In Watermelon Sugar: Poetry Month

By Last Updated: April 21, 2015Views: 3455

Okay, so this technically isn’t poetry. But it feels like poetry. Does that make sense? Probably not.

Now Richard Brautigan’s novel In Watermelon Sugar is a strange animal. Brautigan is a poet and he writes the novel as separate passages, each page is a “chapter” and each passage has a lyrical, rhythmic quality that is very much like a prose poem. And Brautigan has the ability to tell a complete story in just a series of passages. It is a unique way of writing a novel. And it’s really, really weird.

He writes in quirky prose where metaphor and surrealist imagery tend to change the meaning of words, bending them to his own ends. The words themselves become fiction and make you question if you really knew the meaning of them in the first place. As for the plot…well it’s a bit hard to describe.

It is fantasy or science fiction or maybe neither. I want to say post-apocalyptic but that does not do the setting justice. It is set in a post-all-things dream world. Everything is made of watermelon sugar. Everyday a different colored sun rises that causes different colors of watermelon to grow. And the landscape constantly changes.

The central story revolves around the narrator and his former lover Margret dealing with the events of the schism between the people of iDEATH and those of the Forgotten Works that culminates is a violent confrontation. Oh, and there are tigers that can play music and talk and do arithmetic. Like I said, a bit hard to describe.

The story is obviously metaphorical and allegorical and surreal. Overall it is page after page of beautiful, evocative prose that, if you let it, will take you somewhere you’ve never been and perhaps be changed just a little.

As an example here is a chapter called My Name just to give you a feel for the book:

“I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.

If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.

That is my name.

Perhaps it was raining very hard.

That is my name.

Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong— “Sorry for the mistake,” —and you had to do something else.

That is my name.

Perhaps it was a game you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.

That is my name.

Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.

That is my name.

Perhaps you stared into a river. There as something near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.

That is my name.

Or you heard someone calling from a great distance. Their voice was almost an echo.

That is my name.

Perhaps you were lying in bed, almost ready to go to sleep and you laughed at something, a joke unto yourself, a good way to end the day.

That is my name.

Or you were eating something good and for a second forgot what you were eating, but still went on, knowing it was good.

That is my name.

Perhaps it was around midnight and the fire tolled like a bell inside the stove.

That is my name.

Or you felt bad when she said that thing to you. She could have told it to someone else: Somebody who was more familiar with her problems.

That is my name.”

See what I mean? It is a lovely, beautiful and disturbing book that will mean what you think it means. Interpretation is very, very open. So yes, technically not poetry but written poetically by a poet. I recommend you go read it. Now.

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