Sunday Apr 14

KB-04 Kate Braverman is a poet and experimental writer of a singular and ruthless breed. She is author of four books of poetry, the novels: Lithium for Medea, Palm Latitudes, Wonders of the West, and The Incantation of Frida K. Her Graywolf Prize for Creative Non-Fiction award winning memoir, Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles: An Accidental Memoir was published in Feb. 2006.

Kate Braverman’s works have been translated into Italian, Turkish, Latvian, Japanese, French and German. Her short stories and poems are widely anthologized. "Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta" appears in the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, Vintage, Vantage, and Scribner’s anthologies and many others. “Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta” won a Best American Short Story prize and O.Henry Award. Her short story "Mrs. Jordan's Summer Vacation" won Editor's Choice Raymond Carver Award. She received a Pushcart Prize for her short story, “Cocktail Hour.” Other awards include the 2005 Mississippi Review Prize, and a Christopher Isherwood Foundation Fellowship for lifetime recognition of achievement and another Best American Short Story prize for her story “Pagan Night.” Most recently Kate Braverman won the Margie J. Wilson Poetry Prize from Margie Review.

She has also received a Recognition Award from the California Legislature Assembly, and a San Francisco Public Library Honoree. Her certificate reads: "For your success as an influential novelist, short story writer, and poet, and for your literary achievements that have garnered great acclaim, numerous awards and a Pushcart Prize, thereby making California a better place to live."

Kate Braverman taught creative writing for 20 years at UCLA and privately for 9 years. Her private workshop produced hundreds of poems and Janet Fitch’s Oprah Book Club bestseller White Oleander, Mary Rakov’s Lannen Grant novel, The Memory Room and Christina Garcia’s National Book Award nominee novel Dreaming in Cuban.

Most, if not all, tributes to writers or anyone whom we admire are posthumous. Yes, there are interviews and readings that we can find on youtube, and awards are sometimes given out. But, why can’t we show some LOVE to writers who have inspired us with their depth and commitment to the beauty of language before they leave this planet? That’s what the Crazy Rabbit Review column is all about this month.

I first found Kate Braverman’s poetry collection, Milk Run, in a second-hand store here in Santa Fe. I pulled it out because it was different in format from the rest. It was about 11 inches long and six inches wide with half a woman’s face at the top and the other half on the bottom. It was damn appealing in structure, but when I find a poetry collection by someone I’ve never heard of, I’m usually disappointed: it recedes into Disneyland clouds, moons, butterflies and unicorns. If I’m lucky, I’ll find one or two poems that resonate. I opened Braverman’s collection to “Cobalt Blue,” and read.

Holy shit! Brilliant mix of narrative, language, and fearless exposure.

The first stanza:

“The winter I learned colors
my father got the cobalt blues.
He bled in his sleep
the week we learned apple red.
Friday is white and black
throwing stones in the snow
by the railroad tracks.
The neighbor boy
vying for the gold star whispers
your father’s dying.”

And the last stanza:

“Preparing for the inevitable
she cancels my piano recital.
A stream of strangers
wander our corridors
buying brass lamps,
the new china plates.
A truck waits.
Men load crates.
Leaves fall outside a screen door.
She touches his flesh.
The winter I learned colors
She was twenty-six.”

I kept opening randomly to other pages of this and every collection of Braverman’s turbulence where ‘the page,’ as Kate puts it, ‘is the final arbiter.’ Her words cipher themselves into the veins. There is no foreplay. It is a faceoff with our fear, our love of our own lunacy and others, and the continual reminder that women who speak their truths can be labeled, ‘whore, bitch, slut, crazy, witch, a body used and returned.’  

Kate Braverman has inspired many with her fearless leap into the abyss with every sentence she’s written. Her depth and commitment to the devastation and malice of language opened new doors on what a novel looked like back in the ‘80s. Most of her books are set in LA where she lived most of her life. She now resides in Santa Fe and has a writer’s residency in motion and two finished collections: Skinny Broads Wearing Wigs and Litany in Yellow, a story collection and poetry collection, that haven’t been published yet.

Here are a few quotes from Kate Braverman:

“Know this, whore. I am your greatest mistake. I will hate you as the seasons turn, in August heat and sudden storms as you drive from one woman to another, one blue velvet sofa and slice of city view after another.”

“The scent of barbequed meat and families sweating out the atrocities of domesticity rise into the dusk heat where the air and my heart wait, lethargic and charred.”

“It was not men or women I loved but the wild pulse of insanity. I trusted it, thought it permanent like a congenital defect or a chemical reaction of moonlight and a certain type of skin. But it betrayed me, found someone younger who died better and with more style. Hang on. I am absolutely certain I lived to tell you this and only this.”

“All mothers cry at night, especially at the end of the month when the money is gone and they are hungry. But the fathers are not supposed to cry. They are supposed to be quiet about their malignancies, their recurrences, the radiation treatments that make them vomit, make their hair fall out, their teeth.”

And the quotes go on and on. There are no wobbling sentences that hold up placards. It is all heart, spleen, guts, and surgery. Braverman’s poetry and prose are an amputation or a haunting of the eerie ponds that pool through our fingerprints.

Enjoy this video montage spliced together by the unparalleled Ken Robidoux from many snippets from Santa Fe to AWP in Minneapolis: I Love Kate Braverman.

Thank you, Kate, for the orbits and secret pulse of your work. Thank you for never abiding to someone’s floor plan of what a novel should be. Thank you for leeching in the macrocosm of life into every sentence.

A toast to Kate Braverman for inspiring all of us who have read her work. And if you haven’t read her work, I’m hoping this video will give you the incentive to order her books, all available at Amazon:

Lithium For Medea: novel
Transmissions To and From Los Angeles: an accidental memoir
Squandering the Blue: story collection
Lullaby For Sinners: poetry collection
Palm Latitudes: novel
Small Craft Warnings: story collection
The Incantations of Frida K.
Wonders of the West: novel
Hurricane Warnings: poetry collection
Milkrun: poetry collection