MY TINY WRITING WORKSHOP :
Write a letter to Richard Brautigan and send it (via email in digital format) to :
John F. Barber
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Web : www.nouspace.net/john/
Curator : John F. Barber
The Creative Media and Digital Culture Program
Washington State University
Letters to Richard Brautigan 2020 (collected by the Brautiganlibrary.org)
Translated from Romanian by Iulia Stoichiț
In the first episode of the fourth season of Mornin’ Poets, we read some of Richard Brautigan’s poems and we wrote him letters. Imaginary, but not quite. Subtle, with a hint of humor, honest, spontaneous, unpretentious, nostalgic, admonitory, but also full of questions. Some of this workshop’s students mimicked perfectly Brautigan’s style, others on the contrary, disregarded altogether. This experiment’s biggest gain is that the result is not an admiration exercise, but a dialogue truly alive, which you can read it below. (Andrei Mocuţa)
i’ll never see japan. it’s sad if you think of it, so there’s no point in worrying. this summer i shared a strudel with rilke we didn’t drink any coffee.
my German was kind of bad
he left right after he ate
the last bite of strudel.
you can imagine how awful i felt.
Hi, Richard (or maybe I should call you Dick – sorry, I know it’s an overused joke; you canthank your parents for this, probably your mom),
I’m Iulia1. You don’t know me. You wouldn’t have any reason to be aware of my existence. Truth to be told, I didn’t know too much things about you until writing you. I knew about Sylvia, Anne, Robert... Fuck! They aren’t Beat writers. It doesn’t matter. I knew about Allen, becauseit’s almost impossible to have lived under a rock for that long, Jack, Lawrence, William Burroughs, not Carlos Williams, and maybe about others too. But that’s fine. I’m guessing (and most likely correctly so) you don’t know any Romanian poets. I don’t intend on telling you about Mihai (or Michael, for you) Eminescu. I would tell you about George Bacovia, a delightfulneurotic (at least, that’s what I like to think, that he was a lovely person, neuroses and all). And Iwould mention Arghezi as well. And, obviously, about the 1980s generation of writers, that come as a combination of Beatniks and confessional poets (at least, in my personal canon).Although, now that I think of it, the 2000s generation might want to claim, if they haven’t, thatthey were more Beatniks than the 1980s generation, considering the East European context. Ithink we have more than decent poets, but don’t ask me to make up a list of preferences (I still consider myself a better prose than poetry reader, so probably that’s why I’m not indulging in the task, not because fearing someone would be bothered by my list). Ask them why they deserve your time. Even I would be curious to hear their arguments. In exchange, I can tell you why I deserve to be read by you, after I have become a really influential poetess2, obviously, but I avoid as much as I can to take myself too seriously. Nonetheless, I can say that I consider myselfquite a narcissistic poetess because even when I might pretend that I’m not signing about myself, I’m still doing it. It’s just that, at some point, I tried my best/I challenged myself to writedifferently compared to how I would have first written the same story. I wanted to see in how many ways I can tell the same story. I like experimenting. And a challenge.
1 I refuse to ’Anglicize’ my name, period. I’m no Pretty Woman (I can’t stand Julia Roberts as an actress; I have noproblem whatsoever with prostitues).
2 I don’t think ’poetess’ exists in English, whcih would be an adaptation of the French ’poètesse’, but ’female poet’ isn’t pejorative enough as an English translation.
But not about Romanian poets or me as a poetess I wanted to write you. It would be too provincial (not that Romanians are not familiar with being provincial, even when they try as hard as possible not to be). I wanted to say that what is driving me nuts these days is the emotional and psychological pandemic that was brought by Covid-193. And that your poem Karma repair kit: Items 1-4 is an useful guide about how we always achieve step 1, some reach even step 2, butsteps 3&4 are (almost) never achieved. It’s beautiful inside the bunker when next to you Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun are dying (though, I think the order of their deaths is the other way around) because of Covid-19, after they made food supplies, they took all the necessary precautions and they were the last to get sick.
