I was a huge Richard Brautigan fan in my early 20s and I spent many rainy days haunting the used bookstores of the Pacific Northwest looking for any of his books I might of missed. Come to think of it, I still can’t imagine a better way to spend a rainy day at any age. As anyone who has read at least one Brautigan can tell you, he can be fantastically whimsical, childishly naïve, brilliantly insightful, and seriously depressed; sometimes all at once.
While some of Brautigan’s poetry reads very much like a product of its time (1957-68), it’s also quite often outside of time—almost Zen in its simplicity and directness. As I’ve gotten older I had almost let slip the sublime memory of giving a copy of Your Catfish Friend to a girl I figured needed to read it. I remember thinking that Brautigan had captured exactly how I felt and that he must have written the poem just to give me the words to express myself at that moment. Sadly, I don’t recall it having any great effect, which may have had something to do with why he was chronically bummed out.
It’s a small step from recognizing the potential power of the right words and a little insight in someone else’s work and trying your own hand at writing. I can blame Brautigan as much as anyone for giving me the idea that I could write poetry, kind of the same influence that Mike Watt would have on my music a little later on.
Start your own band. Write your own poem. Be someone’s catfish friend.