US (1913 - 1999) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Poems by James Broughton
Books - Links
He was born in Modesto, California into a wealthy family.
In his autobiography, James Broughton describes a visionary encounter while he was still a toddler:
I remember waking in the dark and hearing my parents arguing in the next room. But a more persistent sound, a kind of whirring whistle, spun a light across the ceiling. I stood up in my crib and looked into the backyard. Over a neighbor's palm tree a pulsing headlamp came whistling directly toward me. When it had whirled right up to my window, out of its radiance stepped a naked boy. He was at least three years older than I but he looked all ages at once. He had no wings, but I knew he was angel-sent: his laughing beauty illuminated the night and his melodious voice enraptured my earsŠ. He insisted I would always be a poet even if I tried not to beŠ.Despite what I might hear to the contrary the world was not a miserable prison, it was a playground for a nonstop tournament between stupidity and imagination. If I followed the game sharply enough, I could be a useful spokesman for Big Joy.
The family soon moved to San Francisco. When he was five, his father died. James was sent to military school at the age of nine. He later attended Stanford University.
In adulthood, James Broughton had both male and female lovers. He had an affair with the gay activist Harry Hay. He had two children with his wife, the artist Suzanna Hart. He also had a daughter with the well-known film critic, Pauline Kael. In his 60s, James Broughton formed a lasting relationship Joel Singer, a younger man he equated with the angel of his vision as a child. They remained together for nearly 25 years until Broughton's death.
He is perhaps best known for his avant garde films, exploring themes of sex, death, and meaning, earning him a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute. His poetry often mixes the Beat Zen sensibilities with a playful, pranksterish quality, summed up by his phrase, "Follow your own weird." (In modern usage, the word "weird" means "strange or odd," but originally the word meant "fate or destiny." I suspect he is teasing us by merging all these meanings.)
James Broughton died in 1999. His gravestone reads "Adventure -- not predicament."
Poems by James Broughton
- Easter Exultet
- Having Come This Far
- Lessen the doldrums
- Not dawdling
- Quit your addiction
- Take the whole kit
- The Bliss of With
- The Gardener of Eden
- This is It
- Come forth unabashed (from Shaman Psalm)
James Broughton - Wikipedia
Short biography and glimpse at his writing.
James Broughton Biography
Three separately written biography posts about James Broughton.
Big Joy: Simplify, Clarify, Viviy
A delightful website with art, animation, quotes, and poetry by James Broughton. Worth a visit!