I think that some of your poems nowadays would be deemed as memes. Don’t ask me to explainwhat a meme is, you just know one when you see it. But this is how Yuval Noah Harari defines it:“This approach is sometimes called memetics. It assumes that, just as organic evolution is basedon the replication of organic information units called ‘genes’, so cultural evolution is based on the replication of cultural information units called ‘memes’. Successful cultures are those thatexcel in reproducing their memes, irrespective of the costs and benefits to their human hosts.”
I don’t know what else to tell you. Most likely you’re not interested in theory and concepts. Neither I would be, but I should be writing a PhD. Neither I would be, but I’m a Gemini and theyget easily bored if they don’t have an intellectual challenge – an intellectual junky. It sound better than an intellectual because, in Romania, calling someone an intellectual is almost like aninsult (at least, for me) or you’re making an unsavoury joke. It’s like wearing a pristine new maleshirt and you dress this shirt without removing the needles from the collar.
Be careful with alcohol; after a certain age, everybody gives up drugs and settles with alcohol. Wash your hands regularly, wear a mask (a sanitary one, not a social one).
P. S. If I haven’t convinced you that we should be friends, zodiac says that I get along really well with Aquarius.
3 NEWS UPDATE: six months have passed into the pandemic and daily life has become quite strange. But, as I learned in linguistics, usage imposes normality, so I guess you get used with all of it. With what I didn’t get used, though, is staying home so much time. From a certain point, I just got frustrated like hell. Maybe for you wasn’t like that. Maybe it’s my failure of learning to be just me with myself that much time.
P. S. 2. I left you some poems, with and without BoJack and Alana Payne, as part of me sayingthe same story in different ways. Alana Payne is my creation, but BoJack Horsemann wasn’tcreated by me, but by somebody else. And for me, at least, since I like the character so much andthe world it inhabits, it’s quite a challenge to use BoJack in my poems. You can apply the same rules when using the character or expand upon the universe, so to say, using a soft system of rules already existing of that universe. Besides, BoJack Horsemann was design for visual medium, so even more of a challenge for me. And no, I’m not leaving you some of my poems foryour literary validation. I would write anyway.
BoJack and Alana Payne 2
Alana Payne was imagining how BoJack was imagining a life with her
they had moved to the countryside summertime at night naked in the lake he had learned her how to swim
they had moved to the countryside growing coca plants
the Amazonian Coca variety
seemed like their agricultural
activity after some time they
started a plantation of Amanita muscaria
thanks to her entrepreneurial spirit
Alana speculated the demand for mushrooms coming from witches hunting their opposition
they had moved to the countryside so Alana Payne could
fuck BoJack freely4
BoJack the Belle of the Ball
Alana Payne was waiting to be invited to the ball by BoJack
but this was beneath his dignity to abide by the rules invented by himself
according to her own rules
Alana Payne invited BoJack to the ballit didn’t matter that BoJack alreadyhad a partner for the ball
you’re asking for an sound spanking
Alana Payne knew that she only got spanked by her daddy for her trampoline-like ass
more than 3 years the pair went
to the ball and the hospital as well
also BoJack went with his other partner
during this period Alana Payne also
had another partner to the ball as well
but BoJack was the one who beat
Alana to the ‘two-dates-to-the-prom’5 trope
4 This translation, as well as the following poems, is mine. If you confront the translations with the original (withsomeone who knows both Romanian and English), you’ll find out that I took some liberties with my translations.
after all those years of Alana Payne
+ the other one BoJack found a(nother) Penny Carsonsee, Alana, how you’re never the first?
