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Please Plant This Book

Richard Brautigan hovered around the Diggers like a butterfly that a reader might expect to see flutter out of one of his novels that would soon propel his name into the pantheon of famous-before-their-time writers and artists who streak across the horizon of our times. Richard was attracted to the Communication Company as a true example of what Marshall McLuhan described as "medium is the message". The instant news service, sometimes publishing "new sheets" every hour, provided a perfect outlet for Richard's prolific poetry. "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace", "Karma Repair Kit", "Flowers For Those You Love", "The Beautiful Poem", "Love Poem" these are what Richard left for lovers and dreamers of the Com/Co message.

Even though Richard was intimately involved in the Digger experience, he was both a Digger and not at the same time. For example, Richard signed all his Free work, which contradicted the idea of anonymity that the Diggers had popularized through their articles and Digger sheets that were never signed, except with infamous names like "George Metesky" and  "Zapata". When Sam and I visited him in 1972 to ask for his help in collecting an archive of Communication Company sheets, it seemed that he was disdainful of two dirty communards blocking his view of the street from his favorite table at Enrico's coffee house in North Beach. By then, his fame was secure. He didn't need the Diggers anymore.

But that was five years after Richard had been for a short while a part of the Digger family. There are photos of Richard delivering Free Food in the home delivery runs. There is a scene of Richard in the Digger film "Nowsreal" planting seeds from his Free book, Please Plant This Book, reading the poem called "California Native Flowers". A poignant scene, to realize that the seeds he is planting in the late spring of 1968 are the seeds of his involvement with the Diggers. These adventures flowered well, but Richard is about to move into a different phase of his all too-short life.

 



Booklet cover page. The inside of the cover was a folder with two flaps which contained eight seed packets. Each packet presented a separate poem. (See below for reproductions of the poem packets.)

California Native Flowers:

In this spring of 1968 with the last

third of the Twentieth Century

travelling like a dream toward its

end, it is the time to plant books,

to pass them into the ground, so that

flowers and vegetables may grow

from these pages.

 

Calendula:

My friends worry and they tell me

about it. They talk of the work

ending, of darkness and disaster.

I always listen gently, and then

say: No, it's not going to end. This

is only the beginning, as this book

is only a beginning.

Sweet Alyssum Royal Carpet:

I've decided to live in a world where

books are changed into thousands

of gardens with children playing

in the gardens and learning the gen-

tle ways of green growing things.

Shasta Daisy:

I pray that in thirty-two years

passing that flowers and vegetables

will water the Twenty-First Cen-

tury with their voices telling that 

they were once a book turned by

loving hands into life.

Parsley:

I thank the energy, the gods and the

theater of history that brought

us here to this very moment with

this book in our hands, calling

like the future down a green and

starry hall.

 

Lettuce:

The only hope we have is our

children and the seeds we give them

and the gardens we plant together.

Squash:

The time is right to mix sentences

sentences with dirt and the sun

with punctuation and the rain with

verbs, and for worms to pass

through question marks, and the

stars to shine down on budding

nouns, and the dew to form on

paragraphs.

Carrots:

I think the spring of 1968 is a good

time to look into our blood and

see where our hearts are flowing

as these flowers and vegetables

will look into their hearts every day

and see the sun reflecting like a

great mirror their desire to live

and be beautiful.

Back Side of Packet

California Native Flowers:

Plant seed directly in the open where plants are to remain in well prepared soil after all danger of frost is past. In frost-free districts seed may be planted in the fall. Mix seed with several times its bulk of fine soil and sow broadcast, preferably in an open sunny location. Cover any exposed seed very lightly, not over 1/8 inch and press soil down firmly. When plants are well established, thin out to stand 6 inches apart as crowding produces inferior plants. Keep ground moist with fine spray until plants are well up. If allowed to remain, the plants will reseed year after year.

Packed for the 1968 - 1969 Season 

 


The back side of each packet contained planting instructions. Here is one example of the eight packets.

Bibliographic Note:

Brautigan bibliographies (Lepper, Webber) do not mention a second issue of Please Plant This Book. However, I have in the collection such a second issue. If requested, I will supply all bibliographic data to identify such a copy, along with scans of the cover and inside imprint information.

 
 
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