America," "The Surgeon," and "The Cleveland Wrecking Yard."
Sunday, 1 December 1963
Brautigan moved to apartment C at 483 Frisco Street, which he sublet from friends away in Mexico. In addition to monthly rent, Brautigan cared for the owner's birds. The large foliage-filled aviary in the back of the apartment was the backdrop for a photograph by Erik Weber
used on the back cover of Brautigan's A Confederate General from Big Sur
Brautigan and Weber met 28 September 1963 at a birthday party for Weber's wife, Lois. Learning that Weber was a photographer, Brautigan mentioned the prospective publication of A Confederate General from Big Sur
and said he needed publicity and dust jacket photographs. Weber photographed Brautigan repeatedly, for both book publicity and story illustrations, until 1978 when, according to Weber, Brautigan ended their friendship.
Richard Seaver contacted Brautigan to say Grove Press, and specifically Barnet Lee "Barney" Rosset, Jr.
, had decided to publish A Confederate General from Big Sur
. He offered Brautigan a $1,000 dollar advance against royalty payments. Additionally, Seaver offered a $1,000 option for Trout Fishing in America
with a $1,000 advance payable within one month of publication of A Confederate General from Big Sur
. Seaver also offered an option on Brautigan's third novel (unnamed, but Brautigan was working on a manuscript he called Contemporary Life in California
; abandoned in April 1964, see below) with terms to be determined on delivery of the manuscript.
Highlights: A Confederate General from Big Sur published . . . Writes a fan letter to Ringo Starr, drummer of the music group The Beatles
Brautigan signed a publishing contract with Grove Press who planned to publish A Confederate General from Big Sur
in the fall and Trout Fishing in America
a year later.
The Beatles became the most popular music group in the world. Joanne Kyger
tells this story:
The Beatles are in the air. Richard Brautigan and I sit at Vesuvio and memorize their names and pictures—that's John, and that's Paul. We write a letter with Jack Spicer to Ringo Starr. (Kyger 196)
After completing only twenty-nine pages, just nine short chapters, Brautigan abandoned his work in progress Contemporary Life in California
Brautigan's story The Post Offices of Eastern Oregon
was first published in Kulchur
13 Spring 1964: 51-55.
Brautigan quit his part-time job at Pacific Chemical and relocated to Bolinas, California, a small town across the bay and northwest of San Francisco, home to a significant colony of artists and writers. He lived in rent-free in an unfinished house on Dogwood Street. Brautigan worked part-time for friend Bill Brown who owned and landscaping business. He worked on his novels and wrote letters to editors around the country seeking publishing opportunities for his work.
Brautigan's poem "September California"
was first published in Sum
(3) May 1964: 23.
Wednesday, 13 May 1964
According to the dedication included with the publication of the novel in 1968, Brautigan began writing In Watermelon Sugar
in a house in Bolinas, California on this day. The house, under construction, unfinished, was located on Dogwood Street (see above).
Brautigan purchased a home in Bolinas in 1970. Several times from 1966-1968, before he bought his own house, Brautigan visited and stayed with writer and friend Bill Brown and his family according to Brown's son, Tony.
Long before he moved to Bolinas, he would visit us at our home on the Mesa and if memory serves after all this time, he lived in our house for an extended period at least once. This would have been 1966-1968.
I was in high school at that time and our home was in Bolinas, California. Bill Brown [the writer, and friend to Brautigan] was my father and my sister Maggie is married to Jim Koller.
One my recollections/impressions of Richard is that while he wrote in what some of his critics called a random association loose sort of manner, he was very much a perfectionist when working on any task, including washing the dishes. Every fork tine was cleaned to perfection.
One of the strongest memories I have is of a dark and stormy night. He and I were watching Gunsmoke in a smallish room that was somewhat overheated.
Miss Kitty and Festus were struggling on foot across the desert, the buzzards circling above. Camera shots of the sun baking down and the shimmering sands.
Time went on for awhile this way.
Finally Richard yelled, "I can't take it anymore!!!" threw open the window and stuck his head outside.
When he closed the window and turned around, he was soaked from the rain, his moustache and hair drooping straight down from the soaking, glasses fogged. He got a huge smile on his face and said, "That was a mistake." We both started laughing.
He read at a party I threw for a bunch of my friends, which was a very kind thing to do for us.
I took a film class in my senior year of high school and was part of a small crew. We tried to make a short movie and Richard was in it at his home in San Francisco. I wish I knew what happened to that film.
I think out of all the writers and poets I have met over the years, Richard was and remains my favorite person out of that group. Possibly because we would do things like stay up late, sitting in the kitchen and inventing things that might be found living in the chest freezer.
Friday, 12 June 1964
Don Carpenter rented the Old Longshoreman's Hall, 400 North Point, near Fisherman's Wharf, for $75.00 and arranged a reading billed as "Freeway" for poets Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, and Lew Welch. His intent was to produce a successful, professional poetry reading, and Carpenter took care of all expenses and details. Reportedly, eight hundred people attended the event, the largest crowd ever for a poetry event in San Francisco. Perhaps one of them was Brautigan, who would have come from Bolinas.
the full text of Carpenter's essay about the Old Longshoreman's Hall poetry reading.
Carpenter's essay at The Don Carpenter Page website
Carpenter often said he considered Brautigan his best friend. Carpenter documents their first meeting in the early 1960s in his poignant memoir "My Brautigan: A Portrait from Memory"
. Carpenter wrote a review of Brautigan's novel, Trout Fishing in America
("A Book for Losers"
) and another for The Tokyo-Montana Express
("Brautigan Writing at His Peak"
Brautigan met Janice Meissner.
Brautigan moved back to San Francisco, taking up residence at 123 Beaver Street, where he shared a house with poets Philip Whalen and Lew Welch
. Brautigan had the front room of the house and enjoyed its marble fireplace and large, Victorian windows. Brautigan enjoyed living with other poets and captured the mood in an unfinished, unpublished fiction entitled "Moose, an American Pastoral." 123 Beaver Street became 321 Moose Street. Philip Whalen became "Charles." Lew Welch became "Sam." Brautigan mentioned his own work in this fiction, saying the novel (In Watermelon Sugar
) was very important to him.
Sunday, 19 July 1964
Brautigan finished the first draft of In Watermelon Sugar
, typing the dedication page.
Richard Seaver, from Grove Press, sent Brautigan an advance copy of A Confederate General from Big Sur
, along with a note that Grove had decided to delay release of the novel until January 1965 so that the book would not be lost in the Christmas season.
Brautigan left 123 Beaver Street, and moved in with Janice Meissner at her apartment (number 4) at 533 Divisadero Street.
During the national elections, Brautigan voted for Lyndon Johnson, thinking he would end the war in Vietnam. Instead, Johnson escalated the war. Brautigan felt betrayed and never voted again, refusing to take a political stance for the rest of his life.
Monday, 30 November 1964
Brautigan began capturing ideas for what he hoped would be a new novel with a working title of "The American Experience by Richard Brautigan." The opening chapter began, "The American experience is an operation illegal in this country: abortion. This is our story. There are thousands like us in America [. . .] in every state, in every city." This was the beginning of what became The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966
Brautigan composed and sent a Christmas card to his friends. At the top of the card he wrote a poem:
All the flowers
that Christmas bring
grow again . . .
grow again . . .
in the houses
where we live.
Below the poem Brautigan drew a house with smoke curving out of the chimney. Inside the house, he wrote "Merry Christmas." Above the chimney smoke he wrote the date, 1964. At the bottom of the page, he wrote his name, and that of Janice Meissner.
Highlights: A Confederate General from Big Sur released . . . Continues work on Trout Fishing in America
A Confederate General from Big Sur
was published by Grove Press. This was Brautigan's first published novel, although it was the second he wrote as an adult writer, after Trout Fishing in America
Friday, 22 January 1965
Grove Press sponsored a publication party and reading to celebrate the release of A Confederate General from Big Sur
. The 8:30 PM reading was held at the California Club, 1750 Clay Street, San Francisco. A reception followed, 10:00 PM-midnight, at the Tape Music Center, 321 Divisadero Street. The 4" x 9" invitations were printed on textured, deckle-edge stock and included small illustrations.
Sales for A Confederate General from Big Sur
were disappointing and Grove Press held off publishing Trout Fishing in America
. They rejected Brautigan's two remaining contracted novels, In Watermelon Sugar
and The Abortion
as Brautigan presented them and allowed their contract for Trout Fishing in America
to expire in July 1966. Grove Press did, however, keep A Confederate General from Big Sur
alive in small editions, which Brautigan resented.
no publishing contract, Brautigan once again faced poverty. He worked odd jobs, borrowed money from friends, and sold copies of Lay the Marble Tea
and The Octopus Frontier
on consignment at City Lights Books
. With no other economic skills, and no contact with society other than the San Franciso writing community, Brautigan focused on succeeding as a writer. San Francisco's psychedelic scene was just beginning and the increased media attention focused on LSD
, the hippies
and happenings in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury
neighborhood during the Summer of Love
(summer 1967) helped him realize this dream.
Brautigan noted as living at 544 Divisadero Street (Polk County Directory
Brautigan lived at 2830 California Street, just off Divisadero (Polk County Directory
), with Janice Meissner.
Brian Nation lived four blocks from Brautigan and Meissner on Californina Street. He spent time with each and made this photograph of Meissner.