you could still have had a chance if
Ioana Ieronim hadn’t already existed
you can look her up I don’t care
did BoJack kiss Penny? yes
did BoJack insert his hand inside Penny’s dress? yesdid Penny start to undress BoJack? yes
did Alana or the other one interrupt them? yes or no
what BoJack never perfected but Alana
was the mockery of his own rules and expectationshe’s still imagining himself
a lost boy on his way to hollywoo
where there’s a pond with a consistentsupply of mommies
he can slide his dick in and out of with many other professional talents
the outstretched virtual hand
the outstretched virtual hand whichdoesn’t tell a story won’t receive nude pics
it started like a quest you showed me yours
5 Also known as ‘who chases 2 rabbits loses also the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th and so on’.
I played hard to get
like in all the fairytales which
my grandma would read me
at 5-6 years when in hospital
back then time was measured
in the drops from my IV
that ended up in my vein
(I had never written you about that
always about other things)
drip-drop drip-drop what if this time
Prince Charming returns to Youth Without Age and Life Without Death?
now time is dripping like a drone
that I’m learning to use
since I’m not allowing myself to contact you
you told me that
being married for the 2nd time
is so awesome
I even got 2 souvenirs
from your domestic paradise
the cut rope and a photo of
your severed left hand wrist
before and after
one ends up in Valley of Lamentation if she tries to hold you against your will in Youth Without Age
and Life Without Death
even so I showed you more than you showed me
a map of all the moral
and bodily flaws
all those perfect fictions about you
that I have been writing since I was 17
which I never showed to anyone
because of too much bourgeois embarrassmentit’s not enough it’s not enoughitsnotenough
I wrote your wife
with what I managed to gather from the bathroom tiles
after you and Death
had used it6
Have you ever noticed how the degree of one’s perversion is higher when their shoes are cleaner and more expensive? Those with dirty shoes tend to work in groups, and the physical aggression may be fatal.
I heard that you committed suicide. I still got 10 years before that. So poetry doesn’t save us. Is this conclusion correct? Or the type of poetry matters? It didn’t seem to matter in the case ofVirginia Woolf or of Sylvia Plath.
Your writing style is contagious. Although I believe I was writing banalities (even) before I had met you. Poetry should be vitriolic, acid, nihilist, subversive, strongly social, perfomative (?). How do we get there?
6 In case you didn’t understand much from my pseudo-ars poetica (that only applies for the time being), it’s fine. It’sstill work in progress. And these are just pieces of the puzzle.
See you soon, D.
I have sent letters with just a few hopes attached to them before, but now is the first time when Iwrite with absolutely no expectation in regards to the answer. And I don’t want to talk aboutyour suicide.
You were saying that poems are telegrams; yours truly are. They appeared in my head like fully coagulated images, in which what is real and fantastic combined so naturally, without word excess. Had it been possible, I would have asked you more about how you write; using just a fewwords in poetry is not easy, don’t you think?
It’s okay (and healthy) to not answer my letter. I’ll keep reading you. I’m glad I had no choiceand I met you!
So long, Simona
P.S. These lines keep coming back: “I wish that I could have/ eaten in her place and she to receive/ the nutriment.”, but I said I wouldn’t talk about it.
reading your poems I seem more melancholic than usual. They seem to have brought within me a state of torpor. I feel in them acute resignation, but I feel it coming from a place of want, it’s an assumed resignation, wanted. It’s not the helplessness of doing something, but the lack ofmotivation to do something, the choice of contemplating the state of things being. I sense in your poetry a playfulness specific to children, but also the wish of finding yourself and the one offeeling fulfilled. We’re all sad, Richard, that’s why irony exists.
I’ve read some of your poems and I’m a little bit vexed.
I get the impression that you’ve always searched down the river’s stream the fight with the trout, although it’s hard for me to understand exactly the reasons that carried you down the whirling river. Have you ever caught that trout or they were the small captures that you held for yourself once in a while although you knew you should release them because the fishes weren’t grown enough ?
One more thing... Is 44 Magnum the best bait that you ever tried?
Break a leg! S.V.
P.S. I’m looking at one of your photos and I cannot see your good looking nose. You were complaining about nothing the other day.
