Our Beautiful West Coast Thing

Review by Andrew Berardini

photo 2

I sit here dreaming

long thoughts of California


California. A golden word, my longtime home, a dream of ancestors and a fantasy of Spaniards yearning for fictional Amazonian ladies with weapons of gold. California’s a poem because thirsty mouths taste cool gushing water when they say it and dusty farmers see hills lined with orchards and the ignored feel famous and the winter-chilled speckle with warmth from the heat of a distant sun every time it’s uttered. 


at the end of a November day

below a cloudy twilight

near the Pacific


California is a poem because of all its space. Not space like Wyoming or Siberia, Nevada or the Sahara, those places of vast, hard solitude. California space is like an extra seat at a dinner table, a clean, glass mug placed beneath the spigot of a cask of beer, a cheap apartment with hardwood floors and a view in a big city just for you.


New York can be that way too, or at least was. Listen to Harry Nilsson’s, “I Guess the Lord Must Live in New York City.” Hear the hope in his voice, it’s the way that people said “New York” in old movies. I feel like when people move to NYC now, it’s to feel like those characters who said “New York” with hope and potential in those flickering black-and-whites, even as they probably know that while its energy may persist, between the airless tenements, there’s no room for a coffin.

photo 3

listening to the Mamas and the Papas



This is a review of Lauren Graycar’s book called Our West Coast Thing. She takes a poem of the same name by Richard Brautigan, the poet laureate of California dreamers and suicides, and gives each line a whole page of space.


singing a song about breaking

somebody’s heart and digging it!


Each line takes on so much weight, you feel the words stretch out, take big deep breaths, and fill with their frank simplicity the air of the open page. Printed small, the typography looks like an old rubber stamp, simple and whispery of all the stampings that came before to wear its edges. Humble almost, a whisper can sound like a holler if spoken in silence.


The book becomes about time and space. The slow pace of turning the pages, each line filling the page, all the open freedom and dreamy potential of California.


I think I’ll get up

and dance around the room.

Here I go!

photo 4


Lauren Graycar, Our Beautiful West Coast Thing, (Self-published, 2013) 

Images: Cover and interior of Our Beautiful West Coast Thing