In Detroit John Sinclair introduced me to Trout Fishing in America. Later that year I was in San Francisco. Dan McLeod introduced me to Joanne Kyger whom I later visited on occasion. I believe she was still married to—although separated from—Gary Snyder. At Joanne's apartment at 2921 Pine Street I met Ken Botto whose film I'd seen just days earlier. Botto shared an apartment at 2450 California Street with Jim O'Neill. Jim lived mostly with his girlfriend, so I moved in to his room. At Joanne's another time I met Richard Brautigan. The Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library was just a few blocks away at 3150 Sacramento Street. I visited the library regularly for reading material and also because the librarian was yet another in a series of very beautiful women I secretly pined for. On one visit I was checking out Confederate General from Big Sur. She mentioned that she loved Brautigan's writing. Suddenly there was Brautigan. I introduced them. Another magical confluence of romance, ideas, and events. Brautigan invited me back to his place, also in the neighborhood, four blocks from Botto's at 2830 California Street. There I met his girlfriend whose name I can't recall but which might have been Janice. I fell in love with her in an instant. I was 21, utterly single, and falling in love all over the damn place. Janice, Richard, and I became friends. Now and then I'd go by their place and we'd play Monopoly. Monopoly became a significant, recurring game during that particular time in San Francisco. And later, of course, Brautigan became a significant and very popular author for a couple of decades. Janice visited me once in a while, with or without Richard. One day I told her she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen in my life and asked to photograph her. We crossed the street to an empty lot where she stood before a wall and I ran off about half a dozen shots. Later I discovered the film had stuck in the camera so that every photograph, plus others I took later, were all exposed on a single frame. I discovered this months later, back in Vancouver [British Columbia, Canada] when I managed to find a darkroom and it was too late to take more pictures of Janice. The negative was almost solid black in that spot but, determined to salvage even the ghostliest image of Janice, I exposed the photo paper for almost five minutes and this is all the evidence that remains of Janice.
Nation's "Beat the Devil" website
Tuesday, 9 March 1965
Brautigan participated in a reading at Tressider Lounge, Stanford University, Stanford, California.
Brautigan's poem "October 2, 1960"
first published in San Francisco Keeper's Voice
1(4) April 1965: 6.
Astrologer Gavin Arthur, grandson of former president Chester A. Arthur, predicted the destruction of the Northern California coast. Brautigan recruited photographer friend Erik Weber
and his wife Loie to drive he and Janice Meissner to visit Price Dunn, then living along the Carmel River. The tidal wave never materialized and the group spent the week together. Weber took a number of photographs of Brautigan and Dunn posing on or in front of chicken coops, buildings, and bouys.
Saturday, 3 July and Saturday, 10 July 1965: Buzz Gallery
Brautigan read the newly-completed manuscript of his novel In Watermelon Sugar
at the Buzz Gallery, 1711 Buchanan Street, San Francisco, California. He read the first half the evening of 3 July, the second half 10 July. In Watermelon Sugar
was not published until 1968.
Buzz Gallery was an artist commune founded 21 June 1964 by Paul Alexander, Bill Brodecky, and Larry Fagin. Planned to remain open only one year, Buzz Gallery closed following the show by Jack Boyce, 19-20 February 1966. During its short tenure, Buzz provided a gallery where young San Francisco artists could show their work.
Joanne Kyger, in her essay "I Remember Richard Brautigan," writes
I remember Richard reading his newly finished manuscript of In Watermelon Sugar in two parts over at Buzz Gallery on Buchanan Street, Saturday, July 3, and July 10. Tom Parkinson laughed in all the wrong places. The novel was dedicated to Don Allen, Michael McClure, and me. This was during the famous Berkeley Poetry Conference, July 12-24, 1965. It was a great fermenting stew of poets arriving. Richard was not a part of that. (Richard Brautigan: Essays on the Writings and Life. McFarland, 2006. 142.)
The Berkeley Poetry Conference featured Charles Olsen, John Weiners, Gary Snyder, Edward Dorn, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Spicer, and Warren and Ellen Tallman, among others.
Bill Brodecky Moore, a San Francisco artist and one of the original founders of Buzz Gallery, in a brief history of the gallery, also recalls Brautigan's reading.
Richard Brautigan also packed the place with his reading of In Watermelon Sugar. I complimented him effusively afterward, even though I thought the book less good and more stylized than Trout Fishing in America, which I had thought dry and too deliberately droll when he read it in a Mission District former church (at which [Jack] Spicer, who had been a close adviser, was present, proving that his geographic rules were spotty). [Spicer felt that members of the poetry scene in North Beach never went west of Van Ness or south of California Street].
Moore's full account in Buzz Gallery 1964-1965, a monograph of the gallery published in Big Bridge (Volume 3, Number 1), a webzine of poetry
The entire Buzz Gallery 1964-1965 monograph in Big Bridge webzine
Writer David Kherdian recalls drinking and playing pool with other unknown writers, including Brautigan, at Vesuvio, the bohemian bar facing the alley that separated Discovery Books and City Lights Books
. Perhaps, however, Kheridan is confusing Vesuvio, which by all accounts never had a pool table, with Mike's other local bar where writers and others gathered to drink, talk, and play pool. Kheridan was writing Six San Francisco Poets
(Fresno, CA: Giligia Press, 1969) and considered including Brautigan
in my book but disqualified him on the basis of his poems, that seemed to me minimal at best—but we had long, involved talks about [William] Saroyan, whose work he admired as much as I did. (Kherdian 269)
Kherdian expressed his feelings further in this poem, "Lately Richard Brautigan Isn't Enough," published in 1969:
comes in a jar
handsome enough to hold
pencils & letteropeners
and other nice things.
And I should mention
Croydom, too, his partner.
They established it in 1797
(David Kherdian. The Sage (12) October 1969: 13)
Brautigan applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship. The abstract answers he provided on the application form probably did not help. For example, to the question of the purpose of his project, Brautigan replied, "I would like to write a novel dealing with the legend of America and its influence upon myself and these times. I would like to write another novel about the fiber and mythology of this country. The locale of the novel would be the Pacific Northwest." With regard to other grants and awards, Brautigan wrote, "I have never received any outside help in my writing." As to education, Brautigan replied, "I have no education that can be listed here. My 'education' has been obtained by other means." Brautigan offered no foreign language proficiency, "English is the only language I know." In response to a question about scientific/artistic organizations of which he belonged, Brautigan replied, "I have never been a member of any organization."
In his career statement, Brautigan was more expansive. "As a novelist I am deeply interested in achieving a maximum amount of effect using a minimum space, and I am also very interested in structure and language."
Saturday, 30 October 1965
Brautigan and Janice Meissner hosted a Halloween party at their shared apartment, 2830 California Street, San Francisco, which was attended by all the royalty of San Francisco counterculture. Michael and Joanna McClure attended, as did Joanne Kyger and Jack Boyce, John and Margot Doss, and Erik and Loie Weber. Elvin Bishop, then a drummer for the John Coltrane Quartet, was there. Don Allen stopped by, just back from his trip to New Mexico to visit with Robert Creeley. The surprise guests were The Fugs, a legendary, underground punk band from New York City, in town to play at Appeal I, a benefit concert for the Mime Troupe, held early November at the Calliope Warehouse (aka, "The Loft") at 924 Howard Street. Banjo player Sandy Bull and The Jefferson Airplane also performed, as did poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Grove Press rejected Brautigan's novel In Watermelon Sugar
, but offered a $1,500 advance against future work, payable at $250.00 per month for six months starting January 1966.
Brautigan posed with Beat
poets and artists for a photograph by Larry Keenan in front of City Lights Books
in San Francisco. The photograph is called variously "The Last Gathering" or "Poets at the City Lights Bookstore." According to Keenan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
wanted to document the 1965 Beat scene in San Francisco in the spirit of early 20th Century photographs of Bohemian artists and writers in Paris. So, he gathered as many as possible in front of his bookstore and Keenan took the photograph titled "The Last Gathering of Beat Poets & Artists, City Lights Books." Brautigan is seen right of center, wearing a white hat. The original photograph was horizontal and showed the entire front of City Lights Books and a larger gathering of Beat poets and writers. The image shown here was cropped by Keenan from the original horizontal photograph and does not show all the Beats gathered.
An alternative photograph by Keenan. Those shown include, front row left to right: Robert LaVigne, Shigeyoshi (Shig) Murau
, Larry Fagin, Leland Meyezove (lying down), Lew Welch
, Peter Orlovsky. Second row: David Meltzer
, Michael McClure
, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Langton, Steve (friend of Ginsberg), Richard Brautigan (wearing white hat), Gary Goodrow, Nemi Frost. Back row: Stella Levy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Another alternative photograph by Keenan. Brautigan is seen in the back, wearing the white hat.
Keenan's photograph was first published on the front cover of City Lights Journal
, issue 3 (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1966). Brautigan made no literary contribution to this issue. The photograph in its original format is rarely seen.
The photograph was republished several times after that. One example is the front cover of Huge Dreams: San Francisco and Beat Poems
by Michael McClure (New York: Penguin, 1999).
This book reprints two by McClure long out of print: The New Book
and A Book of Torture and Star
. These books are considered by some to represent the cornerstones of the Beat movement. Their poems certainly impart a sense of the rich texture and individuality that fueled the San Francisco Beat movement.
Another photograph of Brautigan by Larry Keenan. Taken at the same time as the photograph "The Last Gathering of the Beat Poets & Artists" (above).
Saturday, 18 December 1965
Brautigan attended the opening midnight performance of Michael McClure's
play, The Beard
James (Jim) Joseph Marshall (3 February 1936, Chicago, Illinois—24 March 2010, New York City, New York), noted photographer of many musicians and the chief photographer at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair (15-18 August 1969, Bethel, New York) photographed Brautigan in 1965 or 1966 on the streets of San Francisco, California, holding a bouquet of white carnations.
Jim Marshall Photography Official Website
Jim Marshall Photography LLC: The Official Blog
Brautigan sent a Christmas card to Donald Allen
. The card, certainly picked by Brautigan to raise questions, featured a picture of a near-naked, tattooed blond female seen from the rear, her legs wrapped in a Nazi flag. The tattoo read, "Property of Satan's Slaves." On the inside, Brautigan wrote "Merry California Christmas!" and signed "Richard and Janice" [Meissner].
Highlights: Summer of Love begins . . . Gets involved with the Diggers
Brautigan's short stories "Revenge of the Lawn"
and "A Short History of Religion in California"
were published in TriQuarterly
5 Winter 1966: 55-59, under the title "Two Stories by Richard Brautigan."
Brautigan's poem, "A Study in California Flowers,"
was published in Coyote's Journal
5/6 1966: 81.
