ALLEN BRAMHALL Reviews
HOME AMONG THE SWINGING STARS: COLLECTED POEMS OF JAIME DE ANGULO, Editor Stefan Hyner, with an essay by Andrew Schelling
(La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2006)
If you have never read Jaime de Angulo’s work, start now. This volume will give you plenty to admire. This iconoclastic poet brings a revivifying breeze.
If you have read anything about de Angulo, you recognize him as sui generis, weird ass, boho wild man. That sounds like the television version, but, gosh, it’s for real. Born in France of well-to-do Spanish parents, he came to the States to be, yep, a cowboy. In time, he became a startling good and respected linguist in Indian and Mexican languages (self-taught) and shamanistic poet. Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams were early admirers. Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan were students of his.
I used the word shamanistic, and that is cause for trouble. I better clarify.
Jaime de Angulo had an unusual sensitivity to what a shaman does and is. I do not say he was a shaman and I do not think de Angulo would have said so either. De Angulo was indeed a scholar, yet a poet too. Mircea Eliade writes knowledgeably of shamanism but I don’t see him capable of writing the illuminating poetry that de Angulo writes. De Angulo brings a much more local—I might also say loco—understanding. Crazy like a fox. The cover illustration, a simple sketch by de Angulo, shows Trickster his own self, walking with a walking stick. The simplicity of Trickster is no simplicity at all.
Young Shaman’s Song IV
I am talking to the lake.
I am talking to all in the lake.
I am not a human being.
In a letter, Keats speaks of poets as listeners, absorbing the world around them. De Angulo did just that. He learned not just the words of the old languages but the essences thereof. He learned the power of the words. When he speaks of fox or redwood, he means their essential energies, not mere repositories of adjectives.
A dragon fly came to me
With news from my home.
I lie in the afternoon,
Looking toward the hills.
That’s what shakes me. He’s not just describing, which too many poets do. Poetry is not a grand concourse where we detail the fallen and the swung. Poetry is a violent energy and release giving footing for our actual life. I see exactly that in de Angulo’s poetry.
Sky of late afternoon in the fall.
Mountain darkling blue.
Calm ocean forever to the west.
A hawk soaring.
Far away and long ago.
I remember in a class with Robert Grenier when the song “Home of the Range” came up. Who hasn’t sung it in school? It’s a chestnut. Grenier poked us to look at the lyrics:
Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
One doesn’t immediately notice the iffiness of the last two lines. The song asserts more of mystery than of an encomium of western delights. De Angulo’s poetry plays the same way. While he often writes in first person, it often seems like First Person, the essential human boundary. And as he looks at fox, junco, redwood, horse, there exists a becoming. Spicer’s real lemons.
Stefan Hyner edited Home Among the Swinging Stars. He worked with unpublished manuscripts given to him by de Angulo’s daughter Gui Mayo. Hyner supplies a brief bio and Andrew Schelling adds an extensive appreciation. This is a lovely, vital book.
Allen Bramhall maintains two blogs: his dither blog (tribute-airy-blogspot.com) and his poetry blog (simpletheories.blogspot.com). Both are ratified by angels. Likewise his two volume poem, Days Poem(http://meritagepress.blogspot.com/2012/09/days-poem-by-allen-bramhall.html). Further details available upon request.