A Memorial Tribute to
Brian C. Pohanka
(March 20, 1955 - June 15, 2005)
of an Idealistic, Noble Soldier
Brian's memorial tribute continues from Page 2: The
Fine Arts, Travels, and Nature
one might have guessed, based on the commentary he sometimes made about
the subjects of his studies, Brian was interested in psychology. In
particular, Brian was drawn to the theories of Carl Gustav Jung. On
November 29, 1999, he commented on a piece I had sent him:
-- isn't it interesting the subconscious or dream-state imagery? Archetypal
I suppose. This is why [Carl Gustav] Jung is so important. I have
several of his books and essays -- On Synchronicity, etc. These things
have a timeless and also a moral and philosophical import....
only did Brian appreciate poetry of the Great War era, he was also fond
of music—in particular, of the classical form—and art—mainly
historical oil paintings. On June 27, 1999, Brian sent me comments he
made in an email reply to a friend regarding a review on a Philadelphia
exhibit of Maxfield Parrish's paintings:
review -- I can see the element of kitsch, but also I have found in
some of [Maxfield] Parrish's work an ethereal beauty -- looking at
our world through a filter that over clarifies, almost surrealizes,
the images. In some respect it reminds me of [English author J.R.R.]
Tolkien's world (Lord of the Rings and all that) -- in Tolkien's
world one does not sweat, get mosquito bites, relieve one's bowels
in the woods -- and so on. If you know what I mean. This comes back
to why I find myself so increasingly fascinated with the First World
War as the ultimate shaper of our modern world -- or Western world
culture anyhow. The transition from idealism to cynicism -- hope to
despair -- glorification to mockery -- and so forth, on so many levels
-- and the reflection thereof in art, architecture and so on -- a
purposeful ugliness masquerading as utilitarianism (isn't murder and
genocide the ultimate expression? Thus
WWII as mere postscript of the earlier cataclysm) -- well it is where
we are now. Thus a certain wistful appeal to many (Parrish posters
on the wall, little ersatz Williamsburg communities, old buildings
gutted but the facade maintained -- concealing the cubicle dungeons
of the utilitarian workplace behind the candy wrapper-- Disney, etc.)
-- that we see today in an almost visceral longing on the part of
those who've grown up and been weaned on sterility, selfishness, hopelessness,
ugliness, cyncism, uselessness, etc, etc.
is easy to scoff at Parrish -- though I find this "critics"
scoffing at Pre-Raphaelitism more inexcusable -- that movement was
at least a reflection of its time -- like most modern people (critics
especially) the pen (or wordprocessor) is dipped in bile. Still, I
can see the point. I think Oscar Wilde had some humorous quips about
In any case -- we [my wife Cricket and I] will have to go check this
one [exhibit] out. Like Tolkien's world, Parrish's art has had a certain
innocent appeal for me -- evoking something that if it ever did exist
in some shape or form -- has long since been trampled into the sludge
of our clinical modern world.
April 25, 2004 Brian wrote that one of the latest books he read was
about J.R.R. Tolkien:
was at a Civil War preservation conference in Nashville. It was warm
and humid there with threats of thunderstorms. I had not been to Nashville
in a while.
was reading a book on Tolkien and the Great War -- really more of
a study of his early interest in creating languages and writing poems
and stories about characters set in those fictional times, but did
have some material on the First World War, and his three good friends,
two of whom were killed on the Somme
in 1916. Will check out your [new blog] site when I get a moment,
his enjoyment of paintings, architecture, and literature, Brian also
enjoyed the cinema. On December 30, 2003, he wrote:
Christmas went well for you, busy here of course with family and so
forth -- hard to believe another year is upon us.
workplace seems to do a lot of parties, that is good for morale I
the recent movies, being a Lord of the Rings fan, of course "The
Two Towers" is the one I had to see, having seen the other two.