Brautigan lived at 2830 California Street (Polk County Directory
Brautigan sent five stories to Sue Green, who worked with a startup literary magazine in New York called Art Voices
. Green returned four, keeping one titled "Kitty Genovese-by-the-Sea," a story about aviator Charles Redgrave marooned on an island southwest of Hawaii. Redgrave writes a note for help, seals it in a bottle, which he casts into the ocean. A couple walking the beach in California find the bottle, but thinking it a hoax, disregard the plea for help. Art Voices
went out of business and the story was never published.
Saturday, 26 March 1966
Brautigan took a one-day trip to Tijuana, Mexico, a city known in 1966 for offering several clinics where one could undergo procedures for terminating unwanted pregnancies. Brautigan was researching ideas for a new novel with abortion as central to its plot. The working title was "The American Experience by Richard Brautigan." Brautigan began on this new novel in November 1965. The notes Brautigan recorded during his Tijuana trip were included in the novel which became known as The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966
Brautigan gave a poetry reading with Andrew Hoyem at The Coffee Gallery, (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach. A stylized handbill, printed in black ink on white stock, announced the reading.
Brautigan read "Revenge of the Lawn" and other examples of his work at the Rhymers Club, Wheeler Hall, University of California Berkeley. His story, "The Pretty Office"
was first published in the second issue of the club's mimeographed magazine, R.C. Lion
, this month as well.
Four days after his reading in Berkeley, Brautigan broke up with Janice Meissner, moved out of her 2830 California Street apartment and into one rented by Andrew Hoyem at 1652 Fell Street. Six weeks after moving in with Hoyem, Brautigan finished his first draft of The Abortion
Friday, 22 July 1966
Brautigan's contract with Grove Press for publication of Trout Fishing in America
Sunday, 31 July 1966
The option held by Grove Press to publish Brautigan's novel The Abortion
Wednesday, 24 August 1966
Brautigan terminated business relationships with Grove Press. He wrote to Barney Rossett, noting that "Grove's lack of interest in honoring the thirty-day decision paragraph in its December 3, 1965 letter to me has forced me to seek another publisher for my work."
Brautigan participted in Artists' Liberation Front (ALF)
Fair held in the Pan Handle of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. This image, taken from a film of the street fair
, shows Brautigan standing amid the swirling events.
Brautigan moved to 2546 Geary Street, next door to photographer Erik Weber
who arranged for Brautigan to take this new apartment. Brautigan lived there until 4 December 1974.
Brautigan's Geary Street apartment,
a typical turn-of-the-century, high-ceilinged, San Francisco apartment, was to the right at the top of the front stairs. The front door was wooden, ornately carved, with a small window against which Brautigan always kept small things taped. The front door opened to a hallway leading to the back of the apartment. Faded pink curtains and/or parachutes, hiding the peeling paint and falling ceiling plaster, were hung above the hallway. Along the walls Brautigan hung rock concert posters, mimeographed poems, and paste up for his book covers, and announcements for his poetry readings around San Francisco. Following the success of Trout Fishing in America
in 1967, Brautigan had a school of his trademark smiling trout painted on the length of the hallway floor (Keith Abbott
Doors opened from the hallway into the rooms of Brautigan's apartment. The front room contained a brass bed, always made and covered, for a period of time, with a buffalo hide. There was a fireplace in the room but it never worked. The built-in cabinet shelves were loaded with books and a collection of intriguing items: keys, rocks, feathers, and Hell's Angels mementos (Keith Abbott
16); a switchblade in the shape of a dragon, stuck open and wrapped in a rosary, a small Bible covered in mink fur, and a small piece of gold lame given by Janis Joplin
. A fishing pole sat in one corner. (Ianthe Brautigan
Another prominent feature of this room was a small stepladder, painted black and decorated with pink-pompoms hanging from each step by the artist Bruce Conner
15). This ladder ("collage" as Conner called it) is shown in photographs of Brautigan's Geary Street apartment by Erik Weber
. Apparently, this ladder was a gift from Conner to Brautigan.
In January 2011, a paint-stained and well-used wooden step ladder, attributed to Bruce and Jean Conner, circa 1967-1970, was offered for sale by Christie's as part of the estate of actor Dennis Hopper who died in 2010. The ladder was listed as gift from Brautigan, but no further details were provided. Since this ladder was not painted black, there would appear to be some doubt that this ladder was the original one given by Conner to Brautigan.
Photograph and description of this ladder at the artnet website
Further down the hallway was Brautigan's writing room. It contained a large, dark oak table used as a desk and some overflowing bookshelves. On the table, under a plastic cover, sat Brautigan's tan IBM Selectric electric typewriter. The window was covered with a torn blue bedspread (Ianthe Brautigan
The door to the bathroom had a frosted glass window. The bathroom walls were decorated with a Beatles poster and small leaflets. Above the toilet paper hung
a royalty statement from Grove Press stating that A Confederate General from Big Sur had sold 743 copies. What Richard thought about this was easy to guess from its position. (Keith Abbott 18)
At the back of the apartment was the small kitchen, its linoleum tile worn in places. A porcelain sink with an old-fashioned spigot sat under the window. A white refrigerator, usually sparsely stocked, stood in the corner. In another was the white gas stove. The cupboards contained chili, spaghetti, and sardines, easy to prepare one-can meals, and instant coffee. Furnishings included a round oak table and two chairs, the caning in their seats broken. The cookware was basic; the white tin dishes had pictures of fruit on them. Brautigan may have changed the wall decorations periodically. Keith Abbott said when he first met Brautigan, in March 1966, the only decoration was "a funky, butcher paper and crayon poster for Richard's first reading of Trout Fishing in America
was made by poet friend Michael McClure
I drew it by hand, Richard face-forward with his glasses, hat, and mustache. Across from that I drew his profile, then wrote DIGGER under one and POET under the other. Richard kept that poster up on the wall forever, along with other posters, and good notices. He loved it. Everything got very old on his walls. He'd hang new things but he'd never take anything away or down. The things about him comforted him and got cobwebby. It was like an old museum of himself. (Michael McClure 36-37)
The kitchen walls featured several interesting decorations like,
a pencil drawing of a bus with real Lincoln penny heads as passengers, a few small Fillmore Auditorium posters, and a picture of an ancient Colt pistol (Ianthe Brautigan 16)
The back porch was the repository for copies of the San Francisco Chronicle
. Brautigan read the paper daily and archived year's worth of back issues on the porch. A rickety staircase led from the porch to the backyard.
Brautigan involved himself with the Diggers
, a group of civic anarchists active in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district 1966-1968 who tried to achieve social change through street theater, leaderless events, and services to the needy (Keith Abbott 35).
Allegedly, Brautigan attended the meeting of the Artists' Liberation Front
where the Diggers were formed (Barney Hoskyns
119). By most accounts, however, the Diggers evolved from the San Francisco Mime Troupe
, which was closely associated with the Artists' Liberation Front through their common founder, Ronnie G. Davis.
This photograph shows Brautigan, and Emmett Grogan
(left, wearing beads) attending a meeting. Grogan was one of the founders of the Diggers. Brautigan was, until he achieved his own fame as a writer, well-connected with the Diggers and Grogan. Brautigan's poem, "Death Is A Beautiful Car Parked Only"
was written for and dedicated to Grogan.
Brautigan admired the services Diggers provided to the needy, like free housing and food. The daily free food program was held in The Panhandle, an extension of Golden Gate State Park, where the Diggers provided donated or stolen produce, meat, and bread to hungry Haight-Ashbury
residents. Some of the food was picked up in a 1958 Dodge truck "provided by a rich lady friend of Richard Brautigan" (Gene Anthony
The logistics of procuring and transporting food included the need for dependable transportation. Emmett Grogan
, one of the founders of the Diggers
, also writes about Brautigan's help in securing a truck in his autobiography Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps
(Boston, Little, Brown, 1972; reprinted Rebel, 1999).
The Ford wagon finally up and died one day, and it looked like the yellow submarine [a VW bus] wasn't going to last much longer either, being driven sixteen to twenty hours a day. Emmett and a crew of Diggers were discussing the need for another vehicle, when in the front door walked Richard Brautigan, a tall, carrot-haired, thirty-five-year-old poet wearing grandpa glasses, a peacoat and a floppy, broad-brimmed, felt hat. He also sported a golden bristled moustache, which drooped over his upper lip like a nodding eyelash. Richard called his poems "Tidbits" and he wrote quite a few for the free handbills which were mimeographed and distributed by the Communication Company, a small organization set up by two office-staffers of Ramparts magazine. Their names were Claude [Hayward] and Chester [Anderson] and, turned on by the style of the Digger Papers, they effectively replaced the need for them by printing single-sheet newspapers which were handed out along Haight Street several times a day. The Communication Company was one of the best newspapers any community ever had.
Brautigan had some news himself that day—an item about a wealthy young woman named Flame who wanted to buy the Diggers something they could use, and needed.
"Would she go for a pickup truck?" someone asked.
"Sure," came the reply, and Butcher Brooks jumped to his feet, asking Richard to take him to her and telling everyone else that he would be back that evening with a pickup he has his eye on. And that evening, he did return, driving a '58 Chevy pickup in great condition with a brand new set of tires. Next to him on the front seat sat a stunning redhead with long full hair and skin the color of ivory. She was Flame all right and she soon became Brooks's old lady, living with him in another storefront on Webster Street in the Fillmore. (265-266)
Max Grogan's (son of Emmett) "1%free's photos" website
By some accounts, Brautigan was well-connected with the Diggers—his poem "Death Is A Beautiful Car Only"
was written for and dedicated to Emmett Grogan—and often participated in or supported their activities. Once he achieved his own fame and financial success, however, his association with the Diggers became more distant, a fact that some Diggers resented. Perhaps they thought Brautigan no longer needed their support after it had been provided without question for so long before his success. For Brautigan, it is likely that he felt Diggers would think badly of him for making money, or based on their "free" mentality, expect some percentage of his success.
