Metamorphose. An object is cut off from its name, habits, associations. Detached, it becomes only the thing, in and of itself. When this disintegration into pure existence is at last achieved, the object is free to become endlessly anything.”
Jim Morrison, from The Lords
The Sex Revolts (Harvard University Press, 1995), Reynolds’ and Press’ exciting book which looks at rock rebellion from the perspective of gender revolution, characterizes THE DOORS’ creativity (1965-71) in terms of a “phallic delirium” and a quintessential “burning virility” while comparing Jim Morrison himself to “an eternal nomad”. Oliver Stone’s cartoon-comic movie THE DOORS (1991), on the other hand, depicts Morrison as a sex-crazed, semi-literate jerk. I think that both of these portrayals, intentionally or not, vulgarized the image of Jim Morrison. To me, he was always rather a “fair miller-girl of the song”. And I am saying this in the right meaning of the term, since, in the Scottish tradition (and Morrison’s ancestors were Scots), mills were once connected with brothels. Jim was the kind of Dionysus who became magically “cooked Over” into a maiden in a woman’s kettle of female transformation. He wore his hair down like a witch, a priestess of fertility and prophecy, a goddess of the hunt, or a wild beast. In Rock Dreams, 1973, Morrison had Been depicted as a gay icon in a string vest, perching on a stool in a crowded bar and surrounded by rent boys, drag queens, and sailors. His obsession with feminine symbolism and female physiological debilitation (menstruation, birth, defloration, etc.) can best be seen in a poem he wrote:
... for all creatures of nature. His name is James Douglas Morrison. Jim Morrison is one of the most influential artists in history. His ... his life a secret to us all. To better understand Jim Morrison himself, a background of his life and especially his character ... arrived there (Rocco 152). There is much reasonable evidence that Jim Morrison died of a heroin overdose. Finally, the last suspicion about ...
“The Spanish girl begins to bleed:
She says her period.
It’s Catholic heaven.
I have an ancient Indian crucifix around my neck,
My chest is hard and brown.
Lying on stained, wretched sheets with a bleeding virgin,
We could plan a murder,
Or start a religion…”
Jim Morrison, “Latino Chrome”
Choosing to live his life on his own terms by rejecting the security which could have easily been afforded him, he became eccentric, uncompromising, and rebellious(especially, considering the fact that he came from a solid, military family – his father was an admiral in the navy who had participated in the Gulf of Tonkin incident off the coast of Vietnam and who commanded squadrons of aircraft carriers in the Pacific while his son was riding the youth cult show business).
Jim, on the other hand, was apparently encompassed by something feminine; he was attracted to totemism and the mysteries of the moon. His self-imposed suffering, sacrifice, and eventual annihilation (brought on by an overdose of heroin during his stay in Paris with long-time fiancée, Pamela Courson) have ultimately contributed to his immortality as one of the greatest rock stars in the world. The whole process, however, followed from a strictly feminine principle where the infliction of pain, drinking of blood, consumption of intoxicants, opium poisoning, overconsumption of tobacco and other vegetable substances, etc. constituted what, according to a Jungian psychoanalyst, Erich Neumann is “a journey over the night sea” in pursuit of something both dangerous and hard to attain. He was a man captured in a woman’s soul with a penchant for everything supernatural: a shaman, a sibyl, a priestess, a wise woman, a seer.
On Midsummer’s Night 1970, Jim was married to Patricia Kennealy, the then- editor of Jazz & Pop magazine, in her Gothic East Village apartment in New York. But, as Dylan Jones points out in his biography of the star (Jim Morrison, Dark Star, Viking Studio Books, 1990), “this was no ordinary service; it was a Wicca wedding, a ceremony based on ‘white’ witchcraft”. The couple is said to have taken part in the ritual handfasting, drawing each other’s blood, and mixing a few drops of their blood with a consecrated wine, which they subsequently drank. Perhaps this was the way in which he later described his experiences in another poem:
In Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore's book Gender & Jim Crow, Gilmore illustrates the relations between African Americans and white in North Caroline from 1896 to 1920, as well as relations between the men and women of the time. She looks at the influences each group had on the Progressive Era, both politically and socially. Gilmore's arguments concern African American male political participation, ...
