Why Joe Brainard Was Utterly Unique

The filmmaker Matt Wolf writes about artist/writer Joe Brainard and writer Rod Padgett (pictured): ‘[Brainard]’s iconic text “I Remember”…is probably my favorite poem ever. I love “I Remember” [part of Brainard’s just published “Collected Writings“] because it gives me an immediate and visceral sense of Joe Brainard’s humor, self-deprecating personality, and his gentle demeanor. And hearing Joe’s voice only deepens those impressions—it kind of made me fall in love. I wanted to make something that would add context to these recordings. Something that isn’t just a nostalgia piece or a straight documentary.

When I started thinking more about Joe’s work, I read a biography written by his best friend, the poet Ron Padgett, titled Joe: A Memoir. Ron loosely mines the style of I Remember by detailing countless addresses, correspondence, and anecdotes from his lifelong friendship with Joe. At first, I found the approach to be a little cold or dry, but as I continued reading, I was incredibly moved. To be honest, I think it’s the most vivid account of a friendship that I’ve ever read.

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