Brautigan's poems "The House," "My Nose is Growing Old,"
and "November 3,"
were published in O'er
(2) December 1966: 107-109. In addition, this issue also featured a full-page advertisement for The Galilee Hitch-Hiker
to be published by Oar, complete with made up blurbs promoting the book.
Brautigan participated in the Diggers
inspired "Death and Rebirth of the Haight" (aka "Death of Money") parade. Marchers carried a black coffin marked with dollar signs down Haight Street. When San Francisco police attempted to arrest Hells Angel member, Angel "Hairy Henry" Kot, for allowing Phyllis (Roz) Willner, 16 years old wearing a homemade Supergirl costume, to stand on the seat of his motorcycle as he drove down Haight Street, Kot resisted. Fellow Hells Angel Charles George "Chocolate George" Hendricks, Jr., who attempted to assist Kot, was also charged with resisting arrest. Both were taken to the nearby Park Street Station. A large crowd, including Brautigan, poet Michael McClure
, and another Hells Angel, Freewheelin' Frank (Frank Reynolds)
, marched to the Park Street police station in a spontaneous protest, shouting for the release of both men. The crowd passed the hat and collected bail money for both Henry and George who were released (Barney Hoskins
121 and Peter Coyote
96); Kot was detained for a parole violation. Gene Anthony captured a fine series of photographs of the event, including one of Brautigan standing in front of the police station (Gene Anthony
132-145). In 1989, Phyllis (Roz) Kot sent Henry's "colors," his Hells Angels vest, to the Smithsonian Institute, along with two photocopies of newspaper articles about the event, and a letter noting, "Hank as he was more commonly called . . . has since passed away and I felt you were the appropriate entity to receive this jacket."
"A Hells Angel Goes to the Smithsonian"
. Learn more, view photographs of Hairy Henry's colors, and some of Gene Anthongy's photographs at this webpage of the Chop Cult website.
Tuesday, 20 December 1966
Brautigan gave two poetry readings (9:00 and 11:00 PM) at The Coffee Gallery, (formerly Miss Smith's Tea Room which closed in 1958), 1353 Grant Avenue, in San Francisco's North Beach. Sharing the bill were William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), Allen Dienstag, and Andrew Hoyem.
Highlights: Poet in residence at California Institute of Technology . . . Involved with The Invisible Circus, a Digger event . . . Participates in the Bedrock One, a benefit for the Communication Company . . . Participates in several poetry readings . . . Trout Fishing in America published . . . All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace published
This photograph, by Ianthe Brautigan
, circa 1967, appeared on the front cover of Downstream from Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan
by Keith Abbott (1989).
Brautigan posed for several publicity photographs by Baron Wolman in San Francisco, in 1967. This photograph, showing Brautigan seated on the front bumper of an old truck, typewriter in his lap, was used to illustrate Lawrence Wright's memoir "The Life and Death of Richard Brautigan"
(445) 11 April 1985: 29, 31, 34, 36, 38, 40, 59, 61). This is a black and white version of the original color photograph.
Wolman took these additional photographs of Brautigan, apparently at the same time, but they were not used in Wright's memoir.
Brautign reading at Gino & Carlo's bar in North Beach, San Francisco, California, circa 1967. Photograph by Mark Green. Handwritten notes on the reverse of the original photograph note the wall mural behind Brautigan painted by Stewart Johnson who was later stabbed to death in the bar. Mark L. Green (1932-2004) was a San Francisco photographer and writer. He organized a retrospective exhibition of underground arts entitled "The Rolling Renaissance, 1945-1968." This black and white photograph is part of the Mark Green Papers 1954-1991
, part of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Brautigan and Michael McClure
, 1967, in San Francisco. This image was taken at the same time that McClure and Brautigan appeared together in McClure's documentary film The Maze
Brautigan began a relationship with Michaela Blake-Grand, the former girlfriend of Andy Cole, with whom Brautigan shared an apartment October-December 1963 (see above). Known as "Mikey," Brautigan called Blake-Grand his muse. She appeared with Brautigan in the front cover photograph for Trout Fishing in America
and with Brautigan and daughter Ianthe
in the front cover photograph for Brautigan's first collection, Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, In Watermelon Sugar
. Brautigan dedicated his poem "I've Never Had It Done So Gently Before"
to "M" (Michaela) and during his poet-in-residency at the California Institute of Technology (see below) wrote her other, unpublished, poems.
Wednesday, 4 January 1967
Brautigan participated with David Sandberg and Jeff Sheppard in a poetry reading at the I/Thou Coffee Shop, 1736 Haight Street.
Brautigan participated with Gary Snyder
, Lenore Kandel
, Lew Welch
, George Stanley, David Meltzer
, Ron Loewinshon, and William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed) in "The 1st San Francisco Poet's Benefit for the Diggers" held at Deno & Carlo, 728 Vallejo Street, at 8:00 pm. The event was conceived by Brautigan, who told owner Lou Marcelli he would arrange for Allen Ginsberg to headline the event. Brautigan drew the 8.5" x 11" mimeograph poster advertising the event including his stylized carp, flowers, and an all-seeing eye in a circle at the top, center, surrounded by the words "Free! We love you! Free! We love you!". Additionally, the event was advertised on page five of the January 1967 edition of the Oracle
and in a column written by Ralph Gleason for the San Francisco Chronicle
. Despite this minimal advertising, the event drew more than one hundred people. The Diggers
were a group of civic anarchists who tried to achieve social change through various planned but "leaderless" events. LEARN more >>>
Friday, 13 January 1967
Brautigan attended a party hosted by Andrew Hoyem
at his Fell Street apartment. Hoyem called his party "Meet My Television Set." Allegedly, Brautigan removed all his clothes save his bead necklaces and his hat.
Saturday, 14 January 1967
Although not invited to participate, Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
attended the Human Be-In
at the east end of the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park. The six-block area was filled with over twenty thousand people.
Sunday, 15 January 1967
Brautigan left San Francisco with Andrew Hoyem
who drove them to the California Institute of Technology campus in Los Angeles. Brautigan and Hoyem were to be poets-in-residence for the following ten days. Arriving at night, Brautigan and Hoyem were housed in the guest suite at Ricketts House on the Cal Tech campus where they enjoyed a late night party.
Monday, 16 January 1967
Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
gave a reading at Hoyem's alma mater, Pomona College, in nearby Claremont, California. Brautigan was paid $50.00. A cocktail reception at the home of Irish poet W. R. "Bertie" Rogers followed.
Brautigan and San Francisco poet Andrew Hoyem
stayed on the California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena, California, during this ten-day period. They lived in the guest suite at Ricketts House. This was the first of Brautigan's teaching experiences
. The invitation came from John F. Crawford, instructor in the English Department who was working with Hoyem to publish a new translation of the Middle English poem Pearl
During his time at Cal Tech, Brautigan wrote the poem "At the California Institute of Technology"
, which was first published in the May 1967 issue of the school's literary magazine, Totem
. He also wrote "Fisherman's Lake" and "Mammal Fortress," two poems, both for Michaela Blake-Grand. Neither were ever collected or published. Additionally, he wrote Blake-Grand three times during his residency at Cal Tech.
Following the conclusion of their residency, Brautigan and Hoyem visited with physicist Richard Feynman whose work with quantum electrodynamics had won the Nobel Prize two years earlier. Additionally, they spent time in Hollywood where Brautigan wrote a poem (never published) entitled "Hollywood" in which he noted lonely men taking out the trash along a residential street overlooked by the famous Hollywood sign.
Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
, fresh from their poets-in-residency at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, arrived at the home of Jack and Vicki Shoemaker in Isla Vista, north of Santa Barbara. Shoemaker managed the Unicorn Book Shop near the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus, and later co-founded North Point Press, Counterpoint, and Shoemaker & Hoard. Brautigan and Hoyem were to read that evening at the Unicorn Book Shop. When the Shoemaker's baby sitter, Althea Susan Morgan, a nineteen-year old student at UCSB, arrived, she and Brautigan were immediately attracted to each other.
Following the reading, Brautigan persuaded Morgan to join him and others for a visit to the hot spring at Gaviota State Park. Thus began Brautigan's relationship with Morgan, which ended in June 1967.
Saturday, 28 January 1967
Brautigan, with Morgan, and Andrew Hoyem
attended a poet's party at the home of Jack and Vicki Shoemaker. Brautigan gave Morgan an inscribed copy of the 1966 Cranium Press reprint of The Galilee Hitchhiker
. Morgan visited Brautigan in San Francisco, and Brautigan visited Morgan in Santa Barbara and exchanged a series of letters
Feedback from Susan Morgan
In 1967 I was a sophomore at UCSB [University of California-Santa Barbara]. I had a very laid-back job as a baby-sitter for a guy [Jack Shoemaker] who managed the Unicorn Bookstore in Isla Vista, an enclave next to UC Santa Barbara housing inhabited mainly by students. The Unicorn was just a few blocks from campus in Isla Vista. One night, mid-January after I had returned from Xmas break, Richard Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem and maybe Lew Welch were at Jack's house when I arrived to baby-sit. They were doing a reading that night at the Unicorn. We chatted a little.
After the reading the poets returned to see if I wanted to join them on a trip up to the Gaviota Hot Springs. We all headed up there in a VW MiniVan smoking weed and Richard played the finger cymbals and chanted. Richard did not smoke. It was a magical night with a full moon in the amazing hot pool in an opening in the woods with bats swooping over our heads. Andrew wrote a poem about it.
I had vaguely heard of Richard. I thought he was quirky and interesting. Physically he was none too attractive, but he was charming. I think I brought him home to my apartment with me that night and then he started writing me and inviting me to visit him in the City. He came down to Isla Vista again several more times. Once he came to meet with Basil Bunting, who was poet in residence at UCSB.