“Bourbon is a wicked brew, recalling
courage milk, refined poison of cockroach & tree-bark, leaves
& fly-wings scared from the
land, a thick film: menstrual
fluids no doubt add their splendor.
It is the eagle’s drink.”
(From Wilderness, The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison).
In Keruac’s words, (starting out as a self-proclaimed beatnik, Morrison had read Keruac since the age of thirteen), he would have lived up to a special logo of “a masquerader, a fraud, and a crooked pulp magazine genius leader of some evil” (Jack Keruac, Book of Dreams).
However, I still prefer to think that Morrison’s psyche, just as female psyche, was in far greater degree dependent on the productivity of the unconscious – the matriarchal consciousness encompassing such areas as sensual desire raised to frenzy of enthusiasm, a reeling drunkenness, an orgiastic passion, and everything that defies natural law and the handicap of sterile preconceptions: “Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality” (J. Morrison, L.A., 1969).
Down to the witch and the herb woman of matriarchal decadence. And such was the spirit which chanted in him rhythmically: “What have they done to the earth?/ What have they done to our fair sister?/ Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her,/ Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn,/ And tied her with fences and dragged her down…”(“When the Music’s Over”).
It is worth mentioning, perhaps, that next to the Beat generation writers, French apologists (such as Celine), and Russian avant-garde poets (Mayakovsky), the adolescent Morrison had been immersing himself in every book he could get his hands on about demonology, esoteric studies, and occult sciences. Following Morrison’s death, poet Michael McClure formally acknowledged the star’s literary accomplishments and artistry while a Duke University professor and literary critic wrote a book titled Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as a Poet.
... that make up this very unique and specialized form of writing. Poetry is the art of apprehending and interpreting ideas by the ... his mind seemed lost in the infinite drug world, Jim Morrison was the "American Poet." His crave for knowledge was driven by curiosity ... opening of the Doors. Many do not know poet's lives and the meaning of poetry and lyrics. Most see alcoholics, as others see ...
His life manifested a universal relationship between seizure, rage, passion, spirit, poetry, and oracle. Music, for him, was only one of the mediums (anyway, it would always be either Manzarek, Krieger, or Densmore who did most of the composing while Morrison was writing the lyrics).
He did not hide from anyone that his real interests lied in poetry and film. He methodically sought a transformation and an awakening through rituals and stupor, through intoxication alternated with sleep: “Why do I drink? So that I can write poetry” (From Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison).
There is a curious kind of doom spelled out from his songs, something which suggests he knew he would die young (at 27): “Make a grave for the unknown soldier/ nestled in your hollow shoulder/ The unknown soldier…”(from his third album, Waiting for the Sun).
At times, he was both sarcastic and pessimistic: “Riders on the storm, Riders on the storm, Into this house we’re born, Into this world we’re thrown. Like a dog without a bone and actor out on loan, Riders on the storm”(from L.A. Woman, his last album).
He used to hide his vulnerable poet’s soul behind a mask of arrogance and ignorance. He played a tough guy on the outside – everything permitted, everything goes. A snake skin covered his body – his self-description says: “He was a monster, black, dressed in leather” (from Morrison Hotel).
But he also saw himself as a violated male: “Sore and crucified…, I sacrifice my cock on the altar of silence…” – (from The American Night).
He was invaded by something feminine and, therefore, alien, to undergo a transformation into a lizard:
w/ your insect eyes
w/ your wild surprise.
Warm daughter of silence
Turn your back w/ a slither of moaning wisdom…”
(Jim Morrison, from The New Creatures)
Morrison, who started out as an average UCLA’s film student writing scripts about lone hitchhikers and death in the desert (although some controversial reports have it that he would hire others to put his ideas on paper), saw himself as living in a fatalistic world. He identified with a feminine mana to offset the wind of destiny. How close his ecstasy came to madness and his creativity to psychosis can only be gathered from the sense of doom which spilled out of the lyrics from his songs: “Kill your father/ F… your mother…” (From The End).