I needed time so I wouldn’t condemn your poems. At first, I couldn’t stand your ostentatious lightness. It’s not simple to write as if whatever you would write can be read.
I went through your moments of churlishness, solitude and sadness, I empathized with the words from War Horse, April 7, 1969 and Boo, Forever, even sweared a few times through gritted teeth when I was reading the misogyny, the impotence and the clichés.
Your American monotony and the exact satire match your appearance. I’m far away from your poetry but I’m glad to have passed by.
So long, Diana
I drink with poets who committed suicide preferably extremely young
when any lace is a kite end
you’ve had your head tied just like georg
the lost one among the yellow ungrafted apricots you swam in japan without making any noise you wanted to open veins everywhere
I would’ve like to drink whiskey with you never on the rocks always raw
to show me how to use
the 44 magnum together with buñuel
afterwards to look on the window to caress the rim of the glass
to wait smacking
cutting out a haiku
tout brûle ici
mais les papillons jaunes vivent encore
I don’t know exactly how to start, so I’ll just get to it.
Actually, after I closed the book I was wondering what poetry might be. It’s true that I don’t have that much experience with poetry and since I’m an actress, I’m more inclined to analyze itfrom the dramatist’s point of view, if I may say so. The way you combine the images you createseem to penetrate me. Somebody told me that all words are already there, in your head, and when you start writing you just have to arrange them. I have to admit that something apparently trivial or words almost unpoetical sometimes can have an unexpected expressive force. Yes, I have many of your poems in mind when I say this.
As for suicide, I don’t know what to say. Suicide is resignation, and resignation means cowardice,but I won’t dwell on this subject.
Talk to you later,Cătălina.
I’m taking a walk on banks of Criş river
and it’s as if you were there.
with your cloche you draw
the attention of old fishermen and you jot down diligently almost all you can fiind out
I wonder how you make everything seem like a game.
but I can’t speak with the dead andlike everything you wrote for Marcia (with hair so blonde)
this letter to you will drown
in this river ***
i hope you’re fine. i’m fine. once again i don’t have a job, you know how it is. since i’m stayingat home, i decided to postpone washing the dishes and ask you how do you make ends meet writing. when i don’t have money, i’m on pins and needles. i think about this so much that i can’tdo anything else, it eats all my energy and makes writing seem like nonsense. every few months i ponder on my need to have money with my need to write and there’s nothing romantic about it. it
seems you had this problem – how did you solve it? or, en fin, you had other problems as well. i still owe money to the money to the money i owe, like a song that sings it.
money. work. leisure. is the volume that i that i lend most often. i can lend it to you if you want,you might like it, i don’t know, maybe i can send it telephatically. i don’t think you can still findit in bookstores, but here you can barely find poetry anyway – only if you crouch to the bottom shelf and search like that among the slim volumes, only then you can come across titles that appeared some months ago. the persons that read contemporary poetry are the closest to thebookstores’ grounds, don’t you think? was it this way then as well, back in your country?
a nice werewolf
try not to deny the evidences
O beautiful was the werewolf in his evil forest. We took him to the carnival and he started crying when he saw the Ferris wheel.(Richard Brautigan – A Boat)
the sunrise halts timidly in the
lost and then found objects box
it’s not the case to traumatize a teenage girl
who can’t find the keys of her parents’
flat tik tok doesn’t mean the key around the neck generation it’s more of an expose for everythinghandbook for conspiracy theories we could talk about for instance 2016 and pizza gate but I would rather not break the character that was assigned to you
don’t cry werewolf we have enough timeto build a proxy for truth or our own home delivery network where commissions have their own route
my favourite chorus
your favourite chorus
there is a country for the socks from the washing machine
finally the city folded on your pulse
nobody sleeps anymore
everybody checks every two minutes
its phone never during shower always before always after
the werewolf looks at the carnival this is his world
Dear Richard Brautigan,
I finally understood
why you pass all your time either in the library
In both places you’re only allowed to talk
under your breath