Expansive Poetics – (Jaime de Angulo)

Jaime d’Angulo (1887-1950)

AG:  Onward!..  Skipping over (Ezra) Pound  (except one little thing. because we don’t have much (time)… I want to skip over Pound – we’ll come back to Pound)…

AG: Jaime d’Angulo (1887-1950), was a friend of Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound and a great crank, a hero… Gary Snyder’s hero. Jaime d’Angulo is Gary Snyder’s hero. If you want to know Snyder’s origins, you go to Jaime d’Angelo. D’Angulo was born in Spain and educated in Switzerland, and went to the Wild West and worked as a cowboy, and was a great philologist and linguist, and began writing down for the first time (native languages)..

(He was) a friend of (William Carlos) Williams (and), at Berkeley, many years later.. Radin..Paul Radin  – and Ishi.. who knows Ishi? – the book of the American..  who wrote that?…(or transcribed it) ..it was the great anthopologist at Berkeley – Kroeber – Alfred Kroeber’s widow.. [Theodora Kroeber] (who) wrote this great narrative of the last surviving Indian in California, the last surviving member of  one single tribe of Northern Californian Indians. [Editorial note – the allegedly last surviving member of the Yahi, a sub-group of the Yana Indians] – Ishi In Two Worlds

So De Angelo was working there then and he helped found the great anthropology department at Berkeley, which was one of the great ones – Kroeber, Radin, and others.
And then he left academic life, as I said before, and he bought a big parcel of land on top of Partington Ridge in Big Sur and built himself a stone Indian hut, where he lived and rode around bare-backed naked up and down Big Sur, and was friends with the poet Robinson Jeffers, and, later, I think, maybe even Henry Miller? (no, that was before Miller’s time) – Edward Weston, the photographer lived there, and many… the whole intelligensia of San Francisco/Big Sur.

And he did several books of Indian linguistics, transcribing the very complex languages of varying middle California/southern California Indian tribes, making dictonaries and syntax and grammar books (The Smithsonian Institute has published some), left many papers behind, including some brilliant Indian Tales – his renditions ofIndian coyote myths.
He was the first one that put the coyote myths into a popular form, and (he) wrote a number of poems which Carl Solomon and I came..  (which) came into the hands of Carl Solomon and he consulted me..in 1951, when there was nothing of D’Angulo’s available , and so Carl published his book Indian Tales with the poems which are here, (which have since been reprinted as Coyote’s Bones, if you look up in the reference at the end – [and – Editorial note – since been published, in an expanded edition by La Alameda Press as Home Among The Swinging Stars – The Collected Poems of Jaime de Angelo – edited by Stefan Hyner]

There’s one poem that’s like the.. that’s like the Marsden Hartley “Department Store Window” for a magical transformation (except it’s maybe a greater poem because it’s more economical – it’s partly Japanese, part Indian style. And then, in his old age, as part of his research into Indian lore and mythology.. he was married to a very brilliant woman and had a child, Gui d’Angulo, who was around in the (19)50’s Beatnik days and was responsible for many great photographs of that time, of Robert Duncan and(Gregory) Corso, and some dead poets, Bob Kaufman..Peter (Orlovsky) saw her. And then, I think in the (19)40’s, he was investigating the berdache (Two-Spirit) tradition, which is the American Indian transvestite shot (when the feminine man, who’s usually a shaman, runs around in women’s clothes). So he started haunting San Francisco and going to all of the gay bars in women’s clothes – this seventy-year-old guy! – very robust, horse-man, worked as a cowboy, but he was actually right into finding exactly what that was , as his ultimate research

“I a seal lie on the rocks warm in the sun /I remember the Esalen the Mukne/The Sacklan, all the tribes that lived/ From the Sur to the San Francisco Bay/ I dive in the water/and my head looks like a man/Swimming to shore in the dusk./ I like at night to wander along the bright streets/In the crowd”
– That’s the most brilliant, magic, poem I know for so short a space. It just begins, gets into it fast, and ends, just like that. There’s nothing missing. So it’s like a big giant haiku. with the traditional theme of the animal transforming into a man, or man as an animal. When I saw that the first time, the hairs rose on the back of my head. It seemed such a brilliant way of doing that, you know, making an ellipse in the poem, making a gap in the poem that the mind has to connect. The other poems here you can look at later. They’re just very simple, straightforward, beautiful medicine songs, magic songs, sort of. So American Indian influence was what did a great thing for him


[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eighty-two-and-a- quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately eighty-eight minutes in]

Marianne Moore on Indian Tales – “I am charmed by the book – text and pictures. It is no effort, of course, to be pleased by the sure touch – stories and animal drawings that are poetry, innate, humor-born, and wise”

Ezra Pound famously referred to him (Jaime de Angulo) as “the American Ovid”  (here is Pound’s translation (from the French) of another of de Angulo’s “transformational poems” – “Werewolf in selvage I saw/ In day’s dawn changing his shape/ Amid leaves he lay/and in his face, sleeping, such pain/ I fled agape”

The original recordings of Indian Tales (made in 1949 for KPFA, re-edited and produced by Gui de Angelo) are available here

One comment

  1. I lived from the land at D’Angulo Ranch from 1972-1979. My child, a daughter, Emerald Rose was born on the top of the mountain at D’Angulo Ranch in 1975.
    We lived from the land gardening in the most glorious part of Big Sur…

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