On one of my several visits to SF to see Richard he took me to a thrift shop off Fillmore near Union. I bought a lovely lavender satin dressing gown from the 1930's or '40's for $1.45 which I wore often. When he arranged for his neighbor Erik [Weber] to photograph the two of us that is what I was wearing. The photos (there is one of me alone too) were certainly not flattering of me. Richard liked to drink and at that time I was not a drinker at all. I had had a couple of glasses of wine the night before and was feeling horribly hung over. We had had dinner with, I think it was, Ron Loewenstein over in Berkeley. Even though Richard didn't drive we managed to get around lots of places. He was very restless and seemed to want to be constantly active and on the go. I was used to sitting around smoking dope and listening to music for hours on end, so it was always exciting to be with Richard. He introduced me to Michael McClure, took me to meet Free Wheelin' Frank (who wasn't home), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lenore Kandel.
Richard took me to Lyle Tuttle to get a tatto, which at the time was quite rare thing for a woman.
I was friends with him from early 1967 through about June when he was really getting famous and I felt he was getting too full of himself. He came down to Isla Vista and could not stop talking about all his glorious achievements. Previously he had been a humble, quirky, all too human character. I couldn't take the bragging and gave him the cold shoulder.
I saw him the next year at a poetry reading and we were cordial and exchanged another letter.
Then in 1968 or 1969, when I was living in Bolinas, I ran into Richard who was with a real estate agent one day. I greeted him warmly and he pretended not to recognize me. It was really bizarre and insulting. I don't know what that was about. But it changed my feelings about Richard and seemed a natural progression of the bloated ego he had exhibited in June of 1967.
Brautigan and Morgan visited each other frequently. While visiting Morgan in Santa Barbara, California, Brautigan wrote the poem "The Sitting Here, Standing Here Poem"
for Morgan, who recounts the poem's genesis.
Sunday, 29 January 1967
Brautigan and Andrew Hoyem
returned to San Francisco.
Brautigan's novel A Confederate General from Big Sur
was translated and published in Italy.
Brautigan participated in The Invisible Circus
, "a 72-hour environmental community happening" held in The Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor in San Francisco. The event was planned by the Diggers
with the Artists' Liberation Front
in response to the earlier January 14 Human Be-In
. Brautigan participated in the planning for the event, and coordinated The John Dillinger Computer Complex.
One thousand copies of this 8.5" x 11" tri-colored handbill were printed and distributed, but advertising for the event was limited mostly to word of mouth.
Brautigan attended the organizational meeting, invited by Peter Coyote
who described the "poet and author" as
a tall, mustachioed wraith who wandered the Haight gravely peering at everything through round, frameless glasses. I'd asked him to join us, and now he stood owlishly at the rear of the room, swiveling his head as if he were seeking the sources of sound. (Peter Coyote 78)
, another founder of the Diggers
, described the planning process in his autobiography Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps
(Boston, Little, Brown, 1972; reprinted Rebel, 1999). Grogan said "poets Richard Brautigan and Lenore Kandel" and others who could organize a meaningful event were invited. The planning session was held in the basement of the Glide Memorial Church (281).
One idea that evolved from the planning session was to place the mimeograph machines, stencil cutters, and typewriters from the offices of the Communication Company
, run by Chester Hayward
and Claude Anderson
in a room of the Glide Memorial Church. The result would be an immediate and spontaneous printing effort to encourage attendees to publish whatever they liked. Brautigan was placed in charge of this endeavor. Perhaps his first action was to name it The John Dillinger Computer Complex, playing on its outlaw nature.
Claude Hayward remembers moving the equipment to the basement of the Glide Memorial Church, but can not remember who provided the truck.
Feedback from Claude Hayward
The Invisible Circus was one of the more inspired "happenings" in an era that was really happening. Richard certainly was involved in getting me to drag the equipment down to the church. I don't remember who had a vehicle, but I'm sure it was the first time we tried to move the operation. We set up down stairs in the building attached to Glide [Memorial United Methodist] Church. Some little cubicle and a card table. I just stood there and processed whatever came in; I remember there was something from Freewheelin' Frank. I actually didn't get to see a lot of the action, but I heard about it. Things got so outrageous that I believe the plug finally got pulled when word got back to the powers-that-be that a sexual act had been performed on the altar or something. We had the Gestetner, the Gestefax and an old IBM Executive, along with a case of paper and Inks and stencils. The room was a constant buzz, with people in and out in an unending stream.
Keith Abbott, in his memoir "Garfish, Chili Dogs, and the Human Torch: Memories of Richard Brautigan and San Francisco, 1966"
(Review of Contemporary Fiction
3(3) Fall 1983: 214-219) says the truck was his, and recounts how Brautigan recruited his help.
Since I had a truck, Richard enlisted me to help with the setting up of what he called THE JOHN DILLINGER COMPUTER COMPLEX.
This was the mimeo machines and typewriters and stencil cutters, etc., of the Communications Company. It was to be an outlaw media center. Anyone who wanted to print something could come in and do it. There were also readings scheduled for that night, and I was invited to read along with others.
There were no advertisements of this event, no tickets, no interviews or notice given. The word went out. And thousands showed up. The sheer volume sent the publishing center into breakdown. Machines ran until they broke. (219)
After the equipment was installed, a poster drawn on brown butcher paper, and featuring the John Dillinger name, a smoking gun, and gangster getaway cars was hung on the wall.
Grogan described the output of The John Dillinger Computer Complex in his autobiography Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps
Richard Brautigan, working with Claude [Hayward] and Chester [Anderson], had set up "The John Dillinger Computer Service." Using the machinery from the Communication Company, they printed Flash! bulletins and news items notifying everyone about what was going on where and how to get there and also telling them the news right after it happened. This was done by dispatching reporters all over the church to cover various events and report back to "Dillinger" headquarters to type their stories on stencils. With these stencils, several hundred releases were immediately mimeographed and distributed to the crowd. (283)
Although he admits not being there, Peter Coyote
provides an account of Brautigan's activities.
Richard Brautigan and Claude Hayward [co-founder, along with Chester Anderson, of the Communication Company] established a printing press in one room, and Richard wandered the floors, observing the madness, and then rushed back to print and distribute special handbills commenting on and alerting others to what he had observed, linking the participants in a prototypical World Wide Web. (Peter Coyote 79)
The events started at 8:00 PM, Friday evening, with live music, panel discussions, movies, and general free-form self-expression. By 10:00 PM, events were out of hand due to the thousands of people passing through the Church. Brautigan was scheduled to read poetry at midnight in the Church's Sanctuary, but crowd noise prevented him being heard. Around 4:00 AM Saturday, Church officials pulled the plug and worked to get everyone to leave. When Brautigan left, he took The John Dillinger Computer Complex poster to his Geary Street apartment and hung it on a wall.
The John Dillinger Computer Complex printed and distributed over seventy five communications during the event: poetry, overhead conversations, rumors, artwork, announcements, and I Ching
readings (Charles Perry
Brautigan's involvement in The Invisible Circus stemmed from his involvement with the Communication Company
, a community printing and publication business aligned with the Diggers
. The Communication Company published several of Brautigan's early poems in single sheet and broadside formats and one poetry collection, All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace
, all distributed freely on the streets of San Francisco. This calculated self-promotion brought Brautigan increased distribution of his writing, a larger audience, and heightened notoriety (Keith Abbott
36-38, 40 and Nicholas von Hoffman
Of Brautigan's involvement with the Diggers, Michael McClure
One of the things I liked most about Richard was that he was the real poet of the Diggers. He was often on Haight Street passing out papers from the Digger Communications [sic] Company. I liked that activism. Richard was doing it because he believed in it. (Michael McClure 39)
During one of Susan Morgan's visits with Brautigan in San Francisco, Erik Weber
photographed the couple in Brautigan's Geary Street apartment. The photograph was intended for use on the front cover of a possible future book.
Sunday, 5 March 1967
Brautigan participated in Bedrock One
, "a rockdance-environment happening benefit for the Communication Company
in honor of the c. i. a." The happening was held at California Hall, 625 Polk Street, San Francisco, a large building owned by the German-American Association. Brautigan and The Caped Crusaders provided the poetry.
The event was produced for the Communication Company by The Experimental Theatre Co-Op, L.A.M.F. and was noted as "first in a series directed by Chester Anderson."
The time was 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM; Admission was $2.50.
Brautigan's collection of poetry, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
was first published by the Communication Company
in two different single-sheet formats, each intended for free distribution. Brautigan drew the idea of giving away his poetry from the Diggers
, whose public street theater practice of giving away things he admired.
Brautigan arranged for the photograph he wanted to include on the front cover of his anticipated novel, Trout Fishing in America
. He gathered Michaela Blake-Grand and Erik Weber
in Weber's kitchen where Brautigan posed leaning against the refrigerator and Clark sat on a small stool, built in the furniture workshop of Clayton Lewis, to one side. Unhappy with the pose, Weber suggested they move to Washington Square. Here, posed with the statue of Benjamin Franklin behind, Brautigan standing and Clark again seated on the stool, Weber took the photograph used on the front cover of Brautigan's best known novel, and defined an era.
Thursday, 16 March 1967
Brautigan attended a poetry reading by Gary Snyder at the Fillmore Auditorium. After walking to his apartment in the rain, Brautigan wrote the poem "Rainy Gary Snyder Poetry Reading Night"
, which was first published in The Poet's Eye: A Tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Books
. (Ed. Richard Ogar. Berkeley, CA: The Friends of the Bancroft Library, 1997. 61-63.)
Friday, 24 March 1967
During a visit by Susan Morgan to Brautigan in San Francisco Brautigan wrote and dedicated the poem "Albion Breakfast"
, which he dedicated to Morgan.
Brautigan's poems "The Beautiful Poem"
, "Flowers for Those You Love"
, and "Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4"
were first published by the Communication Company
. Each was published as a single-sheet intended for free distribution.
