Whence Wakdjunkaga

I have been perhaps overusing old poetry to create posts, but I have enjoyed an interesting time looking back through the old stuff, both reminiscing and reading things I haven’t even remembered to think of in literal decades. You may have to endure more verse tomorrow (I don’t know yet) as I have at least seven poems already saved for the addition of commentary and scheduling. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

For today I do intend to explain the source of the pseudonym Durwood Wakdjunkaga. It won’t be as long as the first part last Saturday because I don’t have a whole novel idea to summarize in explanation, and I already explained that I have used Durwood Wakdjunkaga as a pen name for a long time—right back to the very beginning in Andrew.

Where did the name come from? That’s the question for today. Whence “Wakdjunkaga?” (And you will all be happy to know I bothered to double-check my word skills to know for sure that I am using whence correctly.)

Once again, let’s trek back in time to the 1970s—directly to the middle of the decade. I had graduated from Iowa Wesleyan in May of 1975, having already—after a none-too-lengthy job search (involving only four interviews, I believe, but about a hundred letters of application)—accepted a teaching position only thirty miles from college and home, at Ft. Madison Senior High School. I would teach English, assist with yearbook production, and direct the senior class play in the spring. I was at the time of graduation still with my college-era girlfriend, who had gone off herself to college that year and who would find her own future later that coming autumn, cascading a tumult of poetic inspiration for me (perhaps because after that I had a lot of free time to sit around, get moody and write—somewhat like retiring from teaching but with no computers or internet yet and much less personal history to review and revise). The issues prompting “Busy Music” occurred that spring, and for the summer we got back together (thanks I have always felt to my beginning to express my sense of silly humor and acting skills—ah, André the lovable Frenchman—no more on that for any of your prurient interests). Amusingly, for the silly sense of humor, I would discover Monty Python’s Flying Circus on Iowa Public Television (whatever it was called in those sainted days of yore) while living on my own for the first time that fall and winter.

I found a furnished apartment in Ft. Madison, high in an old house, partway up the hill that descends to the Mississippi in town (later the top of that hill would develop serious significance for me, but that was the next bicentennial summer and after). The living room in the front of the house loomed out over Avenue D from very high above, and sitting there, looking out and down at the distant ground beneath, I frequently felt like I was in my own personal starship heading off for galaxies unknown (such is the nature of the influence of what we read and one’s naivete and the potential energy unleashed by arriving within one’s destiny). The place was genuinely dismal, but I didn’t know or really care.

My brother Paul headed off for a year in Spain, so I took over his aged Chevy—fated to lose its brakes one winter Friday night en route to the former favorite professor’s married-student-housing apartment in Coralville as he restarted his career after IWC in social work (I still remember gliding in neutral across Iowa City, scoring success with the lights for the most part and avoiding arrest on the questionable intersection passages, to reach a halt at last by bumping with pretty solid force into the building which was my destination; strangely I don’t remember how I got home after the weekend or how the brakes got fixed—probably via my father in the garage on Green Street in Mt. Pleasant).

Iowa City’s Old Capitol, as I have never seen it

…which is the long way around of saying I settled in to live and teach in Ft. Madison as of late July 1975. That winter, on one of my nearly weekly excursions to Iowa City (ah the old days of snow fence, Bushnell’s Turtle, and the temporary buildings in the streets), I was looking at books in Book and Crook on its corner not quite across the street from the Old Capitol (not yet in those days regilded on its dome) when I discovered The Trickster by Paul Radin. I bought the book and devoured it immediately over Christmas break 1975.

I have been intrigued by Native American cultures since we read about that Fifties-perfect figure Fleetfoot in elementary readers (no Dick and Jane for me: at the primary level I learned phonetics, and in Rock Island, at Denkmann, we had whatever bland whitecake boy and girl were Fleetfoot’s prominent friends). Radin’s book was an easy addition to my (then still moderate) library.

Not only did I start my continuing interest in Jung (and Karl Kerényi), who have essays in the book, but I learned all about the Winnebago Trickster deity—Wakdjunkaga. As the links (do any of you actually click on those and learn some things?) should tell you, Tricksters are mythological divinities that screw up frequently (sometimes deliberately, often maliciously), demonstrating little true self-control, behaving clownishly and sometimes even creating reality or devising cultural advances—generally by accident. Radin’s whole book is available through the link. Somehow, Wakdjunkaga appealed to me.

Thus the immortal surname arrived in my life. It was weird (as most who have encountered the word through me have determined for themselves) and it was appropriate. It was perfect. Like any true WASP American I acquired the Native American property without qualm or hesitation to make it my own (listen, tightie whities: “immigrant-go-home” should mean YOU and our ancestors). And when I searched “wakdjunkaga” on Google just now, I turn out to be the first hits.

“Durwood” is a little more obvious, coming from ”durwyrd” via Graves’s The White Goddess (a druidical word which he translates as “oak seer”)—a book which I also purchased and read that same winter. Thus the name combines a mass of true and (probably) false ethnology, archaeology and anthropology in my own alter ego (actually the character from the future who turns out to be identical with, though older than, my alter ego in The Book of Seasons). A tricky, selfish, cunning, mischievous, malicious, generous, comical, wise and magical being: myself. (Yes, you may feel free to laugh aloud along with me.)

So now you know both why and whence came Wakdjunkaga’s Blog. Interested to explore Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd. S.A. next?

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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