‘Joe Brainard is one of those unclassifiable artists . . . who do several things well. In his case this resulted not in separate compartments but a unified whole . . . . The same qualities shine forth in all that he produced: clarity, bold simplicity, accuracy of execution and feeling, humor, casual elegance, a charm that invites his audience in rather than keeping them at arm’s length, and something grander but determinedly low key and offhand, a sense of the ordinary as sacramental.’ — Ron Padgett
‘[Brainard] seems to have been drawn to forms of containment, in which the unruly or rupturing experiences of life are brought into the kind of reductive clarity that we often associate with classical modalities . . . . Not surprisingly, along with this gift for distillation, Brainard had an uncanny eye for essential, revelatory detail; these contribute to the vivid immediacy and spontaneity of his work. In essence, such specific distillations can be understood as a form of abstraction, not the abstraction we affiliate with non-representational art, but something perhaps closer to the poetics we have come to associate with the New York School of poetry: an “aesthetics of attention” as critic Marjorie Perloff has said about its most important avatar, Frank O’Hara . . . . Distillation, specificity, and a keen sense of intimate scale allowed Brainard to locate the extraordinary in the ordinary and, curiously, something like the reverse.’ — Ann Lauterbach
‘Joe was a creature of incredible tact and generosity. He often gave his work to his friends, but before you could feel obliged to him he was already there, having anticipated the problem several moments or paragraphs earlier, and remedying it while somehow managing to deflect your attention from it. Into something else: a compassionate atmosphere, where looking at his pictures and recognizing their references and modest autobiographical aspirations would somehow make you a nicer person without realizing it and having to be grateful. It’s for this, I think, that his work is so radical, that we keep returning to it, again and again finding something that is new, bathing in its curative newness. Joe seems to have taken extraordinary pains for us not to know about his work. Either he would create 3,000 tiny works for a show, far too many to take in, or he would abandon art altogether, as he did for the last decade of his life, consecrating his time to his two favorite hobbies, smoking and reading Victorian novels. It’s as though in an ultimate gesture of niceness he didn’t wasn’t us to have the bother of bothering with him. Maybe that’s why the work today hits us so hard, sweeping all before it, our hesitations and his, putting us back in the place where we always wanted to be, the delicious chromatic center of the Parcheesi board.’ — John Ashbery
‘Joe Brainard was both a collector and an antimaterialist. He loved beautiful objects and bought them, but he loved emptiness more and was always giving away his collections and restoring his loft to its primordial spareness. As one of his closest friends told me, “He was like a teenager. It was difficult for him to live in the real world. He’d get rid of everything. His loft was Spartan-too much so. I remember at the end, when he was so ill, the nurse would have to kneel next to his mattress on the floor-it broke my heart.”‘ — Edmund White
Joe Brainard reads from ‘I Remember’
JB reads ‘Van Gogh’
JB reads ‘Worry Wart’
JB reads ‘Today (Monday, February 23, 1981)’
JB reads ‘Scope’
JB reads ‘Breakfast Out’
JB reads ‘Sick Art’
JB reads ‘Tuesday, February 18th, 1971’
JB reads ‘The Fourth of July’
JB reads ‘Bird Life in Vermont’
JB reads ‘Minute Observation’
JB reads from ‘I Remember’
I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard – trailer
Joe Brainard episode of ‘Public Secrets’
‘Bruno Lalonde, lectures dans ma bibliothèque: Joe Brainard’
A celebration of ‘White Dove Review’, co-edited by Joe Brainard
‘Nancy Is Happy’
A Tribute to Joe Brainard | The New School for Public Engagement
Joe Brainard Official Website
Re: ‘I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard’
Bruce Hainley on Joe Brainard @ Frieze
‘Homage to Joe’ by Keith McDermott
Book: Ron Padgett ‘Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard’
Joe Brainard’s Comix Collabs @ Els
Book: Andy Fitch ‘Pop Poetics: Reframing Joe Brainard’
‘Joe Brainard’s Queer Seriousness’
‘Poetry and the artful presence of materials: Joe Brainard at P.S. 1’
Rachel Youens on the Joe Brainard Retrospective @ PS1
JOE / BRAINS / LAMAR
John Ashbery on Joe Brainard
‘He Fancied Nancy’ by Jordan Davis
Ron Padgett interviewed about Joe Brainard
Even though you and Joe Brainard are often associated with the “New York School” of poetry and painting, respectively, your friendship dates back to your adolescence in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to know one another and how you ended up in New York City?