The Afterlife is an area of human consciousness we all enter upon leaving the physical world at physical death. Throughout history we've questioned if there is a life after death. Along the way, our religions and various philosophers offered beliefs and opinions to answer this commonly asked question. However, many of the answers contradict each other making it hard to figure out. "Belief in life ...
A few of his poems from Dry Water suggest that he was aware of the ancient Sumerian myth which spoke of the male remaining inferior to, and at the mercy of, Mother Nature, or the “Terrible Feminine” that confronted him as a power and destiny. Biographer Dylan Jones remarks that on that night in 1970, Morrison fainted during his ritualistic wedding to Patricia Kennealy because “he came into the presence of the Goddess, one of the ancient forces of nature, and one of the deities to whom he prayed…”. Or maybe he realized then that one had to be prepared to pay with his own life for plucking a single leaf from the laurel tree of art.
And yet there was still another side to him, the bitter self-mockery, the undignified public brawls, the offensive street language, and self-destructive treatment of himself as a useless misfit in a decadent society. Perhaps he was aware (since many people were giving him this impression) that he would never amount to anything more than a darling of the poetry world crooning in a gentle murmuring manner while adapting most of his sexy poses from cheap Playboy nudes: the couches, the sheepskin rugs, the wine bottles, and furs. Only through premature death could his biggest wish (that of being recognized a great poet) be realized. Although he strove in his life for a liberation of the individual self, the total freeing of the psyche from the mythical world which has been imposed by civilization and materialistic society (“Let’s reinvent the gods, all the myths of the ages…”(from An American Prayer), for many he remained just another depressed postadolescent who somehow managed to make out of the very contradictions of his protracted youth the essence of his charisma. In fact, as an individual with an uncommon depth of conflict and uncommon gifts (voice, looks, intelligence, artistic talent), and with his uncanny luck, he was in the perfect position to offer his tribulations to the crisis of a whole generation of the late 1960’s. Yet he held an almost arrogant belief that what shook him as a youth was, to quote Erikson (Identity: Youth in Crisis, 1968): “a curse, a fall, an earthquake, a thunderbolt – in short a revelation to be shared with his generation and with many to come” and that “his one life must be made to count in the lives of all” (Ibid.).
I don't quite recall when I first heard a Doors's ong, but I could safely assume that it was Jim Morrison wailing the tune 'Light My Fire' or 'Break on Through'. After all, these two anthems are the foundations upon which the Doors' legend was built, and to this day remain the band's gems. But as I have come to learn through the years of reading about and scouring over regurgitated bits of ...
He must have posed himself the philosophical question whether Truth is objective and thereby immutable, or whether it is only a construct of the society or given culture which had been passed down in Europe for two thousand years. He was beating against the wall in a desire to free himself from the oppressive abstraction of values collected and classified throughout the centuries, to “break on through” into this fourth dimension, to acquire a substance of something extraordinary which was supposed to offer universal wisdom. Or maybe he just invented the fantasy of the fourth dimension, the other side of the wall, accessible through the Doors of perception. His awareness of being chosen against his will did not prevent him from expressing (often implicitly, in his self-referential poetry) a latent wish for universal power to be recognized as an artist and a seer, in fact, a self-made prophet. The prison of his fame as a rock star, nevertheless, greatly detracted from this image. His tragedy, therefore, may be understood as “searching for something that’s already found us”(from “An American Prayer”).
Drugs gave him a vision but deprived him of the ability to translate this vision in a constructive way. Therefore, on the one hand, there was this frantic search for truth and universal wisdom. And on the other hand, the utter inability to control one’s destiny. Something common to the fate of us all, perhaps.
Recently, after having attained a status of artistic immortality, he has been compared with the likes of the glamorized Arthur Rimbaud (read: a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses) and with the Russian revolutionary poet and futurist filmmaker, Vladimir Mayakovsky (that’s right – like the latter, he wanted to be understood by great numbers – his poetry was concise, telegraphic, parsimonious, popular, and simple).
