Brautigan > Teaching
This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's teaching and participation in educational seminars and conferences. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.
Brautigan often stated that he never finished high school, even though he graduated from Eugene High School, in Eugene, Oregon, 9 June 1953. He did not attend college and considered himself self-taught. Several critics noted an anti-academic style to his writing. Despite this image of not valuing education, Brautigan was eager to teach courses or participate in educational seminars and conferences.
California Institute of Technology
17-26 January 1967
California Institute of Technology
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Brautigan and San Francisco poet Andrew Hoyem spent ten days at the California Institute of Technology, 17-26 January 1967, as poets-in-residence. They stayed in the guest suite at Ricketts House.
Brautigan and Hoyem sat in on classes and regularly walked about the campus, prompting remarks and photographs. Hoyem, dressed in bold-checkered jackets of three-piece suits and ties, and Brautigan, wearing his unique San Francisco-style clothes, attracted a lot of attention. Coffee with readings and literary discussions each morning at eleven and dinner each evening at a different student residence house provided Brautigan and Hoyem venues for their campaign to bring creativity to the more scientific student body at Cal Tech. These activities also helped to draw students to readings by Brautigan and Hoyem.
From the coffee sessions, Brautigan and Hoyem developed fifteen amusing quotes focusing on coffee. They called this list "Student Simulation Stations." They mimeographed this list and distributed copies around the campus.
Student Stimulation Stations
Thursday, 18 January 1967
Brautigan participated with Hoyem in teaching sessions titled "Student Stimulation Stations" in the Winnet Lounge.
Brautigan and Hoyem provided a two-page 8.5" x 11" typed, mimeographed, and stapled handout with fifteen quotes about coffee, apparently as writing prompts for students in the class. Brautigan and Hoyem's names are noted at the top, left of the first sheet, and under those specific prompts they each contributed.
The first "station" reads
The nice thing about coffee is that it's legal.
Richard Brautigan, 1967
The eighth station, also by Brautigan reads
A dog drinking a cup of coffee is man's best friend.
Richard Brautigan, 2067 (sic)
Other stations included
Coffee, though a useful medicine, if drunk constantly will at
length induce a decay of health, and hectic fever.
Jessee Torvey, 1819
If they call for Postum, roast 'em.
B.B.D. & 0., 20th cent.
Coffee has two virtues: it is wet and warm.
The fashion for Pacine will pass off like that of coffee.
Marie de Sevigne, 17 cent.
Charles Audubon dipped his watercolor brush into his coffee
cup by mistake . . . only once.
Andrew Hoyem, 1967
Coffee, which makes the politician wise,
And see thro' all things with his half-shut eyes.
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair
Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955
Le Grand Farewell Appearance
Wednesday, 25 January 1967
The final event of Hoyem and Brautigan's residency, called "Le Grand Farewell Appearance," was held 11:00 AM in the Winnett Lounge. The letter-sized Communication Company promotional poster announcing this event was printed one side, black ink on goldenrod paper. Brautigan shared his newly-written poem, "At the California Institute of Technology" with those gathered.
Crawford, John F. "Poets in Transit." Engineering and Science, Feb. 1976, p. 26.
John F. Crawford, an English instructor at California Institute of Technology, wrote an article about Hoyem and Brautigan for the monthly university newsletter, Engineering and Science (published October-June by California Institute of Technology). A photograph by James McLanahan of Brautigan and Hoyem walking on the CalTech campus appeared with the article. Crawford's article at the Cal Tech library website.
Two Brautigan poems, "My Nose is Growing Old" and "November 3" were reprinted in the March 1967 issue of the school's literary magazine, Totem. Brautigan's previously unpublished poem, "At the California Institute of Technology", appeared in the May 1967 issue of this magazine.