RON PADGETT: I met Joe in 1948. We were in the same first grade class. The next year I went to another school, and we didn’t reconnect until high school. He was the school artist and I was the school poet, therefore we were both “different.” We even published a little avant-garde magazine together, The White Dove Review. When I came to New York City in 1960 for college, Joe accompanied me, on a visit, before his art school started in Dayton, Ohio. But after a few months in Dayton he quit school and moved to New York for good. We remained good friends for the rest of his life. He was like a brother to me.
Talk a little about how you know Kenward Elmslie, and how he fits into the whole New York School scene. What was his relationship to Joe Brainard?
RP: I was already a big admirer of Kenward’s poetry when I met him in the spring of 1964. He was a friend of Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery and James Schuyler. Kenward had come to poetry by way of writing lyrics for songs and Broadway shows. I believe he met the New York School poets through John Latouche, who not only wrote Broadway shows himself but also held a glittering salon frequented by a variety of writers and performers, such as Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Paul and Jane Bowles, and Lena Horne. Latouche introduced Kenward to John Meyers, the Tibor de Nagy Gallery director who knew Kenneth, Frank, John and Jimmy. Kenward’s poetry readings, which include his singing, always make me feel that I’ve been to a mysterious, witty, moving show with big production values. Joe Brainard and Kenward were companions and collaborators for 30 years.
Joe Brainard collaborated on works with many of the New York School poets, including yourself, Kenward, John Ashbery, and Ted Berrigan. I wonder if you can talk about collaboration as an element in your work and as a means of working collectively with your peers. Is collaboration still an important part of what you do now that you’re a bit older?
RP: I’d say quite a bit older! I’m still doing collaborative works, after more than 40 years, now mainly with the painter George Schneeman. It’s as exciting and scary as ever, because we never quite know what we’re going to do until we do it, and then we can never figure out how we did it. It’s as if a hybrid of us forms a third person, the one who actually does the work. Having to work with an unpredictable collaborator has rubbed off on to the solo work I do. It has made me more open, more willing to take a risk, more trusting in whatever it is that makes us write poetry and make art.
Humor is another pronounced characteristic of a lot of New York School writing, especially in your work and Kenneth Koch’s, but also in O’Hara’s and Berrigan’s and Ashbery’s—and in Joe Brainard’s writing as well. Why do you think humor is such a crucial part of your work? Where does your sense of humor come from? Have you ever found it difficult to be taken seriously because there is so much humor in your work?
RP: I like to laugh, and I also like the kind of wit that makes my mind laugh. Humor is the nephew of happiness and optimism, without which life would be unbearable. My penchant for comedy probably started with my Ozark hillbilly grandparents, who had a spunky sense of humor. My dad, who was a bootlegger, was quite a prankster. And when I was a child I was crazy about comic books. There are some literary people who think that for poetry to be valuable and meaningful it must be utterly serious at all times. I don’t see why poetry can’t be as big and various as life itself, and that includes humor. And of course comedy can be serious in its own way, too.
I have two images of Joe Brainard in my mind. One is the Joe Brainard of his book I Remember, which is an image of a very lively, intelligent, sensitive person with a breezy sense of humor he deploys even when talking about the most difficult and trying events in his life. I see some of this person in his more pop-arty kind of visual work. But then his paintings and portraits and collages strike me as quite serious, almost despairing at times. I don’t know if you see it the same way, but I guess I am asking if you saw Joe as a person who tried his best to put on a pleasant face that may or may not have masked a kind of suffering he didn’t or couldn’t show to the world?