[Davidman's poems about the Spanish Civil War in Letter to a Comrade oppose General Francisco Franco and support freedom fighters associated with the Loyalists. The following excerpt by Malcolm Cowley reflects the position that, according to Daniel Aaron, most American communist and non-communists intellectuals believed. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was a power struggle between the elected ...
Before his self-imposed exile in Paris preceding his death in the summer of 1971 in the romantic manner of the expatriate American writers of the 1920’s and other poets’ maudits, Jim Morrison gave a gift to America, a gift which the society did not specify for him in advance. After his arrest at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami (where The Doors performed in March ’69) with charges of indecent exposure (inspired by the savage performances of Antoine Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty) and public drunkenness while on stage, he thought of himself as artistically misunderstood by his fellow countrymen. Yet, his identity was deeply rooted in this country. His premature death at 27 can be seen nowadays as a tremendous loss to the American modern poetry, American music, American theatre (his rituals and antics on stage can be justified here since he was drawing his inspiration from the legendary and controversial The Living Theatre under whose spell he remained until his death), American film (it is as yet little known that his short film etude entitled “The Hitchhiker” which he managed to direct and produce in the breaks from touring with The Doors won awards at the international art film festivals in Toronto and Vancouver in 1969), and the American culture in general. The truth is he was working his way to broader horizons, very much ahead of himself and of his time. He was not concerned with the tribulations and drama of his individual life because such concern, no matter who you are, always chains you down to the insipid and mediocre. He wanted to shape creativity and the collective consciousness on a grand scale (“I have ploughed my seed thru’ the heart of the nation/ Injected a germ in the psychic blood vein” – from Road Days.) Time has told us he prevailed.
PART II: My Private Conversation about a Dead Poet
Jim Morrison’s art, like the art of all great immortals, is universally present. I think that he is one of America’s greatest artists. His recorded performances, songs, and poetry have all inspired me toward a deeper study of the American culture, history, and English language which, of course, are not my own.
It is no doubt that some of the most powerful lyrics in rock music and some of the most beautiful poetry of modern literature have been produced by James Douglas Morrison, the leader of the “Doors” who had been nurtured on Beat poetry and literature since childhood. Considering all of this, I decided to translate into my native Polish some of his poetry including “The American Prayer” as well as some selections from his song lyrics and poems from “The American Night”, a collection which reflects Morrison’s fondness of Kerouac’s On the Road and Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night.
A French literature professor from Duke University, Wallace Fowlie, notes in his brilliant book Rimbaud and Jim Morrison – The Rebel As a Poet: “Compared with the poetry of Villon and Rimbaud, Morrison’s work appears as a reflection of great poetry. But the reflection is obsessive and subtle. His place is among those men whose numerous departures in life, whose instability and restlessness, have immobilized them for us. Gratuitous images spring up in Jim’s verses like reflexes and answers to the subconscious law of chance and free association” (Fowlie, p. 123).
Morrison’s poetic imagery, often dominated by violence, death, raw and savage eroticism, dreams and magic was also partly influenced by other writers such as Balzac, Molière, Cocteau, Joyce, Blake, Genet, Huxley, and Nietzsche – all of whom he read voraciously. However, his innovative use of language was, to a great extent, inspired by the more recent works of the Beats: Kerouac, Ginsberg, McClure, and Ferlinghetti. His poetry is often layered with metaphors and symbols which do not easily reveal their meaning upon the first reading. His language is, at the same time, elegant and savage.