Gray Line Bus Company began offering "San Francisco Haight-Ashbury District 'Hippie Hop' Tours" which they advertised as "the only foreign tour within the continential limits of the United States." The "Hashberry," as Gray Line called it, was world famous, as were the street theater antics of the people, the hippies, who lived there. The "Hippie Hop" tours were designed to give tourists a look and feel of the place. Monday through Friday, two buses a day followed a two-hour tour route from downtown San Francisco hotels through the Haight-Ashbury
district. Tourists were given a "Glossary of Hippie Terms." By April, residents of Haight-Ashbury saw little interest in being subjects of such tours. Buses were met by Diggers
and others who turned broken mirrors on the tourists, turning back a reflection of the gawkers' curiosity. "Novelist Richard Brautigan ambled about the streets carrying a mirror that he held out before likely looking tourists, exclaiming, 'Know thyself!'" (Gene Anthony
27 [Anthony photographed Brautigan, mirror in hand, confronting tourists]). After five weeks, on Monday, 15 May, Gray Line cancelled "The Hippie Hop" tour, citing traffic congestion in the Haight-Ashbury area (Charles Perry
171, 178, 193).
Brautigan participated in a Diggers
poetry reading for the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor in San Francisco, California.
The Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, or Spring Mobe, or Angry Arts Week, was part of a nationwide protest against the war in Vietnam organized in November 1966 to sponsor antiwar demonstrations in the spring of 1967. Two mass demonstrations were planned: one in New York City, the other in San Francisco. On Saturday, 15 April 1967 more than 125,000 people marched against the war in New York. In San Francisco, 60,000 people demonstrated. Up until this time, the Spring Mobilization was the largest ever antiwar demonstration.
The letter-sized (28 x 22 cm) promotional poster for the event was printed in San Francisco by the Communication Company
. It was printed one side, black ink on tan/brown paper, and featured an image of a naked man carrying a sheep over his shoulder. The image was taken from a drawing by neo-impressionist painter Georges Seurat (1891-1959). Another Seurat drawing was used on Brautigan's broadside poem "The Beautiful Poem"
). Imprint on the poster reads: "Gestetnered by the Communication Company" (Reference to the Gestetner mimeograph machines used to print this and other Communication Company publications).
Participating poets listed on the promotional poster included: Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, Lenore Kandel
, Lew Welch
, Ed Bullins, Richard Brautigan, Andrew Hoyem
, Pamels [Pamela] Millward, James Koller, William (Bill) Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), Jeff Sheppard, Patrick Gleason, and Ron Loewinson.
Brautigan participated in the Joyful Alternative Peace Poet's Dance, 8:00 PM - 2:00 AM, at California Hall, 425 Polk Street, San Francisco, a large building owned by the German-American Association. This event was part of the lead up to the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam demonstration on 15 April 1967.
The Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, or Spring Mobe, or Angry Arts Week, was part of a nationwide protest against the war in Vietnam organized in November 1966 to sponsor antiwar demonstrations in the spring of 1967. Two mass demonstrations were planned: one in New York City, the other in San Francisco. On 15 April 1967 more than 125,000 people marched against the war in New York. In San Francisco, 60,000 people demonstrated. Up until this time, the Spring Mobilization was the largest ever antiwar demonstration.
The 13" x 19.5" promotional poster features a psychedelic illustration of a human head composed of the participant's names printed in blue ink, and a reproduction of book cover art by poet Kenneth Patchen on orange-red paper. The event is noted as "preperation" [sic] for the "giant march" scheduled for 15 April 1967.
The participants (in order of appearance on the poster) include Kenneth Patchen, Lew Welch
, Charles Upton, Lenore Kandel
(in absence), Robert Duncan, David Meltzer
, Tom Parkinson, George Stanley, James Broughton with Joel Anderson on harp, Jeff Sheppard, Richard Brautigan, County Joe and The Fish, and Serpent Prowler. A light show was also scheduled.
Friday, 14 April 1967
Brautigan planned and participated in a Diggers
-sponsored event in the Panhandle of Golden Gate State Park. Billed as a "Candle Opera," the event, conceived by Brautigan as a memorial to the death of an unknown person, was part of the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam.
A Communications Company promotional poster notes "candles, incense, and love" as part the event, along with music by Country Joe and The Fish, New Age, Mad River, All Night Apothecary, Morning Glory, Moebius, and other bands.
Hundreds of candles were distributed and Brautigan encouraged the audience to light and hold them aloft, thus forming a human candelabra. This was Brautigan's take on a Digger-style street theater event.
Wednesday, 19 April 1967
Brautigan invited to attend a Reception Honoring Bay Area Writers by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Brautigan participated in a Lenore Kandel
reading sponsored by the University of California-Davis English Graduate Students' Club. Kandel read from her Love Book
. Also featured, along with Brautigan, was longshoreman, poet, and Hells Angel, William (Bill) Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed). The reading was held at 8:00 PM in Room 194 of the New Chemistry Building on the university campus. A 10" x 13" poster advertising the event, by John Thompson, printed in medium green ink on light green stock, featured a bare-breasted woman with light beams shooting from her nipples.
Brautigan participated in a three-day Writer's Conference sponsored by San Francisco State University at Camp Loma Mar in Pascadero, north of Santa Cruz, California. Over fifty writers were invited to participate including Stephen Schneck, Herbert Gold, Don Carpenter
, James Broughton, Thomas Sanchez, George Hitchcock, Lester Cole, Lawrence Fixel, Lenore Kandel
, Janine Pommy Vega, William (Bill) Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), and Stan and Anne Rice.
Saturday, 3 June 1967
Brautigan participated in Pacific Coast Free Thing in Santa Barbara, California, Saturday, 3 June 1967. The poster by Chuck Miller announcing the event noted the "celebration" happening from dusk to dawn on Isla Vista Beach. Free food was provided. Poets included Charles Upton, [William] Bill Fritch, Lenore Kandel
, Lew Welch
, Jeff Sheppard, Andrew Hoyem
, and Brautigan. Entertainment was provided by Raw Violet Flying Circus, Alexander's Timeles Blues Band, Mad River, Phoenix, Underground Railroad, and The Group. Lights were provided by Aurora Clorialis. The poster was created by Chuck Miller, a noted poster artist of the period. Miller's work appears in The Art of Rock
(Abbeville Press, 1999).
Feedback from Steve Hart
I found your website while searching the internet for mention of "The Pacific Coast Free Thing." Although there were no Google hits for the Free Thing, there were many for Richard Brautigan, which is how I found your interesting Chronology.
I attended the Free Thing, which took place on June 3, 1967 in Santa Barbara. I still have the Chuck Miller poster that was printed to promote it, which includes Brautigan’s name as one of the attractions. I met him there and drank wine out of the bottle with him on the beach.
I had been staying in Berkeley for a few days with Rick Bockner, who was in the band Mad River. He was a high school friend. We both attended high school in St. Louis County, Missouri. We went into San Francisco to the Digger Store, got in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of other people, and headed for Santa Barbara. I know that Lenore Kandel was one of the other people in the truck, but I don't remember the names of the others. We made several stops along the way, including a visit to a couple living in a cabin north of Santa Barbara, and at the UCSB campus. My most vivid memory was the view to the west while traveling south through the Salinas Valley. It was my first time in California, and the valley was warm and lush. I really thought I had come to the promised land.
A columnist who wrote about city walking tours for the San Francisco Chronicle
visited "Hippie Hill," a small hill in Golden Gate State Park and a favorite spot to watch the gathering young people. Brautigan acted as her guide and asked her to point out the quiteness and color of the area (Charles Perry
The release of Brautigan's novel, Trout Fishing in America
, planned for early 1967, was delayed when the contracted typesetter refused the job. Instead, Zoe Brown, wife of Brautigan's friend, Bill Brown, typed the manuscript and prepared it for publication, now delayed until fall.
Thursday and Friday, 19 and 20 October 1967
Brautigan read his newly-published Trout Fishing in America
in its entirety at the Unicorn Book Shop, 905 Embarcadero del Norte, Goleta, California. Two separate readings were offered. Brautigan read the first half of his novel on Thursday, 19 October and the second half on Friday, 20 October.
The silk screen poster (24" x 18") by Chuck Miller announcing the event printed an illustration of Brautigan and text in black on a blue background. Miller was a noted poster artist of the period. Miller's work appears in The Art of Rock
(Abbeville Press, 1999).
The University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library website maintains a multimedia presentation of "Sixties Memorabilia"
including this poster and Brautigan's "San Francisco Public Library: A Publishing House."
Trout Fishing in America
was the first of three Brautigan novels and one poetry collection published by Donald Merriam Allen
(1912-2004) and his nonprofit press, Four Seasons Foundation.
Critics hailed Brautigan as a fresh new voice in American literature.
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
published, first as a broadside then as a pamphlet of thirty-three poems by the Communication Company
. Brautigan "gave" this poem to the Diggers
. It was included in The Digger Papers
. LEARN more >>>
Highlights: In Watermelon Sugar published . . . The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster published . . . Please Plant This Book published
A photograph of McClure and Brautigan on Haight Street, San Francisco, 1968. Photograph taken by McClure's cousin, Rhyder McClure. This photograph was used on front cover of Transit
, Spring 2002, which featured "Richard Brautigan: A Memoir"
by John Thomas, as well as work by McClure.
I took this photo of Richard and Michael [McClure]
in 1968 on Haight Street in SF. I'd been chatting with Richard when Michael (he's my cousin) pulled up on his chopper. This photo has been coming out of the underground over the last few years . . . and I thought you might like it.
I saw Michael last month—he did a reading here in NYC. I was packing a camera and commented, "Maybe this picture will be better than the one of you and Richard." He responded, "No one will ever take a better picture than that!"
Richard and I were friends in SF—we used to sit at Enricos and watch the world (mainly girls) go by. The only thing he ever said to me about writing has served me well for forty years: (because it was so long ago, this is a paraphrase) "If you're going to write, buy the best typewriter money can buy. It's something you're going to be spending a lot of time with, so make that part as easy on yourself as you can."
New York, New York
Photographer, writer, teacher
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor.
The event was designed to raise money for "A.F.T. strike fund" (American Federation of Teachers and "student strike fund" (San Fransisco State University).
The 13" x 19.5" silkscreened promotional poster featured heliotrope and olive green graphics and print on a heavy, cream-colored papers.