Montana State University
Spring Quarter, 1 April-30 June 1982
Writer in Residence
Department of English
Brautigan taught English 202 Creative Writing: Poetry and Prose at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, during the spring quarter, 1982. Brautigan was paid $US4,500 to teach this course, hold a minimum of two hours per week office hours, and deliver a public reading. A contract was sent to Brautigan 23 December 1981, which he signed and returned on 15 January 1982. Funds were approved for his salary by the Executive Committee of the Endowment and Alumni Foundation at Montana State University on 16 February 1982. During his residency, Brautigan delivered guest lectures in several other English classes, a Film and TV class, a Bozeman High School English class, and gave a free public reading. Additionally, he gave two interviews as noted below.
Greg Keeler, Professor of English at Montana State, was instrumental in arranging for Brautigan to teach this course. Keeler wrote the memoir Waltzing with the Captain: Remembering Richard Brautigan, a collection of stories about experiences shared with Richard Brautigan from 1978 to 1984.
In his now-defunct website "Troutball" Keeler included a story entitled "Professor Brautigan" about Brautigan's teaching at Montana State University. Keeler recounts how he arranged the appointment for Brautigan, details Brautigan's teaching style, and recounts some of the adventures he shared with Brautigan during the Spring of 1982.
Schmidt, Carol. "Writer Sights in on Bozeman Life." Bozeman Chronicle, 26 April 1982, pp. 1-2.
Brautigan talks about his childhood, his self-taught writing abilities, his early publication struggles, his unexpected popularity, his residency in Japan and Montana, the controversial banning of five of his books, his sensitivity to the concerns of children, his concern over criticism against his work, and his future saying, "I don't know where or what I'll be working on, but I do know why I'll be writing. Because I like it."
Miller, Ellen K. "Distinguished Writer Joins MSU English Staff." Exponent, 4 June 1982, p. 28.
"Richard Brautigan . . . came to MSU this quarter to teach creative writing. Although Brautigan was a poet in residence at MSU and had lectured at several colleges, such as Harvard, Duke, and Stanford, he had never taught a class before. "I don't think it's possible to teach creative writing," Brautigan said, but he wanted to provide a creative atmosphere and make his experience available. . . . 'I hope that after the end of this class, the students can enjoy writing and realize the possibilities are endless.'"
Young, Barbara. "Author Goes to College—As A Teacher." Great Falls Tribune, 14 June 1982, p. 9A.
A shortened version of a press release by Young, MSU News Service, written 11 June 1982. Says, "Brautigan, who did not attend college and considers himself self-taught, instructed a creative writing course in MSU's English Department this spring. . . . 'I think education provides the tools for a person to understand and enjoy life on this planet.' he says. 'The more you know, the more you can enjoy during our brief stay here. You can't get too much education. It should be a lifelong process.'"
Young, Barbara. "Brautigan Discusses His Writing, Teaching." Montana State University Staff Bulletin, 25 June 1982, p. 3.
A full reprint of the press release by Young, MSU News Service, 11 June 1982. Brautigan says that teaching a creative writing course at MSU was a "rare opportunity to go to college. . . . I told my class the first day that it's impossible to teach creative writing. I told them that what I could provide was a creative atmosphere and the experience of 30 years of writing. . . . I've been extremely pleased by the high quality of writing I've seen . . . from extreme realism to extreme imagination." Brautigan says good writers must be "courageous." He mentions writing another book whose working title is An Unfortunate Woman saying "it will be as sad as it sounds."
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Creative Arts Conference
18-29 August 1969
United States International University
San Diego, California
Brautigan participated in the Creative Arts Conference sponsored by United States International University, San Diego, California. Prior to 1968 United States International University was known as California Western. The 8.5" x 12" poster/handbill advertising the conference featured a photograph by Edmund Shea of Brautigan.
The Conference was a twelve-day series of lectures by ten artists and writers including Don Carpenter, Stephen Schneck, Michael McClure, Robert Creeley, Ed Dorn; filmmakers James Blue, Mike Ahnemann, Denis Sanders, and Jim Morrison of The Doors, scheduled to screen Feast of Friends. Brautigan's scheduled appearance was 22 August 1969. Reportedly, Brautigan also conducted classes in creative writing during his campus visit.
