11-10-1913

James Broughton

JAMES BROUGHTON poet, poetic filmmaker, and practitioner of “Big Joy,” a pan-sexual Dionysian approach to life, born. He’s been called “the father of the West Coast experimental film movement” in the wake of World War II, was part of the San Francisco Renaissance, a literary movement that included Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others. He was an early bard of the Radical Faeries.

Despite many creative love affairs during the San Francisco Beat Scene, Broughton put off marriage until age 49, when, steeped in his explorations of Jungian psychology, he married Susanna Hart in a three-day ceremony on the Pacific coast documented by his friend, the experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. Susanna’s theatrical background and personality made for a great playmate; they had two children. They built a great community among the creative spirits of Alan Watts, Michael McClure, Anna Halprin, and Imogen Cunningham.

In 1967’s “summer of love,” Broughton made a film, The Bed, a celebration of the dance of life which broke taboos against frontal nudity and won prizes at many film festivals. It rekindled Broughton’s film-making and led to more tributes to the human body (“The Golden Positions”), the eternal child (“This is It”), the eternal return (“The Water Circle”), the eternal moment (“High Kukus”), and the eternal feminine (“Dreamwood”). “These eternalities praised the beauty of humans, the surprises of soul, and the necessity of merriment,” Broughton wrote.

God and Fuck belong together
Both are sacred and profane
God (the Divine) a
dirty word used for damning
Fuck (the sublime) a
dirty term of depredation

God and Fuck are so much alike
they might be synonymous glories
I’d even go so far as to say
God is the Fuck of all Fucks
And boy He has a Body
like you’ve never seen

from Special Deliveries by James Broughton published by Broken Moon Press

But Broughton spent the greater part of his life with his life partner, artist, Joel Singer, with whom he made many films and traveled the world.

He died in May, 1999 with champagne on his lips, in the house in Port Townsend, Washington where he, and Singer, lived for 10 years. Before he died, he said, “My creeping decrepitude has crept me all the way to the crypt.” His gravestone in a Port Townsend cemetery reads, “Adventure — not predicament.” In 2006 White Crane Books published selected writings of Broughton edited by San Francisco poet and radio host, Jack Foley titled ALL: A James Broughton Reader [ISBN 1-59021-020-4] as part of the White Crane Gay Wisdom Series. It is available at www.gaywisdom.org