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The Octopus Frontier

The Octopus Frontier
Cover of 1960 edition
AuthorRichard Brautigan
PublisherCarp Press
Publication date
Preceded byLay the Marble Tea 
Followed byAll Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace 

The Octopus Frontier is a 1960 poetry collection by American writer Richard Brautigan. It is Brautigan's fourth poetry publication and his second collection of poetry, and it includes 22 poems.


The Octopus Frontier includes 22 poems:

  • "The Sawmill"
  • "1942"
  • "The Wheel"
  • "The Pumpkin Tide"
  • "The Sidney Greenstreet Blues"
  • "The Quail"
  • "The Symbol"
  • "A Postcard from Chinatown"
  • "Sit Comma and Creely Comma"
  • "The Rape of Ophelia"
  • "The Last Music Is Not Heard"
  • "The Octopus Frontier"
  • "The Potato House of Julius Caesar"
  • "The Fever Monument"
  • "The Winos on Potrero Hill"
  • "Mike"
  • "Horse Race"
  • "The Old Folk's Home"
  • "The Postman"
  • "Surprise"
  • "The Nature Poem"
  • "Private Eye Lettuce"

All but 5 of the poems were republished in the 1968 collection, The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster.[1]


In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Caroline Bokinsky said the collection "continues Brautigan's creation of order and meaning from objects in the literal world by using them to construct a fantasy world within his own imagination."[2] Citing several examples, she describes the ways in which Brautigan makes connections and associations to lead readers through his imagination, acting "as a painter, in a meticulous step-by-step process, putting each object in a specific place to create a painting."[2]

Fellow poet Richard McClure said the poems "are filled with large simple images of vegetables and pumpkins floating on the tide, a poem about Ophelia, and poems about childhood." According to McClure, it was at this point in Brautigan's writing that there emerged "a recognizable Brautigan style [...] but there is no indication that this work is greatly above the level of much North Beach poetry."[3]


The Octopus Frontier is the first Brautigan work to feature a photograph on the cover.[3] The image, by San Francisco-based photographer Gui de Angelo, shows a person's feet standing on a six-foot octopus tentacle Brautigan bought for the purpose from a Chinatown fishmonger and carried to the roof of a building in North Beach. It has been described as being "striking and just misses being sinister".[3][4]


  1. ^ Barber, John F. "The Octopus Frontier". Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Bokinsky, Carolina J. (1980). Greiner, Donald J. (ed.). Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 5: American Poets Since World War II. Gale Research Company. pp. 96–99 – via
  3. ^ a b c Barber, John F., ed. (2006). Richard Brautigan: Essays on the Writings and Life. McFarland. ISBN 9780786425259.
  4. ^ Hjortsberg, William (2013). Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan. Counterpoint. p. 165. ISBN 9781619021051.
  • Barber, John F. "The Octopus Frontier". includes listing of contents, text of poems, and commentary
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The Octopus Frontier
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