The advertised poets included (in their order of appearance on the poster) John Logan, Joshua Bunce, Thom Gunn, Bill Anderson, Richard Brautigan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, Muriel Rukeyser, Denis Levertov, Michael McClure
, Kay Boyle, Robert Duncan, Dennis Beall, and Elizabeth Bishop, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former Poet Laureate of the United States.
Biographer Brett C. Miller provides the following account of Bishop's participation.
She read twice in San Francisco, once at the Museum of Modern Art and once at Glide Memorial, the so-called hippy church, in a benefit for striking teachers at San Francisco State University. Elizabeth said she did the reading out of curiosity rather than political commitment; she had never seen Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautigan, Kay Boyle or any of the other famous San Francisco poets and wanted to know what they were like. She smoked a little marijuana at the reading and decided she liked Brautigan, but "in general, I'm afraid, I'm just a member of the eastern establishment of everyone here and definitely passé. I don't mind. I thought that Thom [Gunn]'s poems and mine were the best!—the rest were propaganda that takes me back to my college days and the WPA theatre and so on—propaganda, or reportage of all-too-familiar events." (Millier, Brett C. Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993. 412-413.)
When Bishop attended/participated in this reading she was living in San Francisco, 1559 Pacific Avenue, with Suzanne Bowen. Bishop lived in San Francisco from 1968 to 1970. (Millier, Brett C. Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It
. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993. 399-431.)
Xiaojing, Zhou. "The Oblique, The Indirect Approach": Elizabeth Bishop's "Rainy Season; Sub-Tropics." Chicago Review
40(4) Fall 1994: 75-92.
Reviews Elizabeth Bishop's prose poem "Rainy Season; Sub-Tropics" as the poet's response to the excesses of confessional poetry. Notes Millier's discussion of Bishop's two visits to San Francisco in 1968 (79).
Feedback from Ken Keiran
Thanks to eBay I've got a mono half track reel to reel recording from February 1968 at the Glide Memorial Auditorium in San Fransisco. It not only has Brautigan, but also Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other poets reading for a benefit for the American Federation of Teachers Strike Fund and The San Fransisco State and Student Bail Funds. Richard's portion is about 10 minutes long.
Friday, 1 March 1968
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading at the University Methodist Church, Isla Vista, California.
Brautigan allegedly on the guest list for a party honoring Charles Slack, a former Harvard University colleague of Timothy Leary, at Leary's house, 1230 Queens Road, in Berkeley, California. (Greenfield, Robert. Timothy Leary: A Biography
. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, 2006. 337)
Brautigan allegedly participated in a poetry reading as part of "Rolling Renaissance: San Francisco Underground Art Celebration: 1945-1968," although David Meltzer
, the event organizer says Brautigan, who was invited, never actually read. The celebration was held throughout the month of June in twenty three San Francisco galleries, museums, theaters, and nightclubs. It featured painting, sculpture, dance, films, poetry, music, drama, lectures, photography, environments, and memorabilia. Included in the list of participating poets were: Richard Brautigan, Robert Duncan, John Weiners, David Meltzer
, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
, Kenneth Patchen, Allen Ginsberg, Lew Welch
, Michael McClure
, Philip Whalen, Joel Waldman, Allen Cohen
, Phyllis Whalen, Patrick Gleason, Kenneth Rexroth, Brother Antoninus [William Everson]
, Al Young, Laughing Water, Richard Krech, Hillary Fowler, John Simon, and John Thompson. This night was an open-mic night, and Brautigan read poetry along with James Koller, Robert Dawson, Patrick Gleeson, Joel Waldman, Michael McClure, and Daniel Moore.
Brautigan participated in "San Francisco Poetry" at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis Street at Taylor. The participants, in order as listed on the promotional poster, included Lenora Kandel, Michael McClure
, Philip Whalen, David Meltzer, William Fritsch (aka Sweet Willie Tumbleweed), Richard Brautigan, Joanne Kyger
, Andrew Hoyem, Robert Dawson, Daniel Moore, Keith Abbott, James Keller, Kirby Doyle, dma, Patrick Gleeson, and Pamela Millward.
In Watermelon Sugar
published by Four Seasons Foundation. It was written four years earlier, between 13 May and 19 July 1964. Several possible inspirations have been advanced. Like his earlier novels, and some that followed, this one featured an unnamed first person narrator who speaks in a colloquial voice not always conscious of being heard and a photograph of Brautigan on the front cover with a young woman. Another common theme was the sense of solitude and incapacity. LEARN more >>>
The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster
, a collection of poetry, published by Four Seasons Foundation.
Please Plant This Book
published by Graham Mackintosh
. Given away free, this "book" was a folder containing eight seed packets, each containing seeds, with poems printed on the sides.
Brautigan met and became involved with Valerie Estes
In my younger years I slightly knew Richard Brautigan, mainly because I worked as a clerk at the front cash register cockpit at City Lights Books. I also managed a small apartment building in North Beach (where Philip Lamantia lived, above me) and Valerie Estes lived next door to me. Valerie and Richard began "dating" some time in 1967. I once went with Richard and Valerie to Marin County's Mount Tamalpais (he loved the acacia trees in bloom—bright yellow) . . .
This photograph shows V. Vale working at City Lights Books, San Francisco, California, June 1974.
V. Vale (originally Vale Hamanaka) was the organ player for the first iteration of Blue Cheer, a San Francisco rock band of the era. Rock music legend notes that Hamanaka and Blue Cheer parted company when, after seeing Jimi Hendrix perform at the Monterey Pop Festival, band members Leigh Stephens, Dickie Peterson, and his brother, Jerry, decided to move the band toward a heavy power blues sound. Vale founded the magazine Search & Destroy
in 1977 with a $200.00 donation from Allen Ginsburg to document the then current punk music subculture. In 1980 he founded RE/Search Publications which has published a variety of magazines and books focusing on modern primatives and other underground topics. Vale currently works as editor and publisher for his RE/Search imprint and frequently contributes to other publications.
RE/search Publications website
The apartment building Vale describes was located at 1427 (now 1429) Kearny Street. Vale lived in the apartment building with his girlfriend of the time, Thea, an artist who made a couch in the shape of a giant pair of red lips. In addition to Lamantia, the building was also home to Nancy Peters of City Lights and other North Beach notables. The building is noted in The Beat Generation in San Francisco: A Literary Tour
(Bill Morgan. City Lights Books, 2003, 16).
Estes says she met Brautigan in the June 1968 (not 1967 as according to Vale) when she interviewed him as a potential participant in an arts program she was organizing. They became involved soon after. She and Brautigan lived together in her Kearny Street apartment off and on until they ended their relationship in 1970. Brautigan kept his Geary Street apartment throughout, and sometimes lived there.
Estes and Brautigan spent a week together in Kirkwood Meadows. Brautigan fished the trout streams while Estes read.
In August 1968, two months after meeting, Richard and I spent a week in what was then a High Sierra paradise on Highway 89 called Kirkwood Meadows. At the time, I was working for a North Beach friend, Barden Stevenot, who was developing the site to be the major ski resort it now is. Barden invited us to come for a week.
Kirkwood was a pristine meadow with very few structures except for the old tavern in which we stayed, which was also one of the last existing Pony Express way stations. The valley was said to have the highest density of wildflowers of any Sierra meadow. And it also had trout streams.
In the mornings, Richard and I would go off to fish. He worked the stream as I sat on a granite boulder and read. He taught me how to clean the fish—"just like a little envelope"—and, at night, we would fry them up for our group supper with Bart and his girlfriend of the time, Diana Bell Chickering. Richard was very good at cooking the fish, as well as his famed pasta sauce, but he refused to eat any. A trout never passed his lips.
This photograph by Michael Dorrow shows Brautigan and Valerie Estes at Kirkwood Meadows, Highway 89, California, August 1968.
(Photograph © Copyright 2006 by Micheal Dorrow. Used by permission.)
Monday, 5 August 1968
Brautigan applied for, and received, a California fishing license. His stated address was 2546 Geary Street, San Francisco, California.
recounts a story involving Brautigan, cats, Loren Sears, and Pat Ferraro.
I met one of my closest friends, Pat Ferrero, because of Richard and a cat. At the time (fall of 1968, I think), I had a young Siamese cat named Xenobia, after the Queen of Palmyra in what is now Syria. (I'm very fond of warrior women.) [Xenobia was given to me as a Christmas present in 1967 by my ex-husband, Bob Morrill, whom I left 1 September 1967.] Zenobia came into heat.
Richard was collaborating with an independent film maker, Loren Sears, who was working with KQED-TV in San Francisco on experimental visual projects. [See below.] Loren and his wife at the time, Pat Ferrero Sears (she's gone back to her maiden name), had a male Siamese cat named Brewster. Richard told me that Xenobia and Brewster would be a good pair, so we arranged a "date." Richard and I took Zenobia to Pat and Loren's flat in the Marina, on Fillmore just south of Union, for lunch for the homo sapiens and a "date" for the felines. (I don't know how we got there. I didn't have a car at the time, and Richard never drove. We usually took buses or hitchhiked.)
Richard and Loren, as is the wont of many males, went off to talk about important things, leaving Pat and me in the kitchen. (She had served us tasty tuna fish sandwiches.) Pat and I discovered each other and are still the closest of friends. (She has gone on to become an internationally-recognized documentary filmmaker.) Xenobia stayed for a few days. The date produced lovely kittens, and they mated a second time. (I sold the first litter and gave away the second. Once I got a call from the "mother" of one of the kittens, telling me how wonderful that cat had become.) And Richard and Loren went on to their respective paths.
Loren Sears, was Artist In Residence, The Experimental Project, 1967-1968 at KQED-TV, San Francisco. He was one of five artists paid to explore artistic aspects of television in KQED studios. This residency was funded through Rockefeller and National Endowment grants. Later, Sears directed several broadcast shows for KQED, 1968. He produced a museum-wide video installation as part of a performance for the San Francisco Museum of Art, 1969.
Western Connecticut State College maintains a "Loren Sears Biography" webpage.
