Revising a Brautigan Poem

My poem, Hamburger Cemetery (on this blog) was written about Richard Brautigan. I discovered him in high school, introduced by my creative writing teacher. He had quite a following in those days despite what Ferlinghetti said about him being a minor poet. I wrote that poem after I discovered Brautigan had died by a self inflicted gunshot.

I had lost touch with his work for years as he drifted off the shelf and I drifting away from poetry. A few years back, I saw on the internet he had passed. So, what do poets do when another poet dies?–we write. I had struggled with the original ending —

I wish he had been hungry

for a hamburger instead.

A.D. Winans told me it was too easy for him…it is easy. It may have even been cute, but not the close I wanted. It may have been too Brautigan. Never try to out Brautigan, Brautigan–same thing with Bukowski. It doesn’t feel the same. It becomes forced like internet sonnets.

The new ending relates on different levels and goes well with “Trout Fishing in America,” a book Ferlinghetti could have never written (I was told).

So, in revising the ending, I came up with the “Making Clouds” poem (on this blog too). Another poem about him. But, it stood better by itself rather than tagged on the end of “Hamburger Cemetery.”

Finally, in the middle of sleep last night, a new ending to  Hamburger it came to me. I wrote it down by my bed. I revised it seven times before I reached:

We should be taught the pull

of a trophy fish

rod tip bending

line stretched tight

just before

it’s gone.

Some Brautigan fans like the original ending better.  So, I guess if you write for writers, you are always revising.

It is soon to be a new year, and maybe my Brautigan poems are finished/maybe not. Again, new poets will discover his work, become fans, and write Brautigans because they are good for you. Old poets like me will miss his word magic and wit.


7 Responses to Revising a Brautigan Poem

  1. gingatao! says:

    We certainly agree on the who cares what Mr Ferlinghetti said about Mr Brautigan front. Your poem is beautiful. I like the other ending, the fact that it was almost exactly Brautigan, I thought correct for a tribute poem. This ending is also perfect, a fresh image, a moment of something and nothing, caught between. For years I pondered the why of the shotgun, such a loud and violent ending to such a life and I reread all the books. When I got to Sombrero Fallout the why had disappeared. “As the writer stared blankly at the torn pieces of paper in the wastepaper basket, they were making friends with the abyss. They seemed to have a life of their own. It was a big decision, but they had decided to go on without him.” In your work here you have made this paragraph a reality.

  2. Scot says:

    Thanks Paul for your insight and suggestions. I had read SF, but forgot or never noticed that quote. I am glad you included that reminder.

  3. phantomcity says:

    Hey Scot, I didn’t understand your comment. Who is Buk?

  4. Scot says:

    Buk is short for Charkes Bukowski. Sorry,, should have been clear.

  5. phantomcity says:

    No, I figured it out like 10 minutes later. I should have gotten it right away. In a New Year’s haze. Thanks for the comment.

  6. jen says:


    hope u don’t mind but i’ve posted about you & this poem on my brautigan site. if u do mind give a yell & i’ll take it down. j

  7. Scot says:

    Sure, I have been to your site…good job. Thanks for the link!
    My Best,

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