RP: At the age of 19, Joe wrote a diary entry in which he talked about this very question, concluding that he had “so much undressing to do.” (In my book Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard I quote from his diary.) By “undressing” he meant stripping down to one’s basic self and being honest, a mission he was true to for the rest of his life. Both his visual art and his writing range from the very funny to the very serious, but in all instances I think he tried to make beautiful art that was personal and even intimate. It’s a very friendly art that reflects Joe’s own sweetness and generosity, a generosity that led him to give the world all the beautiful works he made.
Ron Padgett, ed. The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard
The Library of America
‘In New York’s vibrant art and poetry scenes of the 1960s and 70s, Joe Brainard occupied a special place. An artist of diverse and extraordinary gifts, he worked prolifically in a dazzling range of media, creating cover designs and interior art for some of the most significant books of the period and experimenting with the mixing of poetry and comic strips. The publication in 1970 of his one-of-a-kind autobiographical work I Remember showed that Brainard was also a writer of originality, grace, depth, and distinctive humor. I Remember has become a contemporary classic, of which the poet James Schuyler said: “It’s a great work that will last and last—in other words, it is literature.”
‘Here in one volume is the full range of Joe Brainard’s writing in all its deadpan wit, effortless inventiveness, personal candor, and generosity of spirit: the complete text of I Remember, along with an unprecedented gathering of intimate journals, stories, poems, travel diaries, one-liners, comic strips, mini-essays, and short plays, many of them until now available only in expensive, rare editions. Using apparently simple means to achieve complex and surprising effects, these works turn the most everyday experiences into occasions for startled contemplation. “Brainard disarms us with the seemingly tossed-off, spontaneous nature of his writing, and his stubborn refusal to accede to the pieties of self-importance,” writes Paul Auster in his introduction to this collection. “These little works … are not really about anything so much as what it means to be young, that hopeful, anarchic time when all horizons are open to us and the future appears to be without limits.”
‘Assembled by the author’s longtime friend and biographer Ron Padgett and presenting for the first time fourteen previously unpublished works, The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard provides long overdue recognition of a singular literary talent and a terrific person whom readers will come to love.’ — TLoA
Death is a funny thing. Most people are afraid of it, and yet
they don’t even know what it is.
Perhaps we can clear this up.
What is death?
Death is it. That’s it. Finished. “Finito.” Over and out. No
Death is many different things to many different people. I
think it is safe to say, however, that most people don’t like it.
Because they are afraid of it.
Why are they afraid of it?
Because they don’t understand it.
I think that the best way to try to understand death is to
think about it a lot. Try to come to terms with it. Try to really
understand it. Give it a chance!
Sometimes it helps if we try to visualize things.
Try to visualize, for example, someone sneaking up behind
your back and hitting you over the head with a giant hammer.
Some people prefer to think of death as a more spiritual
thing. Where the soul somehow separates itself from the mess
and goes on living forever somewhere else. Heaven and hell being
the most traditional choices.
Death has a very black reputation but, actually, to die is a
perfectly normal thing to do.
And it’s so wholesome: being a very important part of
nature’s big picture. Trees die, don’t they? And flowers?
I think it’s always nice to know that you are not alone. Even
Let’s think about ants for a minute. Millions of ants die
every day, and do we care? No. And I’m sure that ants feel the
same way about us.
But suppose—just suppose—that we didn’t have to die.
That wouldn’t be so great either. If a 90-year-old man can hardly
stand up, can you imagine what it would be like to be 500 years
Another comforting thought about death is that 80 years or
so after you die nobody who knew you will still be alive to miss
And after you’re dead, you won’t even know it.
More time is spent at the window.
You go along from day to day with summer all around you.
Stores tell all about people who live in the area.
Others have already written what I would like to write.
Today the sky is so blue it burns.
IN THE COUNTRY
In the country one can almost hear the silence.
THE FOUR SEASONS
The four seasons of the year permit us to enjoy things.
Smear each side of a pork chop with mustard and dredge in
Have always had nose stuck in book from little on.
What defines that feeling one has when gazing at a rock?
