When we were children we would call Juanita Miller on the phone and pretend we were older so we could have The White Witch give us advice on our love life, that we invented. Joaquin Miller’s daughter titled herself the ‘White Witch’ and had involved her groom in a pagan ritual when they got married. She pretended she was dead, and, he brought her back to life. Sounds like Sleeping Beauty.
Several days ago I found photos of Juanita dancing. Isadora Duncan grew up in Oakland. Above is two photos of my Grandmother, Melba Broderick, with her friend, Violet, on Miller’s property. I now believe they were disciples of the White Witch, and may have danced through the forest with her. Joaquin carried my infant father on the Fruit Vale trolley. My kin owned a orchard just below the Hights, the theme park Joaquin and his daughter built. There is a monument to my kindred, John Fremont, that looks like a rook. Here poets and artists met, and lived. Artists Embassy International met here, as well as in Alameda at 532 Haight Avenue in a beautiful Victorian.
Above is a letter to Juanita from the artist, Frederick Church, whose work resembles Christine Rosamond, and, Fanny Corey, who encouraged Royal Rosamond to write. We are looking at the foundation of the Bohemian-Hippie scene in the San Francisco Bay Area that is tied to the Pre-Raphaelites. Did Church consider himself a Pre-Raphaelite, and was hoping the Millers would give him a introduction to the Rossettis?
I received in the mail a book I ordered on E-Bay. I quickly scanned it to see if their were any illustrations or photographs. Then, I found it, what amounts to my personal Holy Grail. Joaquin Miller dedicated his book of poems ‘Songs of The Sun-Land’ to the Rossetti family that includes Gariel, Michael, and, Christine. Gabriel was a artist and poet, Michael, a publisher, and Christine, a poet.
“TO THE ROSSETTIS”
There is controversy over this dedication. Michael is against it. He is critical of Miller’s poems that takes the reader to the Holy Land. Joaquin is describing a personal relationship with the Savior that reminds me of how Bohemians and Hippies would view Jesus, he a Nature Boy of sorts.
Gabriel, who had Joaquin over to his house for dinner, where he met several members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood seems to address his brother’s objections in a letter, and gives a tentative go ahead. He talks about Miller sending him a photograph of himself and bids him to say a word or two at the bottom of it, that does not exist. This photo may be the famous one taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who is better known as Lewis Carrol the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. If Joaquin had glued this portrait to a piece of paper, then we might have seen it on the dedication page.
What is going on here is extremely profound. Miller has exported his vision and lifestyle to the England, where he wrote Song of the Sierras, and now he is importing to America a cultural brand that contains Grail and Arthurian subject matter that was at the epicenter of the work of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The Rossettis may not have been too happy with Miller attaching himself to their star because the British are very protective of their culture. I wish I could say the same thing about the University of Oregon that is about to tear down homes that were once in the city limits of Fairmount, the city founded by Joaquin’s brother, George Miller.
The homes the Miller brothers lived in are registered and protected as Monuments. There is a Joaquin Miller State Park near Florence that was founded by George who also promoted the Winnemucca to the Sea Highway. There needs to be a Monument for George. I suggest the homes on Columbia Terrace be spared, and this city block declared a National Monument. I have suggested these homes be used to house homeless Vets going to college, but now I see a Free College on this site due to the student loan crisis.
This college will teach alternatives to prospective students of the UofO, such as having parents of students purchase a home in Eugene. In many cases a mortgage is cheaper than rent. Teaching your children how to get a job rather then attend college, will produce more home ownership that the UofO who promises jobs – that don’t exist!
The Miller Brothers were born on a farm near Coburg. They went into the world and achieved much. They are a cultural icon too Oregon and California. On page ten of the prelude, we read;
“By unnamed rivers of the Oregon north’
That roll dark-heaved into turbulent hills,
I have made my home….The Wild heart thrills
With memories fierce, and world storms forth.”
Joaquin Miller, an internationally famous late nineteenth century poet – “Song of the Sierras” – lived up in the Oakland hills in a house with a separate writing studio located off what is now Miller Drive. Then considered California’s first poet laureate, he is a terrible poet, but his repetitiously sublime evocations of wilderness led to success in the East and Europe. Actually his novel, Years Among the Modocs, is a wonderful depiction of the 1860’s Indian wars around Mt. Shasta. In a way, Miller’s early western life style created the tradition-preamble for the later mountain living legends and poems of Kenneth Rexroth and Gary Snyder.
During my six months in Oakland, I was involved with a woman whose father owned a jazz and rock & roll record shop downtown on 13th & Franklin. In the fifties and early sixties, I learned from her that Juanita Miller, his infamous daughter, poet, silent movie actress, and contemporary of Isadora Duncan, still lived in the main house. As a movie actress, one of her famous hours occurred in Virginia City where, as the story has it, in the early Twenties she was starring in, I believe, a Western. It was noon. Juanita was early on into astrology. At lunch she climbed up and spread herself out – limb to limb- in the crown of a tree. When the Director called her to get back to work, she called down that she would not be back on set until she had finished having “intercourse with the sun.”
Later, in her eighties, and living in her father’s house, Juanita would host visiting groups of boy and girl Scouts, as well as school groups. She would first talk in the main house about the life and romantic exploits of her once famous father. A charming host, she would then take the Scouts into her father’s cabin where he lay in bed, propped up on his elbow, writing a poem in one of his journals. Joaquin, of course, was faux, a dressed up plaster-of-Paris mannequin. There in the Oakland hills, Juanita had created her own theme park for California’s first poet laureate. Jaunita’s and Joaquin’s names. by the way. both bear an Anglo respect for the Californios, ironically the first California colonialists. Peralta was the family name of the Mexican family with the land grant that extended from San Jose up the East Bay into Berkeley. The University of California was to have been named “Peralta” until some of the University’s Anglo Christians elevated Bishop Berkeley’s imperial pronouncement “westward the way of Empire” into a “he’s our boy” nominal coup. It was not until the Seventies that Oakland named “Peralta” to one of its new community colleges.
“Statue of Joaquin Miller on Horseback,” a sculpture by Berkeley artist, Kisa Beel, commissioned in 1942 by his daughter, Juanita Miller is seen seated on his horse as “Poet of the Sierras” on the spot where his mother’s cottage once stood..
You have just entered the Writers Memorial Grove. Miller surely sat and wrote here with a glorious view of the bay below. He found it a place of inspiration and lured a rotating colony of writers to share it with him. Oakland born Jack London and his writer friends were encouraged to hold outdoor salons beneath the original redwoods and oaks and were inspired to form the California Writers Club, or CWC, whose 1,000-plus members celebrated its centennial in 2009. For 55 years, the CWC planted trees in this very grove in honor of California writers. If these trees were made into paper, the poems would write themselves. Miller would want you sit and enjoy this.