James Broughton born in Modesto, California on November 10, 1913. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Broughton looses his father at an early age due to the influenza epidemic and was raised by his high strung, overbearing mother.
By the age of six years old they move to San Francisco where he spent most of his childhood years growing up pursuing his love for theater and writing. He attends military school during this time till the age of 16.
Broughton while pursuing a writing career drops out of Standford University and decides to spend most of his time in Europe where he received an award in Cannes from Jean Cocteau for “poetic fantasy”.
He eventually moves to New York City and works as a theater critic.
In Coming Unbuttoned Broughton talks about his relationships with both men and women. One of his male relationship/lovers was gay activist Harry Hay.
For a short period of time he lived with the film critic Pauline Kael and they had a daughter named Gina (born in 1949)
Taken from Coming Unbuttoned – 1993 – James mentions:
“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 ears…. He insisted I would always be a poet even if I tried not to be….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.”
James Broughton Quotes:
“A born poet knows in his cradle that a poetic life is the only life worth living.”
“Acclaim is a distraction.”
“Adversity is a stimulus.”
“Amazement awaits us at every corner.”
“And to Shakespeare I owe my vision of the world as a theater, wherein all humans are acting out their parts.”
“Being identified as a poet in France or Denmark or India one is greeted with gracious respect.”
“Consciousness is the glory of creation.”
“Dance, vaudeville, drama, movies – as a child I loved everything that went on in a theater.”
“Everything is Song. Everything is Silence. Since it all turns out to be illusion, perfectly being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, you are free to die laughing.”
“Everything that ever happened is still happening. Past, present and future keep happening in the eternity which is Here and Now.”
“For me a poem has to sing out of itself and the lilt of it carries the magic.”
“For me, prose walks, poetry dances.”
“I consider my films to be poems that are all as personal as my writing and as hand-made.”
“I had a toy theater and a magic lantern, and when I was eight I built a stage for theatricals in the attic.”
“I like things which appear fragile but are tough inside.”
“I never wanted to dilute my private passion for the art by airing and arguing it in public.”
“I often start writing in order to excite an expansive emotion.”
“I tried to stir the imagination and enthusiasms of students to take risks, to do what they were most afraid of doing, to widen their horizons of action.”
“I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.”
“If bitterness wants to get into the act, I offer it a cookie or a gumdrop.”
“If you don’t fill your days with love, you are wasting your life.”
“In the world of poetry there are would-be poets, workshop poets, promising poets, lovesick poets, university poets, and a few real poets.”
“Most poets in their youth begin in adolescent sadness. I find it more rewarding to end in gladness.”
“Most poets, like most people, try hard to be like someone they admire or they are possessed with an image of what they ought to be.”
“My earliest poems sing of the absolute necessity of allowing love to invade and pervade one’s life. That can make the miracle happen in reality. Try it.”
“My films are an extension of my poetry, using the white screen like the white page to be filled with images.”
“My major aim in writing is to set out flags and issue wake-up calls.”
“Poetry for me is as much a spiritual practice as sexual ecstasy is.”
“Rarest of the real poets are born poets. They are the oddballs, not the professors.”
“Some artists shrink from self-awareness, fearing that it will destroy their unique gifts and even their desire to create. The truth of the matter is quite opposite.”
“The American public does not know poets exist.”
“The most astonishing joy is to receive from the muses the gift of a whole lyric.”
“The only limits are, as always, those of vision.”
“The quietest poetry can be an explosion of joy.”
“Today the U.S. is farther from being nourished by poetry than it was a hundred years ago, when books of poems were best-sellers.”
“True delicacy is not a fragile thing.”
“Trusting your individual uniqueness challenges you to lay yourself open.”
“Work in the theater sharpened my verse and my cinema.”
James Broughton passed away at the age of 85 years old on May 17, 1999 in Port Townsend Washington.
Below are two videos by Poet and filmmaker James Broughton & his partner Joel Singer.
Scattered Remains, Part 1, Courtesy of JamesBroughtonCinema. Thank you
Scattered remains, Part 2, Courtesy of JamesBroughtonCinema. Thank you