Thomas Haroldson's review of 'Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt'
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Rommel Limps On Deep into Nowhere

by Thomas Haroldson?

Anyone who has been thinking of reading Richard Brautigan's poetry should not buy his new book. Almost every worthwhile poem he has written is available in The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster which came out two years ago. The Pill contains 104 outstanding poems written between 1957 and 1968 — all are above average; a third are very good; a dozen are great.

Rommel, on the other hand, is nothing more than a mediocre collection of verbal doodles. Of the 85 "poems," 25 are sentences, four are merely titles (no poems under them), and what remains is uniformly inferior to almost all of Brautigan's previous work. No more than six poems in Rommel are even worth reading.

It is unnecessary to say that that the author has experienced better days, because he says it himself. In many ways, Rommel reads more like a suicide note than a collection of poetry.

For example:

I feel so bad today
that I want to write a poem.
I don't care: any poem, this


Drinking wine this afternoon
I realize the days are getting


Too many lifetimes like this one, right?
Hungover, surrounded by general goofiness,
lonely, can't get it up, I feel just like
a pile of bleached cat shit.


In a room that knows your death
a closet freezes like a postage stamp.
A coat, a dress is hanging there.

It could be argued that these four poems aren't poems at all, but their lack of quality (except perhaps the last one) is more disturbing than their brevity. In the past, even when Brautigan was discouraged, his work managed to retain a certain degree of vitality and humor:

A long lazy September look
in the mirror
says it's true:

I'm 31
and my nose is growing

It starts about 1/2
an inch
below the bridge
and strolls geriatically
for another inch or so:

Fortunately, the rest
of the nose is comparatively

I wonder if girls
will want me with an
old nose.

I can hear then now
the heartless bitches!

"He's cute
but his nose
is old."

It may be that more than Brautigan's nose has grown old since he wrote the above poem four years ago, but most likely his recent work merely suffers from comparison. The Pill is a tough act to follow, and nothing as carelessly conceived as Rommel can hope to match it.

The Fifth Estate [Detroit, MI] 5(5)
July 9, 1970: 16

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