22 August 1969
The events were divided into three categories: "The Film-Maker," "The Writer," and "The Poet." Brautigan, listed as "author of Trout Fishing in America," appeared on 22 August in the Solomon Little Theater. Also scheduled were writers Don Carpenter and Stephen Schneck and poets Michael McClure, Robert Creeley, and Ed Dorn. Filmmakers on the schedule included James Blue (The Olive Tree of Justice), Mike Ahnemann (Cowboy), Dennis Sanders (A Time Out of War), and Jim Morrison, singer for the rock group The Doors, who was scheduled to screen his film Feast of Friends.
College of Marin Writers' Conference
10-12 October 1969
College of Marin
Brautigan was a participating author at the College of Marin Writers' Conference. The College of Marin was a small liberal arts college north of San Francisco. Also scheduled were Kay Boyle, Josephine L. Miles, Herbert Wilner, Jessamyn West, William Dickey, William Stafford, and Carolyn Kizer. The program for the event was a letter-sized sheet sheet of green paper, folded in thirds, printed on both sides in green and white ink.
Modern Language Association of America
29 December 1979
San Francisco, California
At the 94th annual meeting of the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) in San Francisco, in December, Brautigan participated in a panel discussion concerning the importance of Zen Buddhism to American Literature. This special event, titled "Zen and Contemporary Poetry," held at 9:00 pm, in Plaza Square of the Hyatt Hotel, included Robert Bly, Gary Snyder, Lucien Stark, Philip Whalen, and Brautigan as speakers. A listing of this program is included in the Directory of PMLA 94(6) Nov. 1979: 1133. The session was chaired by Dennis Lynch, then a graduate student at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.
Feedback from Dennis Lynch
"I put that MLA panel together, and that's what led to Brautigan and I being friends. That was quite a night. Governor Jerry Brown and his then-squeeze Linda Ronstadt showed up.
"Then a couple of years later, Richard came out to NIU [Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois] where I was a graduate student and delivered a reading and lecture, and came to my classes. There we had the surreal experience of going out to dinner and finding on the printed menu Trout á la Brautigan, believe it or not.
"After the MLA deal we kept in touch regularly. He'd drink and dial me maybe once a month after that until his death. I wrote a tribute to him for the Chicago Tribune, and wrote various other things about him, all of which you seem to have uncovered.
"I spent a week at his ranch in Montana where he showed me how to shoot his guns.
"Unless I'm working on a story, my MO around celeberities is never to
ask them questions about their work (I figure they get that enough
elsewhere) but just to talk about "normal" things. So instead of prying,
I'd wait for Richard to talk about his art (which was rarely), his
publishing and financial problems (frequently), or his personal life
(often). So, unfortunately, I didn't hear from him a lot of insights
into his craft."
— Dennis Lynch. Email to John F. Barber, 26 February 2005.
James M. Mellard, retired professor and chair of the English Department at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, (and author of The Exploded Form: The Modernist Novel in America which includes a chapter on Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America) adds the following comments about Brautigan's visit to the NIU campus.
"I am not sure whether it was Dennis Lynch or Jerome Klinkowitz who invited Brautigan.
"My wife Sue and I hosted the reception after Brautigan's reading, and a bunch of people, indeed, a coterie of Brautigan followers actually hung out and stayed at our house after Sue and I went to bed. They drank up all the beer and wine, then proceeded on to our modest supply of liquor (scotch, bourbon, that sort of thing, not a huge amount), leaving not a drop undrunk.
"Brautigan wasn't falling down drunk, but he was regaling the crowd in a flourishing manner. I remember one scene of Brautigan standing in the living room talking about his critics. Brautigan said that he would like to line up all his critics and shoot them. As he said this, he made the gesture of raising a gun and shooting each one, complete with sound effects. I also remember Brautigan sitting on the floor in the living room telling stories.
"When Sue and I needed to sleep, I said to the group "Y'all stay here; we're going to bed."
— James Mellard. Email to John F. Barber, 24 January 2007.
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