It was in Costa Rica I saw my first coffee plantation.
Happiness is nothing more than a state of mind.
Money will buy a fine dog.
A new program is being introduced by our government.
On the whole he is a beautiful human being.
A lake attracts a man and wife and members of a family.
We see so many different things when we look at the sky.
A SEXY THOUGHT
Male early in the day.
One can only go so far without potatoes in the kitchen.
A mother is something we have all had.
Every four minutes a car comes off the assembly line they say.
Foamy waves wash to shore “treasures” as a sacrifice to damp
High density housing is going on all around us.
I could have screamed the day John proposed winterizing
the cottage and living there permanently.
I am a very cold person here.
THE YEAR OF THE WHITE MAN
The year of the white man was a year of many beads.
Loyalty, I feel, is a very big word.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Perhaps in our mad scramble to keep our heads above water
we miss the point.
Why must we be so intent on destroying everything we
Winifred was a little relieved when they were gone.
Picnic or Yonder Comes the Blue
“After a white reception in the crystal room of the Hotel
Kenmore, Mrs. George Eustic (Patricia Hays) and her husband
left on a wedding trip to the Pocono Mountains, Pa. They will
live in good old Noodleville.” (Home.)
Where the friendly purple heart is.
I like to do things. I like to eat, and things like that. I like
the things that go on around me. People are nice. And, really, I
like this place I live in. However, some people don’t.
Sick at heart, the trembling girl shuddered at the words
that delivered her to this terrible horrible fate of the East.
“Nasty!” How could she escape from this oriental monster
into whose hands she had fallen—this strange man whose face
none had seen.
It is only a little picture,
In a little silver frame,
And across the back is written
My darling mother’s name.
Pink and purple and orange ones with Venetian rose buds
Imported from Venetian
In eleven thrilling volumes
I heard a shot—I saw him run—then I saw her fall—the
woman I love. My leg was broken—and my gun was gone! I had
only one thought—(tee! hee!)—his strange, astounding plots
must be avenged—he must die for a coward at my hands! He had
the courage of a lion and the cunning of a rat. He came running
towards me when—suddenly, I—
Forgetting the ripped lace, $35, green violence, & free samples.
“I always run when I hear 3 rings!”
. . . and remember those swell picnics in Birch Grove?
People are the most interesting books in the world.
THE BEACH BOYS
“The Beach Boys” are worth feeling old about liking.
What few people seem to realize is that amber is just petrified tree sap.
Sometimes progress takes too big a bite and ends up with indigestion.
He dared look the sun in its face and steal its radiance.
Perhaps it is enough to know that nothing will ever be as it was before.
That a giant economy-sized box of “Supreme—Three Ply—Extra Soft—De Luxe” cleansing tissues only costs 39¢ ought, it would seem, to restore one’s faith in something.
A mother is something we have all had.
Girl Scouts is more than selling cookies.
Imagination is the mother of reality.
Pride creates its own banana peels.
Bread is the greatest loaf story in the world.
When in doubt, sprinkle with cheese and bake.
When in doubt, mulch.
From Freud we learn that when a wife smashes a vase to the floor, it is really her husband’s head that lies there broken into many pieces.
THE ERA OF MIND
Geology, which is the story of the rocks, finds its climax in the history, which is the story of man… if you get my drift.
Autumn gets the red out.
A woman can do anything she puts her pants to.
People who need people are the peopleish people in the world.
As I was saying to my garbage on the way out the door the other night—“Why should I carry you down three flights of stairs? I don’t even like you!”
ON THE OTHER HAND
If you go to bed with your shoes on, you’ll save time in the morning.
EARLY ATHLETE’S FOOT
There is an old saying not to judge a man until you have walked in his moccasins for two moons.
YOU CAN’T LOSE FOR WINNING
He who would give his right arm to be a free man is a free man with one arm.
REMEMBRANCE OF WOMAN PAST
The echo of an interesting woman can be an ordinary scarf.
“Some day my prince will come…”
It may just be—you know—that “the truth” is far too obvious to risk any comprehension of.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Would you believe a new Revlon fingernail polish called “Burnt Toast”!
