Sunday, April 7, 2013

National Poetry Month: James Broughton

James Broughton

from a letter to Jonathan Williams
(James Broughton)

"I am a third generation Californian.
My great grandfather was a scout with Fremont,
my grandmother was born in the Mother Lode,
my aunt served in the State Legislature.
When the sun was in Scorpio, the moon in Aries,
and the cusp of Virgo and Libra rising in 1913,
I was born in the San Joaquin town of Modesto,
On the Tuolomne River of Stanislaus County
in the state of California.

My grandfathers were bankers, and so was my father.
But my mother wanted me to become a surgeon.
However, one night when I was 3 years old
I was awakened by a glittering stranger
who told me I was a poet and always would be
and never to fear being alone or being laughed at.
That was my first meeting with my Angel
who is the most interesting poet I have ever met.

My childhood passions were dancing and swimming,
circuses, amusement parks, movies, vaudeville,
the Book of Knowledge and the Land of Oz.
Pet playthings: my toy theater, my magic lantern.
When I was 10 I was sent away to military school.
There my Angel came to my rescue:
I fell madly in love with the English language.
(And also the captain of the baseball team.)
My favorite book is still Webster's Unabridged, 2nd ed.

At 12 I imitated all of the Oxford Book of English Verse
and most of the Louis Untermeyer anthologies.
But ultimately I have learned more about poetry
from music and magic than from literature.
The clearest poetic memory of my years at Stanford:
the day Yvor Winters ordered me out of his class.
Poetry is a living adventure, not a literary problem.
(Other favorite books: Roget's Thesaurus, Tao Te Ching,
Mother Goose, Candide, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.)"

James Broughton contributed this biographical sketch in reply to a request by Jonathan Williams and it appears at Williams' Jargon Society website. Broughton was a literary and cultural gadfly as author, filmmaker, artist, and performer as Sister Sermonetta, one of the original Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in San Francisco. All: A James Broughton Reader, edited by Jack Foley, was released in 2007 by White Crane Books. About Broughton's work, Williams commented:  "Like I might say, some will want to develop a migraine and go read the Gideon Bible or Robert Lowell. Why don't the rest of us just strip off and jump in the hot tub?"

No comments: