To mark the release of the first UK edition of Joe Brainard's cult classic I Remember, tonight we're screening Matt Wolf's short film I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard. The film combines audio recordings of Brainard reading from his book, as well as an interview with his lifelong friend and collaborator, the poet Ron Padgett.The result is an inventive biography of Joe Brainard, and an elliptical dialog about friendship, nostalgia, and the strange wonders of memory.
The screening will be introduced by poet Mark Ford, Professor of English at University College London, followed by a discussion featuring Mark Ford and novelist Adam Thirlwell.
As autobiography, Brainard’s method was brilliantly simple: to set down specific memories as they rose to the surface of his consciousness, each prefaced by the refrain ‘I remember’. Below is an extract from the opening of the book:
I remember the first time I got a letter that said ‘After Five Days Return To’ on the envelope, and I thought that after I had kept the letter for five days I was supposed to return it to the sender.
I remember the kick I used to get going through my parents’ drawers looking for rubbers. (Peacock.) I remember when polio was the worst thing in the world.
I remember pink dress shirts. And bola ties.
I remember when a kid told me that those sour clover-like leaves we used to eat (with little yellow flowers) tasted so sour because dogs peed on them.
I remember that didn’t stop me from eating them.
I remember the first drawing
I remember doing. It was of a bride with a very long train.
I remember my first cigarette. It was a Kent. Up on a hill. In Tulsa, Oklahoma. With Ron Padgett.
I remember my first erections.
I thought I had some terrible disease or something.
I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.
Iremember how much I cried seeing South Pa- cific (the movie) three times.
I remember how good a glass of water can taste after a dish of ice cream.
I remember when I got a five-year pin for not missing a single morning of Sunday School for five years. (Methodist.)
I remember when I went to a ‘come as your fa- vorite person’ party as Marilyn Monroe.
I remember one of the first things
I remember. An icebox. (As opposed to a refrigerator.)
I remember white margarine in a plastic bag. And a little package of orange powder. You put the orange powder in the bag with the margarine and you squeezed it all around until the margarine be- came yellow.
I remember how much I used to stutter.
I remember how much, in high school, I wanted to be handsome and popular.
I remember when, in high school, if you wore green and yellow on Thursday it meant that you were queer.
I remember when, in high school, I used to stuff a sock in my underwear.
I remember when I decided to be a minister. I don’t remember when I decided not to be.
I remember the first time I saw television. Luc- ille Ball was taking ballet lessons.
I remember the day John Kennedy was shot.
Excerpt from I Remember by Joe Brainard, published by Notting Hill Editions in November 2012.
I Remember: A Film About Joe Brainard by Matt Wolf screens tonight at 6.30pm in Cinema 2.