Franck André Jamme, 1947-2020

Affinities, News, News Section

October 3rd, 2020

“To continue tirelessly / to turn over the invisible field” —FAJ

I received news yesterday that Franck had died in his sleep. It was reported that his nurse found him the morning of October 1, a book in one hand, a pencil (always a pencil!) in the other. My heart is broken.

Franck and I met over email—in fact, all of Tantra Song was composed through correspondence. He sent me a box with more than three dozen paintings for the book which I kept for months in my studio. There were many gifts over the course of our friendship, but this was the first: his trust in me to care for these paintings, both as objects and in the shape of a book.

But I want to start over. I remember vividly when I first saw a Tantric painting: my husband and I were visiting Connie Lewallen and Bill Berkson in San Francisco, having a drink at their house before going out for dinner. At one point, Connie signaled me to follow her. We went up the stairs to a landing, and there were two Tantric paintings, radiant with an energy that I could feel penetrate me. She and Bill then told me Franck’s story about his search for these Tantric works in India, about the bus accident there that shattered many bones in his body, about returning and meeting with the soothsayer, about his relationship with the tantrikas and the vow he took to them. I immediately understood that there was a book to be made.

I’ve just been rereading my earliest correspondence with Franck and even in the most quotidian contexts it carries some of the same beautiful contradictions as his poetry: surprising precision and well-deployed ambiguity, the weight of the world and great levity, unfailing grace and nervy impatience. But in both, there was always great generosity and gentleness. He typed his replies in all caps, interspersed into my previous emails, so it felt like a transcript as if we had been talking in person over hours, days, weeks.

So it was not surprising—when he came to Los Angeles for the first time to stay with us for a week or so—that he was, in person, all that I imagined him to be through our correspondence. We settled in like very old friends, and I discovered what I had not known in the seriousness of our exchanges: that Franck had a particularly mischievous sense of humor. We spent much time together laughing then and since.

So, my friend, FAJ, adieu. You endured so much in this lifetime and gave us such great gifts. I will remember you with adoration, admiration, and love. My world expanded infinitely because of you.

—Lisa Pearson, Siglio Press, publisher

Please leave comments—I seem to have to repost them as they’re not automatically displaying. It might take me a day or two. Here are some beautiful tributes and kind words so far, for which I am deeply thankful. —LP

From Michael Tweed:

Unable to give justice to the contours of our friendship, let alone the depth, nor to the grief, both in living and in death, i can only offer this cycle of poems dedicated to Franck many years ago, which, however, seems, perhaps, more appropriate now anyway…

AGLOW
for Franck André Jamme
the light
vaguely

***

glistening
perhaps
in a dream

***

reliving
the absence

***

as an aspiration

***

where innocence
has come to die

***

each breath
another tragedy

***

***

ignorance
in repose

***

the first glimpse
of morning

***

what emerges
from the eye

***

the murmur
of blood
in its web

***

aglow
with the brunt

***

the useless breath
of life
and other sorrows

***

***

seeking
a broken grace

***

the spectral light
of any feather

***

beauty so close
the hand distant

***

toward another
the gulf between
ever widening

***

abandoned
even by death

***

***

all shall be
relieved

From Charles Borkhuis:

(My last email to Franck, Sept. 19)
Please forgive me for allowing our communications to become inactive. I feel guilty about this and remember with great warmth our good days in New York and Paris and the little “club”. Our conversations often had a deep and gentle nature perhaps touched with a shared melancholy that moved me very much. And we did special things for each other that showed something of a soulful harmony. And we frequently were playful, humorous, and lighthearted together like young boys that could get excited about music or arranging a party with others. This is not to be forgotten — a lovely, shared lightness of being in the midst of personal issues and problems. It is rare and comes with the best of my memories of you. Something hard to explain to others. Most people are too protected to allow that level of intimacy and intensity into their lives without pulling back because finally they don’t trust the other or themselves. I never felt that way about you. Just the opposite. We had both learned some things about life, its profound indifference and secret openings that are so hard to speak about except perhaps at certain poetic moments — silence is an opening that words can’t close. Can we trust the words that are so wrapped in reversals and contradictions? Perhaps it is only in an indirect, off-kilter, quasi-accidental disclosure that a certain truth sneaks in under the radar. We knew that difficult, ephemeral territory, each in his own way, and we could allude to it in a half-smile and look in the eye, which meant everything and nothing at the same moment. One cannot speak for two, one can hardly speak for oneself, but one can speak of the two and what it was like to be in that rare, shared state of receptivity to another. And so, I think, this should not be lost. Because it is so unusual and rare, elegant and quotidian, foolish and truthful. And it can raise spirits with a subtle grace and warmth of recognition.

Je t’embrasse,

Charles

From Léonie Guyer:

in the immensity of loss
Franck’s words a touchstone
as always

“Wild little things
That shine
Obstinately”

first meeting years ago a flash of recognition
ever since, our conversations
light cutting through shadow

bereft of your teasing
to lighten my heart
your penetrating gaze
held in my mind as I work

your great mind and heart
discrete humble grace
fierce gentle spirit

our collaboration
a dream perfectly met

rare encounters with tantric paintings, miracles held in our hands
on studio floor, kitchen table, alone in the gallery,
that time on the train as it rattled along in the night

you called me mon ange
now you are ours

mille merci for your boundless gifts
je t’embrasse très très fort

From Louise Steinman:

And this piece about Franck’s book To the Secret was written awhile ago, but Meg Shevenock sums up something really beautiful about Franck’s work and his relationship, too, with Les Souffleurs. She also used Tantra Song in her teaching young students.

From Jacinta Haynes:

So sad to hear of his passing, it would have been wonderful to meet him – so moved by his findings and these infused works and so grateful for the book which led me to look deeper into these beautiful Tantric paintings. I’m sorry He has passed and sounds like he lived a full rich life until the end – grateful he shared these gifts and the book was realized.

From Sam Winston:

His work and this book are real gifts to the world – long may they nourish us all. With thanks and a bow of gratitude to Franck.

From Deborah Gavel:

Oh my, I am sad to hear this news, albeit grateful that you shared the delight of your relationship with us readers. I love the book Tantra Song so much that I have ordered it three or four times. The first time I came upon it, I guess online. I had to order it immediately. I was able to see some of the original pieces in Venice in 2013 as part of a show for the biennale that year: breathtaking images, small and intimate. I had given away my first copy of the book when moving some years ago and then ordered it again. But I would end up giving away the book again and reordering it again. My condolences on your loss and may the great soul, Mr. Jamme rest on the clouds of his poetry.

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