What with history piling up so fast, almost every day is the anniversary of something awful.
If I’m as normal as I think I am, we’re all a bunch of weirdos.
p.s. Hey. ** Bill, Hi, B. Jonas Burgett … new to me, I think. I’ll go start my discovery. Wow, it seems like you just got to Berlin, and now you’re outta there? But my sense of time is a little skewed. Enjoy your last days (hours?). You go back to SF? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, pretty interesting, I agree, obviously, and about ‘PIAIL’. ** Steevee, Yeah, I don’t you linked us to that before. Everyone, Steevee’s got a new review of a new film (Kôji Fukada’s ‘Harmonium’) up for your delectation. The thing is, we don’t need a professional editor. Zac is very good editor who had a job at one time editing commercials, music videos, and short films. The only reason we would need a pro editor was if we had no editing skills and didn’t know what we wanted or what we were doing, which is definitely not the case. So we don’t need a different editor, and I don’t think we would be given a new one in any case unless things go haywire. We just have to play the game with ours to some degree and then make her do what we want, explaining our reasoning as clearly as we can, ideally helped by her dexterity. I think, at this very moment at least, that it’ll ultimately work out okay. Thank you for the suggestion and thoughts. ** Tosh Berman, I was weirdly haunted in ways I couldn’t quite figure out by ‘The Swimmer’ too. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra! Well, the first day with the editor wasn’t as violent as I had feared. She rewatched the film over the weekend and sort of got it. Still, her ideas are all about normalizing and editing to emphasize the story when we want to the story to be no more important than the film’s style, structure, rhythm, etc. Basically, the only way to work smoothly with her to initially go along with some of her less disturbing proposals and make a new cut of the film. We should have one finished today. Then we’re going to explain why that isn’t what we want and how her cut is undercutting our intentions and push the film back towards being the stranger thing we want. She seems nice, so I think/hope that will work. In any case, I feel fairly confident that we can get the film to where we want it to be, and it’s just kind of a drag that we have to prove ourselves in this time-consuming way. But we’ll see. Yes, you definitely shouldn’t to be a victim of the organization’s disorganization again. It seems theoretically that it should be simple to rectify and will end up being a one time problem? Great about your great progress on the work that counts. And I hope the job hunting gets de-obstacle-ized. My yesterday was just editing, editing. The heatwave here is pretty awful, and it’s worse today, and our editing room turns into an oven very quickly, so ugh. More editing today. How was Tuesday for you? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. ‘Mommie Dearest’ is the way outlier in Perry’s work, for better or worse. It isn’t very indicative of what he does generally. Sounds like big fun is imminent in Dundee. You wreaking havoc is such a lovely idea. Please do. ** Misanthrope, Hi. ‘In the round’. Revolving stage? Or will they arrange themselves onstage like spokes on a wheel. I’ve been to concerts with that set up. They usually just seem gimmicky, but AF probably has some clever idea. Try to enjoy your very busy sounding day off, man. ** Jeff J, Hi, Jeff! I was very happy to see that the FSG news is public and that everyone (on FB and undoubtedly off) are so happy for you. Peckinpah doing Didion is a strangely exciting, simultaneously strange/inspired and kind of weird/awful idea. Huh. Unbelievable that even Malick has to deal with that shit. I think, fingers crossed, that it’ll ultimately work out okay with ours. But really we don’t need a pro editor. That’s already clear. Technically, she’s just quicker than Zac, but no better. The insistence on having a pro help with the edit reminds me of the contingent that thinks you need to get a degree in a writing program to successfully write novels. It’s a weird conservatism. ** Florian-Ayala, Hi, Florian. Underground venues in the US? Mm, I’m pretty out of it. having been over here for a while. I’ll give it some thought and will ask others when I can. I don’t think galleries dislike small talk necessarily. It’s always wrong to generalize about things, you know? Take care. ** Right. The ultra-great Joe Brainard is under our spotlight today. I hope the fruits prove very enjoyable. See you tomorrow.