Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Richard Brautigan --- It's Raining In Love


I don’t know what it is,
but I distrust myself
when I start to like a girl
a lot.

It makes me nervous.
I don’t say the right things
or perhaps I start
to examine,
what I am saying.

If I say, “Do you think it’s going to rain?”
and she says, “I don’t know,”
I start thinking: Does she really like me?

In other words
I get a little creepy.

A friend of mine once said,
“It’s twenty times better to be friends
with someone
than it is to be in love with them.”

I think he’s right and besides,
it’s raining somewhere, programming flowers
and keeping snails happy.
That’s all taken care of.

if a girl likes me a lot
and starts getting real nervous
and suddenly begins asking me funny questions
and looks sad if I give the wrong answers
and she says things like,
“Do you think it’s going to rain?”
and I say, “It beats me,”
and she says, “Oh,”
and looks a little sad
at the clear blue California sky,
I think: Thank God, it’s you, baby, this time
instead of me.

---Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan's “It's Raining In Love”

Baby Boomers. The Greatest Generation. Generation X. The Millenials. Taking the years of birth, we narrow down the trends and events that shaped the way of life during the formative years of a large population of people and assign them a name. I mention these ideas about generations because Richard Brautigan's “It's Raining In Love” is emblematic of what I would call the Hyper-Analytical Generation. Brautigan was born in 1935, but his poem is a harbinger of the thought process that's rampant these days. Unbridled floods of information arrive on command because of technology, making patience a dying breed and turning the most innocent and spontaneous of actions, gestures, and conversations into prime targets for dissection and analysis. What does it mean that she didn't post a reply to my witty joke about her status on Facebook? It's been nearly ten minutes since I texted him, why hasn't he texted me back? I googled myself and you'll never believe the pictures that came up... These are some of the musings of the Hyper-Analytical Generation, although I'm thinking that maybe they're the Hypertechnolytical Generation. Without a doubt, this current generation would love Richard Brautigan's “It's Raining In Love.”

“It's Raining In Love” is scattered. While that's sometimes a criticism, it works remarkably well in this poem. The poem's speaker attempts to find logic in his illogical behavior. As he dissects his mental state, the poem's form changes pace between stanzas, dropped lines, white space, and one large all-caps “BUT.” Love can make us do strange things and in Brautigan's world the quest for love is rooted in things that have nothing to do with attraction or love. When he begins to “like a girl / a lot” he “distrusts” himself and doubts his instincts. The things he would accept as normal start to raise his suspicions and he can't help but “examine, / evaluate / compute.” Everything is shifted beneath a precise and powerful microscope. The perfect example that Brautigan provides, and possibly the most telling lines of the whole poem, focuses on the harmless and common place topic of weather: “If I say, 'Do you think it’s going to rain?'/ and she says, 'I don’t know,' / I start thinking: Does she really like me?” This is the epitome of over-analyzing, a trait emblematic of the current generation. Still, the two lines that follow are just as important. When Brautigan declares, “In other words / I get a little creepy,” he makes it clear that he's not at peace with his behavior. The obsessiveness, the reading-into things, the looking for clues and signs---the faintest possibility of love, and wanting it so badly, has completely transformed our speaker. It isn't that he's become a version of himself he doesn't recognize, but rather he's become a version of himself he recognizes all too well.

Sage advice in the middle of the poem relays that friendship is “twenty times better” than love. Friendship doesn't change you within your core the way that love does. Is this true? I'm not sure that I agree with Brautigan, or his friend supplying the advice, but I understand what they mean. I see that normal things like “rain” happen without connotation in the world of friendship, that flowers are flowers and snails are snails in this world. This is a place where things are “taken care of.” Whereas in a world of love, or potential love, the flowers could be untouched and not displayed indicating a fading love, and the snails slithering along unaware that they could be crushed at any moment are metaphors and microcosms of us. When a friend sighs it's nothing, but when the object of your affection sighs what does it mean...

Just when I think I've got this poem figured out, Brautigan spins it on its axis. After being the love-starved and heart-sick one, he decides to explore the other side of the romantic equation. “BUT / if a girl likes me a lot / and starts getting real nervous.” It's hard not to like this reversal, particularly because it contains so much reality. We play these roles in our own lives, getting to know what it feels like to love, be loved, and the horrible agony of un-love. Moments before, our speaker was a mess over the smallest things a woman did. Now, he's got an admirer and his slightest action will have a disproportionate impact upon her happiness. I'm not sure he meant to do this, but Brautigan clearly shows how little control we have over our lives and how inherently our happiness is tied to others. Thinking back upon the earlier discussion about the current Hyper-Analytical Generation, maybe their attempts to analyze are more about seeking some semblance of control, some belief in the power of their actions, thoughts, and words. All of this so that we don't end up like the poor girl at the end of the poem looking “a little sad / at the clear blue California sky.” Or even worse, so that we don't end up thinking “Thank God, it’s you, baby, this time/ instead of me.”


Elizabeth said...

Great analysis!!! Helpful for my english paper!

Matthew A Kaberline said...

Glad I could be of service!

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I have to analyse this poem for English and it helped a lot. Thanks again!