Brautigan on the brain


Under my skin, in my soul.

More than a few thoughts for Richard Brautigan.

More than a little love for the man who’s made so many things grow inside so many people.

30 years ago, cult Beat and counterculture poet and novelist Richard Brautigan, killed himself. The text of Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned the World, written by Erik Patterson, was inspired by his death, and our opera was grown out of Brautigan’s life-giving powers. I have described his affect, time and again, of being generative. His life and work inspires ordinary people all over the world to create extraordinary work, but more importantly, they generate special, specific, currents which jump that elusive space between people, borders, languages, ideas, and cultures.

Tonseisha is a journey along the Tokyo-Montana Express. A dream grounded in the real. In two days, the train will have rushed by. We only play our work-in-progress piece for two days.

Life is sometimes a fight to live. Making this show has been a mountain on my chest and my mind for so long. I am all too often struck silent and am overwhelmed when I am in the room with the most incredible performers who has chosen to risk, grow, and share, something of themselves. This is no ordinary show.

No matter what happens to Tonseisha next, I feel that through spreading my love of Brautigan I have added spirit and beauty to some people’s lives, for no small amount of time. I do think that Earth’s the right place to love and I’m glad that Brautigan walked it.


When I see birches bend to left and right

Across the lines of straighter darker trees,

I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.

But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay

As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them

Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning

After a rain. They click upon themselves

As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored

As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells

Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—

Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away

You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,

And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed

So low for long, they never right themselves:

You may see their trunks arching in the woods

Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground

Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair

Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

But I was going to say when Truth broke in

With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm

I should prefer to have some boy bend them

As he went out and in to fetch the cows—

Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,

Whose only play was what he found himself,

Summer or winter, and could play alone.

One by one he subdued his father’s trees

By riding them down over and over again

Until he took the stiffness out of them,

And not one but hung limp, not one was left

For him to conquer. He learned all there was

To learn about not launching out too soon

And so not carrying the tree away

Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise

To the top branches, climbing carefully

With the same pains you use to fill a cup

Up to the brim, and even above the brim.

Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,

Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.

And so I dream of going back to be.

It’s when I’m weary of considerations,

And life is too much like a pathless wood

Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs

Broken across it, and one eye is weeping

From a twig’s having lashed across it open.

I’d like to get away from earth awhile

And then come back to it and begin over.

May no fate willfully misunderstand me

And half grant what I wish and snatch me away

Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:

I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,

And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk

Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,

But dipped its top and set me down again.

That would be good both going and coming back.

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

– Robert Frost

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s