Loren Sears Biography webpage
Highlights: First collected works published . . . Participates in poetry readings and conferences . . . Several stories appear in Rolling Stone magazine . . . Awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship
Brautigan was honored with a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship grant for the fiscal year 1969.
Feedback from V. Vale
Richard and I shared the same birthday party in the year 1969. Janis Joplin attended and got very drunk. Richard used to come to City Lights fairly often and tell me about the latest movie he'd seen, usually at a 99 cent theater on Market Street. I can only recall The Drowning Pool and, Where's Poppa? He liked them best.
Feedback from Valerie Estes
When I met Richard, I was living at what is now 1429 Kearny Street, Apartment 1. (At that time, it was 1427 Kearny Street. The numbering was changed when the building was remodeled around 1970.) Another tenant of the building was the former keyboardist of the Blue Cheer rock group, V. Vale, who now runs RE/search Publications in North Beach with his wife Marian Wallace. Although Vale's apartment address was on Genoa Place, the alley to the west which parallels Kearny Street, we all lived in the same building in effect since our back doors all emptied into the central air shaft and garbage chute.
Though years apart in age, Richard and Vale shared a birthday, January 30, so we decided to have a joint birthday party. Basically, it was an open house, with people coming in from both Kearny and Genoa and wandering between the two apartments. Folks who came included Janis Joplin and Emmett Grogan of the Diggers. As was often true, Janis was drunk and looking for more Southern Comfort, and Emmett was trying to score heavy-duty dope. (Neither Richard nor I were into dope, not even marijuana. Alcohol was our drug of choice.)
I'm not sure that a good time was had by all.
This photograph by John Doss shows Brautigan and Vale celebrating their mutual birthdays, Thursday, 30 January 1969, in the apartment of Valerie Estes, 1429 Kearny Street, San Francisco, California.
(Photograph © Copyright 2007 by John Doss. Used by permission.)
Saturday, 1 March 1969
Brautigan participated in a poetry reading sponsored by the Unicorn Book Shop at the United Methodist Church.
12 March-3 April 1969
and Valerie Estes
traveled together to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Cambridge, Massachusetts, New York, New York, and Washington, DC.
According to Estes, she and Brautigan flew from San Francisco to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they visited with Robert Creeley
and his wife, writer Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Estes and Brautigan borrowed a car and visited the Los Alamos Research Laboratories. The visit inspired Brautigan's poem "The Sister Cities of Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hiroshima, Japan."
Also in New Mexico, Brautigan attempted to present Georgia O'Keeffe with a copy of his poetry collection Please Plant This Book
. He and Estes traveled to Abiquiu, New Mexico, where they were directed to an adobe O'Keeffe maintained. Brautigan gave a copy of the book to a woman who answered his knock at the front door. Estes does not believe the woman was O'Keeffe.
Returning to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brautigan and Estes flew to Boston, Massachusetts, where Brautigan was featured at The Quincy Poetry Forum at Harvard University's Quincy House Dining Hall, 8:30 PM. Admission was $1.00.
The announcement for the reading was printed in black ink on a white, letter-sized piece of paper.
Brautigan's friend, poet Ron Loewinsohn, arranged the reading, according to Estes. Years later, Loewinsohn recalled the reading for Peter Manso and Michael McClure
who coauthored an article in the May 1985 issue of Vanity Fair
titled "Brautigan's Wake."
RON LOEWINSOHN: He read at Harvard, and I introduced him at Quincy House [The Quincy Poetry Forum, Quincy House Dining Room, 25 March 1969, 8:30 PM] where he gave a fine, straight reading—poems, stories, chatted a little. Six months, a year later he came back, but by then he was so big, so famous, that there must have been seven hundred people in Lowell Lecture Hall. After reading for about fifteen minutes in a disdainful, contemptuous tone, he just quit. People came up to him for his autograph, and he'd tell them, "Fuck off."
Brautigan's return was, in fact, not a year later, but in November 1969. Jeffrey S. Golden attended the reading Loewinsohn cites, Brautigan's second at Harvard University, on Saturday, 22 November 1969, and had quite a different reaction. His review appeared in the Wednesday, 26 November 1969 issue of the The Harvard Crimson
. LEARN more >>>
From Boston, Brautigan and Estes traveled to New York, New York, probably by train according to Estes, where Brautigan met and signed contracts with his new literary agent Helen Brann and his new publisher, Seymour Lawrence
. While in New York, Brautigan and Estes stayed at the Chelsea Hotel.
From New York Brautigan and Estes traveled to Washington, D. C., where they visited various monuments, including the Civil War battleground at Manassas, Virginia. From Washington, D. C., they returned to San Francisco.
Brautigan participated in the Spring Renaissance Faire, Isla Vista, Goleta, California. The "faire" ran from Monday, 7 April-Thursday, 10 April 1969. Brautigan's reading was scheduled for 8:00 pm, Thursday, April 10 in the University Methodist Church, at 892 Camio Del Sur, and was the faire's concluding event. Other San Francisco poets participating in the "faire" were Lew Welch, David Meltzer
, Jack Shoemaker, Gary Snyder, and Brother Antoninus
[William Everson]. The handbill announcing the schedule of events and participants was printed in black ink on purple stock.
Saturday, 17 May 1969
Brautigan participated in a 3:00 p. m. "Prose and Poetry Reading" in Quantrell Auditorium at The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. The letter-sized green cardstock promotional poster announcing the event was illustrated by Scott Stampton. It was titled "To insure domestic tranquility." Brautigan was cited as an "Experimental Prose Writer and Poet." The illustrated letter-sized sheet was printed on one side, black ink on green cardstock. The event was sponsored by FOTA, Zahbel Fund of the English Department, Chicago Review, and the Roy Gutmann Memorial Fund.
Thursday, 29 May 1969
Brautigan participated in the First Commencement Exercises at The Urban School of San Francisco, 2938 Washington Street. The event, held "On the hill, Alta Plaza Park Jackson between Steiner and Scott streets" honored the school's first seventeen graduates. Brautigan, noted as a "poet-author," delivered a reading as the second item on the program. Following the program there were refreshments and touch football.
Monday, 2 June 1969
Brautigan participated in a Poetry Reading Benefit for People's Park at California Hall, 425 Polk Street, San Francisco, a large building owned by the German-American Association, two blocks from the Civic Center.
Brautigan participated in the twelve-day Creative Arts Conference sponsored by United States International University, San Diego, California. Prior to 1968 United States International University was known as California Western. The 8.5" x 12" poster/handbill advertising the conference featured a photograph by Edmund Shea of Brautigan.
The Conference was a twelve-day series of lectures by ten artists and writers including Don Carpenter, Stephen Schneck, Michael McClure, Robert Creeley, Ed Dorn; filmmakers James Blue, Mike Ahnemann, Denis Sanders, and Jim Morrison of The Doors, scheduled to screen Feast of Friends
. Brautigan's scheduled appearance was 22 August 1969. Reportedly, Brautigan also conducted classes in creative writing during his campus visit. This was one of Brautigan's several teaching or conference experiences
Brautigan participated, with Lew Welch, in a reading of their work at the San Quentin prison. In a letter to Terence Cuddy, a prisoner, dated Monday, 1 September 1969, Welch wrote: "Richard and I both feel it was one of the warmest and [most] intelligent audiences we've ever had" (Welch
Friday-Sunday, 10-12 October 1969
Brautigan was a participating author at the College of Marin Writers' Conference, held at the College of Marin, Marin, California. The College of Marin was a small liberal arts college north of San Francisco. Also scheduled were Kay Boyle, Josephine L. Miles, Herbert Wilner, Jessamyn West, William Dickey, William Stafford, and Carolyn Kizer. The program for the event was a letter-sized sheet sheet of green paper, folded in thirds, printed on both sides in green and white ink.
Sunday, 19 October 1969
Brautigan scheduled to appear at a promotional party for the publication of the collection Trout Fishing in America, The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, In Watermelon Sugar
by Delacorte Press. More here >>>
Brautigan returned to Harvard University for another poetry reading in Lowell Lecture Hall. John Stickney included a description of this Harvard reading in his essay "Gentle Poet of the Young: A Cult Grows around Richard Brautigan."
Photograph from the collection of Gregory Miller. Used by permission.
Jeffrey S. Golden was present at Brautigan's reading and wrote a review for the The Harvard Crimson
titled "Richard Brautigan On Saturday Night" (The Crimson Review
26 November 1969: ***?***).
the full text this review.
Golden's review at The Harvard Crimson website
Another interesting account is provided by John Barth regarding a "grand declaration" made by Brautigan at the end of a "reading" at SUNY—Buffalo "toward the end of the high 1960s." Barth introduced Brautigan to the crowd.
The author of Trout Fishing in America, The Revenge of the Lawn, and In Watermelon Sugar was at the peak of his literary fame then, a hippie icon warmly received on a campus that prided itself, in those years of antiwar sit-ins and teargassing riot police, on being "the Berkeley of the East." It was a time, too, when Marshall McLuhan, across the Niagara River in Toronto, was warning us "print-oriented bastards" that our medium was moribund in the Electronic Global Village. In that spirit, after my introduction, Brautigan said hello to the packed hall, pushed the Play button on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder beside the lectern, and disappeared into the auditorium's projection booth, from where—as we all sat for a very long three-quarters of an hour listening to our guest's recorded reading—the invisible author projected slides of giant punctuation marks: five or ten minutes each of a comma, a semicolon, a period, entirely without bearing on the taped recitation. Had it been anybody but Brautigan, that audience would never have sat still for it—but still we sat, until, when the eye-glazing hour was done at last, the shaggy, beaming author reappeared from the projection booth, gestured grandly toward the tape machine, and declared, "There you have it, folks: the twentieth century!" Whereat one of my seriously avant-garde graduate students sitting nearby turned to me and muttered, "Yup: about 1913." (20)
(Barth, John. "'All Treees are Oak Trees...': Introductions to Literature." Poets & Writers January/February 2004: 19-26.)