03 July 2006

Tuesday's Artists I Love

A Eulogy for Rintrah

"Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burden'd air; Hungry clouds swag on the deep."

- William Blake,
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Magnus Johnson was one of the first non-theatre majors I met at college. He worked in the bookstore and helped me find what I was looking for. I introduced myself as Andrew and he said "Ah, Andy. You're mentioned in the Bible." I politely smiled, thinking he meant the Apostle Andrew. "'Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me'" he punfully quoted, a huge smile spilling across his lined face. Chuckling, he walked back to the counter.

Magnus told me that same joke no fewer than three times.

Magnus was, I believe, an English major. I seem to recall he had plans to pursue graduate studies in Divinity or Philosophy. At any rate, he was a staple of the English department, and highly regarded by the young Beat influenced poets. Here, after all, was a Vietnam Veteran, a man who had truly done much and seen more. He possessed the wealth of worldly experience that we all desired in the Humanities Department.

He was a nice guy to boot; dependable, trustworthy, and always good for an interesting conversation. I worked with him over the summer doing maintenance at the college. We talked about poetry, theatre, politics . . . you name it. I recall his explanation of the power of words -- the mystical power of words. He held that a word like "THOR" had more inherent power than a word like "carrot". If said with enough conviction, one could bring down the thunder.

We talked about plays and dramatic literature, and he expressed an active interest in writing a play for us crazy misfits in the theatre department to produce guerilla style. It never happened (I wish it had) but Magnus went on to write a couple of dramatic literature-style prose poems that were published in the school's literature magazine the following year.

Here's one of them:

The Northern Powers
for Sigurd and Freya
Heart Dragon
[a spirit of war appearing, wearing Northern battle attire in the
Master's chamber of a forgotten Northern Lord.]
To have been born a pupa;
yet to have gone on-
to become a butterfly!
ah, to have lived to fight
like the ancient Dragons
once did in the skies at night,
Yes, if only as a butterfly-
is to have become a dragon of the heart.
Here spirit force waxes strong
still in the collective will
here character encourages word, deed, and
Match after match have I been in
it is the humble who truly win;
time after time,
again and again.
--Magnus Johnson
Magnus died July 9th, 2004 at the age of 50. I like to think that he is in Valhalla right now, shouting down Thor, and preparing to stage a gallant last stand at Ragnarok.

(I'm interested in starting some kind of Yahoo Group to bring together copies of his extant work, and post rememberances of him, etc. If you're a fan and friend of Magnus, drop me a line!)


Marina said...

I knew Magnus many years ago. I was reading some of his poetry tonight and wanted to see what ever became of him. I found your site and discovered that dear soul has moved on from this world. I'd be very interested in exchanging poems with you as I've always been a fan of his.

Andrew Moore said...

It was a bit of a shock, when I found out. I guess I assumed he'd be immortal.

All that I have is what was printed in the "There Ought to be Cows" 1997 edition of Falstaff Magazine. I'm not sure what happened to my other Falstaffs. Probably lost them in the great basement flood of 1999.

In addition to "The Northern Powers -- 'Heart Dragon,'" there is also "Properties of Matter" and "European Man -- The Traveler." E-mail me at andrewmoore_@hotmail.com and I'll send you copies.

Rebecca said...

Andrew, I have Falstaff magazines from 94-98 and there are a lot of poem by Magnus. I'll email them to ya if yo want.

Andrew Moore said...

That would be great!