Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights: An A-to-Z Guide

By Emmanuel S. Nelson | Go to book overview

JAMES BROUGHTON (1913–1999)

Jeffery Beam


BIOGRAPHY

A third-generation Californian, James Richard Broughton was born in Modesto, California, on November 10, 1913. His mother wanted him to become a surgeon, marry well, and makes lots of money. In his memoir Coming Unbuttoned he declared, “She and I got along better in her womb than we ever did after I came out of it” (1). Broughton had, however, other support. “One night when I was three years old I was awakened by a glittering stranger who told me I was a poet and always would be and never to fear being alone or being laughed at. That was my first meeting with my angel, who is the most interesting poet I have ever met” (2–3). Broughton’s father, a banker, died only two years later. His father had been a godlike figure to him, one who allowed him to be himself—flamboyant, precocious, and imaginative. His future stepfather and mother sent Broughton to a military academy at the age of ten in hopes of making a man of him. Instead he fell in love with language, and by the age of twelve he had imitated every poem in the Oxford Book of English Verse. Military school also offered Broughton’s first gay love. The relationship led to Broughton’s removal from the school after his mother found a letter written to his schoolmate.

At Stanford, Yvor Winters, the first of many who could not recognize Broughton’s Blakean talents, expelled Broughton from his class. After a frightening experience with a suitor, Broughton ran away from college (he later completed his B.A.) and joined the merchant marines. There he became lovers with Hart Crane’s last lover, Emil Opffer. Opffer introduced Broughton to New York’s glittering literary crowd. After studying at the New School, he returned to California in 1945, where he became a member of the San Francisco Renaissance Poets and began making films. He was an original member of the Art in Cinema group that

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