When to look to James Broughton poetry for inspiration? Well, all the time of course, wink.
Because James Broughton’s work crosses many different categories, it’s hard to describe in a few words. So we wanted to define it for you a bit, so you know when James is going to have just the right thing to suit your poetic desires. We’ve broken down James Broughton’s poetry into eight different categories. If you feel we’ve missed a genre, or want to tell us when you turn to Broughton for poetic comfort and upliftment, please do so in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.
1. Silly poems. James called these “Glees.” (He has a whole section of them in his anthology, “Packing Up for Paradise.“) Some have called them “Dr Seuss for adults.” Here’s an example. We happen to have made it into a (FREE and downloadable) postcard.
2. Love poems
“I think [James’ love poems to Joel Singer] are the greatest love poems of the era. And for those alone he should be famous,” said poet Edward Field. We’re fond of quoting this. It’s even in our movie. Here is an example of a love poem of James’, “Always, Ever and Only.” We consider his book, Ecstasies, his greatest book of love poems.
We say homo because we know that he was a man writing often about other men, and because of the frequent reference to the male body parts. His book, Graffiti for the Johns of Heaven has lots of these.
These are the poems where James is talking about the larger picture, referencing the ethereal fabric behind all things, or how the things of this world fit together and what he feels this means. He looked to poets like William Blake and Rumi as mentors. Like in his poem, It Was the Worm:
These are a bit different from the “spiritual” ones because there is an element of playful tongue-in-cheek to them. His film, The Water Circle, is a good example of this kind of poetry. We’ve also made another of our favorites into a postcard. If you’ve contributed to our project, you may have seen it in your mailbox at one point or another. Even if you haven’t you can print your own by downloading it (and three more) for FREE here!
6. Nursery Rhyme-ish
James had a love of nursery rhymes his whole life long. They were his first exposure to poetry. His book, Packing up for Paradise, has a whole section which he calls, “Songs for Anxious Children.” Here is one of them.
Promise, snickelfritz, never put away your bold.
Juggle all the risks at hand, as handsome does.
Manage your own magic with pep and aplomb.
Ignore the old bodies always busy with their buzz.
You’re never as bad as they say, O they!
Dump out the lead of cold feet in your boots.
With a warm ha ha keep stirring your stumps.
Audacity’s the buddy for your long-term trip.
Don’t waste a single sorry on the tch tch frumps.
You’re never as bad as they say, O they!
You’re never as bad as they say.
A great example of this kind of work can be found within his poem entitled Shaman Psalm, from his book Special Deliveries. This poem is 12 verses of Broughtonesque “sermons.” Here is one of those verses, set to image.
8. Occasional Poems
James wrote many poems for specific occasions, friend’s birthdays, the christening of his children, his experience of first seeing Stan Brakhage’s film Dog Star Man, or for Jack Spicer when he formed his “Magic Poetry Circle,” for example. He wrote for whatever occasion caught his poetic fancy or called for a salute or holler, or even, in at least one
occasion, “a challenge.” His books of occasional poetry, Odes for Odd Occasions, and the later version, Hooplas, break them down into these categories: Births, Troths & Departures, and Friendly Relations & Foolish Business. Because of who he was and who he knew, they are historical in a way. They paint a picture of the world in which James lived and the way he saw others, and sometimes, like in this “Letter to a young poet contemplating suicide,” they give advice.
THE WORD FOR NO IS YES
Letter to a young poet contemplating suicide
I know a boy whose heart trembles, troubles and tricks him,
who leans over uncertain waters questioning his reflection,
whose long aching fill the night with ungraspable stars,
who tethers his faun at a sheltered bed of thistle and thorn,
unleashes that faun fitfully, fearful of what is not dream.
I know a boy whose heart startles, stirs and strangles him.
But there is a place where, believe me, heart and mind meet,
there is a place where the bloodstream and spirit embrace,
there is a place at the source of the lonely fountain
where the marriage of fire and water liberates the event.
In the realm of the fiercest oppositions, believe me,
the word for No is Yes, and the star and the faun are One.