Project Description

Photo by Richard Snodgrass

A memoir by Richard Snodgrass

In 1976, having outgrown his former hippie life in San Francisco, and having quit his job as an up-and-coming construction inspector, Richard Snodgrass returned to his childhood home in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, to begin a new life as a writer. That journey across the country would become a touchstone for him in many ways—a journey he would re-create both figuratively and literally, in 2014, to come to grips with his life and his art.

What motivates a person who decides to become an artist? What molds him, and what pains carve him and harden him? Is a writer made by his four-hour-a-day writing habit? Is he made by his fidelities and infidelities, his illusions and self-delusions? The examples he copies and the examples he sets? Or does it all come down to his roots—his family and the past he can never escape?

These questions were especially urgent for Richard, whose older brother, the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet W. D. Snodgrass (1926–2009), was already heralded as one of the founders of the confessional school of poetry by the time Richard graduated from college. But as the years went by, the brothers’ relationship grew from one of mentor-mentee—a fourteen-year age difference and a considerable gap in worldly experience heightened the inequality between them—to one of bitterness, estrangement, and, on W. D.’s part, terrifying fury.

Brother Mine examines, in a series of flashbacks interwoven with modern-day reflections as well as photographs, snippets of letters, and personal documents, the life-changing and even shocking events that precipitated the brothers’ split. At the same time, it examines the growth of Richard’s self-awareness as a writer—and the awareness that for him, in marked contrast to his brother, success would prove to be elusive.

Reading Brother Mine is like the coming upon a car accident just before it happens: you see two vehicles on a collision course and are powerless to stop it, yet you are so gripped by the scene that you can’t take your eyes away from it.

Read an Excerpt