enjoyed traveling and felt fortunate to have seen many places in his
lifetime. On January 15, 2001, he replied to a message in which I inquired
about his favorite vacation destinations:
that is a tough question in a way. I suppose I would have to say the
American West -- Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone, the Beartooth Highway,
Little Bighorn, the Bighorn Mountains and so on are among my favorite
places on earth. As far as Europe, there is much to see in Paris and
while I am generally not fond of cities it is a pretty city, and a
nice place to visit. There is a lot to see in Europe as you know --
Bavaria, Austria, Italy -- the Alps, the Dolomites -- Lake Garda --
Tuscany -- all that....
loved animals, plants, and natural beauty. He felt a spiritual connection
with living things and through this love of nature introduced me to
writers outside of the wars he studied. Upon reading a message I sent
him, he commented in his email on May 13, 1999:
So this is what it is in life: To find that inner joy, that happiness,
that peace. It is there in all the simple things in this world:
blossoming flower, a little bird, a bee; the colors of the sky at
the sound of the wind through trees.
When I read the above I immediately thought of a wonderful little
book, written in 1883, The Story of My Heart, by the English
author Richard Jefferies. See if you can locate it. I think you would
enjoy it. There are passages in it of a rare beauty; idealism; sense
of Nature -- spiritual -- very fine, if little known volume....
Story of My Heart I first heard of through a chapter in a little
Penguin book -- Mysticism by a fellow named Hapbold or Happold
or somesuch.... I think I was reading it my freshman year in college
and the next year I wrote a paper on a comparison of Thoreau and Jefferies
-- for a class -- the two having some similarities and also, of course,
book reminds me somewhat of some of [Joshua] Chamberlain's spiritual
views -- but above all has a great love of Nature reflected in it,
and the connection of earth and sky to soul -- it is really a series
of essays or flowing thoughts -- in no ways an autobiography -- but
there is much of a very profound beauty in it, I think. I see that
there is a Richard Jefferies Society in England -- does not surprise
me -- but he remains extremely obscure, even there, and certainly
have an early 20th century limited edition version of it I picked
up for a pittance -- and from time to time I pull it off the shelf
and read a bit of it.
found a copy of Jefferies' book, began reading it, and sent my impression
about this fine literary work to Brian. On June 23, 1999, he wrote:
you are enjoying Jefferies -- yes, there is certainly an eccentricity
there -- and he is essentially writing as if he were speaking -- sort
of a stream of consciousness sort of thing -- a "My Dinner With
Andre" type of approach (the film, maybe you've seen it, people
either love it or hate it -- I roared with laughter when I saw it).
have never heard [Benjamin] Britten's 'War Requiem' though certainly
have heard of it....
am getting a draft in Pounds Sterling so as to facilitate joing the
Wilfred Owen Society. Also reading the recently released biography
of [Siegfried] Sassoon.
may go to G[ettys]burg -- not sure. Will phone Bill [Styple] and chat
with him about it. He left a message for me yesterday. Usually I am
in Montana this time of year [for the anniversary of the Battle at
Little Bighorn] but will go in September instead, continuing work
on the re-photographic "then and now" book I am working
on with Dr. James Brust -- of the Little Bighorn battlefield -- another
major longtime interest of mine.
reading a message I sent to Brian about my rock collection, he responded
on May 17, 1999:
have a few rocks -- one from the stone wall at Gettysburg, several
from my former home I took when the place was sold -- and you are
right in that they are about the closest thing, tangibly, to being
immortal -- they will outlast us -- still being there when we are
dust and ashes.
am a collector of totems -- things that for me are the equivalent
of the "medicine" that Native American peoples would carry
around -- personal things, little tokens, vested with symbolism of
a personal sort.
August 2, 1999, Brian wrote to me about an illustration I sent him of
the morning glories in my backyard:
-- I have always been partial to Morning Glories -- I have a wild
version that sometimes grows here -- though it has been so dry I am
not sure what all, if anything, will come up -- here they are seen
usually later in the year.
shared with Brian a poem I wrote about my friend's ailing cat, Chanute,
and Brian—who had several cats of his own whom he loved dearly—responded
on July 28, 1999:
you so much for the nice poem about Chanute -- and of course it is
by such things that we keep their memories alive, the dear creatures,
as we keep alive the names of heroes who risked and gave so much....
tribute concludes with:
Struggles and Triumphs
to Brian's Pages
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