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“Poetry is telegrams of the human soul”: Watch a rare video interview with Richard Brautigan.

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September 16, 2021, 12:37pm

Today marks the 37th anniversary of the death of Richard Brautigan, imaginative poet, novelist, and short story writer, best known for his novel Trout Fishing in America.

Despite his fame and to his embarrassment, Brautigan was never treated with the same seriousness as some of his peers; he couldn’t shake off his association with hippiedom and playfulness. When he got drunk at a party and insulted his friend, the novelist Thomas McGuane, McGuane responded, “You’re nothing but a pet rock . . . a hula hoop.” In 1972, Brautigan moved to Bolinas, California and retreated from public view, rarely lecturing and refusing to be interviewed. But in this interview with a Swiss TV station, taped one year before his suicide, Brautigan with relish leans into the serious author persona he never got to stateside. He discusses the purpose of poetry; the role of reality vs. fantasy in his work; his visits to Japan. Brautigan on living in the age of information: “I love the future.”

Watch the interview below, which also includes three readings by Brautigan, including one of his poem “A Small Boat on the Voyage of Archeology.”

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