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"I have already forgotten them/ Until some day in the not too distant future/ When we meet possibly in the lounge of a modern airport,/ They looking as astonishingly young and fresh as when this picture was made"

John Ashbery, from "Mixed Feelings."

"Writing, for me, is a way of 'talking' the way I wish I could talk."

 

Jacket Design by Ben Wiseman
Artist, poet, book designer, cartoonist, memoirist, and gay icon, Joe Brainard is almost uniformly celebrated by those who've read him and too-little known by those who haven't. Now, with a gorgeous edition of his collected writings released this May by the Library of America, he may begin to see something of the wider audience he deserves. 

Brainard was part of a small circle of friends--sometimes known as the second generation of the New York School following Ashbery, O'Hara, and their cohort--that has come to define the downtown New York literary scene of the sixties and seventies. These writers, including Ted Berrigan, Bill Berkson, Peter Schjeldahl, Anne Waldman, and Ron Padgett, have forged a powerful but wildly varied legacy in American letters. But among them it is Brainard, more often a painter or collagist than poet and uncertain of his abilities on even his best days, who might best capture the spirit of our own moment, decades later. In his writing Brainard adopted some of the style of his friend and hero Frank O'Hara, a tireless (often speed-fueled) patter of observance paired with honesty and aphorism. With Brainard the barrier between solipsism and truth is obliterated. There is a strange pop-grace in his famous incantation, implicit in all his work but explicit in his great, generous-hearted memoir: I remember, I remember, I remember. 

In this collection, edited by his lifelong friend Ron Padgett, we see Brainard range through hilarity, doubt, worry, lust, vivacity, gossip, and exuberance with always always an effortless originality. It's enough to inspire even the most jaded reader.



Excerpts from The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard

"Reading Isherwood--I am thinking about the difference--the possibility of the difference--of writing about yourself as 'me' as opposed to 'a human being'. And I suspect that yes, there is a difference. And that tho I pretend to write about 'me', I am secretly more aware of myself (writing-wise) as 'a human being' and that this may well be my salvation!" [pp.439-440]

"I want to tell you what I did today. Not because I did anything very exciting. But because I am drunk and I want something to do. And just because I want to tell you what I did today." [p.251]

"Funny, I don't remember having much to do with how I got this way." [p.362]

"Art to me is like walking down the street and saying 'Don't you love that building?' (Too.)" [p.361]

"The little blue flowers on my toilet paper this morning struck me as being more than a bit unnecessary." [p.369]

"Now you know that life is not so simple as I am making it sound. We are all a bit fucked up, and here lies the problem. To try and get rid of the fucked up parts, so we can just relax and be ourselves. For what time we have left." [p.281]

Yes, this is a Coke ad. You caught us.

I Remember Joe Brainard

The Library of America has collected a nice video gallery of authors talking about the legacy of Brainard.
Sometimes
everything
seems
so
oh, I don't know


--Perhaps Brainard's most famous poem, and one of his best.
Sorry about all the cuss words!

Hey You.

Behind that screen right there.
Is it strange that we've devoted an entire mailing to just one author? Would you prefer a little more variety? Was it all a bit sincere for you this time around? Let me know, I'm genuinely interested to hear your thoughts on our Miscellany. Help me work out the kinks. Feel free to email me at dustin@mcnallyjackson.com with comments, or even just to say hello. Thanks.
Nice shoes, Ron.

Ron Padgett's How Long

The latest book of poetry from Brainard's lifelong friend and editor of his Collected Writings.

I never thought,
forty years ago,
taping my poems into a notebook,
that one day the tape
would turn yellow, grow brittle, and fall off
and that I'd find myself on hands and knees
groaning as I picked the pieces up
off the floor
one by one
Anne Waldman really talks like this.

Anne Waldman's 
The Iovis Trilogy

The reissue of a monumental work of feminst poetry by the legendary Waldman, Brainard's friend and sometime collaborator.

stop
the
flap-tremble
mouth
O'Hara to Brainard to Dlugos, is the geneology.

Tim Dlugos' Collected Poems

Dlugos might be considered part of the third generation of the New York School, if that's not too far an attenuation. His poetry resembles Brainard's at times, O'Hara's more often, and is worth reading in all cases. 

The river fills with shining rain, the way
your life fills up your body. When Rimbaud
walked out into the desert, there was no
cool stream for miles around.
Copyright © 2012 McNally Jackson Books, All rights reserved.