It is especially interesting to note how much Morrison as a poet had in common with another literary rebel – Vladimir Mayakovsky. In “A Cloud in Pants”, Mayakovsky is aware of both the destructive and creative elements of the city. He speaks of “grease-paint”, “flags blowing in the fever of fire”, “dying sunsets” like those in Marseilles, “the square pushing aside the church porch that was stepping on its throat”, “rain covering the sidewalks with sobs”, as well as of “the teeming streetfolk: students, prostitutes, salesmen”. Nevertheless, the city’s dynamic way of life, its multiplicity of colors, its vitality were, in a way, advantageous to an arrogant and caustic poet whose “soul does not contain a single gray hair”. He also speaks metaphorically of “town towers of Babel we raise again in our pride”, of “Golgothas in the halls of Petrograd, Moscow, Odessa, and Kiev”, of “Notre Dame de Paris”. His cities are full of blood, rebellion, and inquietude in the “foul weather of betrayal” suggesting the political upheaval brought about by the Russian Revolution. His cities are also filled with beggars, pedestrians suffering from tuberculosis, soldiers “mutilated in war”, “naked whores” hurling themselves from “a burning brothel” and madmen. This strange succession of monstrosities reflects the social disintegration which took place following the Revolution of 1917 and which may have inspired the poet to make his own private rebellion by not wanting to “make gifts to mares of vases cast painstakingly in Sevres”. Mayakovsky’s revolutionary poem A Cloud in Pants is almost synonymous with Morrison’s “Peace Frog” which is filled with similar images of flowing rivers of blood in various American cities.
In Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (1987), George Lakoff argues that there are two distinct views of human thought and language. First assumes that the human mind which makes use of internal representation of external reality mirrors nature (correct reason mirrors the logic of the external world).
It maintains that mind is an abstract machine manipulating symbols. This is the objectivist view. On the other hand, according to experimentalist view, thought is embodied in the structures used to put together our conceptual systems. These structures grow out of bodily experience and make sense in terms of it – this is the core of our conceptual system. This core is grounded in perception, body movement, and experience of a physical and social character. Thought, according to experimentalists is imaginative – some concepts are not directly grounded in experience (metonymy, metaphor, mental imagery).
These concepts Go beyond the literary mirroring or representation of external reality.
In Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (1987), Lakoff shows that an emotion, anger, has a conceptual structure and he proceeds to investigate various aspects of it. He examines some of the conceptual metaphors associated with lust and rape and he concludes that lust is often associated with hunger while the object of lust is food. Morrison’s poetry is full of such culture-specific metaphors. In many of his poems as well as his song lyrics, lust is heat, insanity, a functioning machine (especially a car), a game, war, or a reaction to a physical force. Lakoff notes that a particularly important fact about the collection of metaphors used to understand lust in our culture is that their source domains overlap considerably with the source domains of metaphors for anger. “The domains we use for comprehending lust are hunger, animals, heat, insanity, machines, games, war, and physical forces” (Lakoff, 415).
Here are some culture-specific examples from Morrison’s poetry:
“For seven years I dwelt in the loose palace of exile,
Playing strange games with the girls of the island”
(lust as game)
“The engine runs on glue and tar”
(a lustful person is a functioning machine)
“Come on, baby, light my fire”
(lust as heat)
“Oh, children of Night
Who among you will run with the hunt?”
(lustful person is an animal)
“Blood is the force of mysterious union”
“Wound in sheets.
And daughters, smug
With semen eyes in their nipples.”
(lust as a reaction to a physical force)
“We have assembled inside this ancient & and insane theatre
To propagate our lust for life…”
(lust as madness/insanity)
More than anything perhaps, his poetry is exceptionally cinematic. I mean all these images, these “scenes of rape in the arroyo”, those “searchlights at dusk”, these “sunlit deserts (and) galaxies of dust, cactus spines, beads, bleach stones, bottles and rust cars, stored for shaping”, “old books in ruined temples”, and “stars in a shotgun night”. I am sure he was able to pick up some of them in the course of your adolescent trans-American travels on the road, or while reading Blake, Huxley, Celine, Plutarch, the Beat poets as well as many other authors (James T. Farrell, maybe), and later, of course, in the cinematography department at UCLA. Reading his poems is like taking drugs: they lead us into a trance of images, walls of sacred visions, inducing altered states of consciousness of a profoundly hallucinatory nature which all culminate in a unique contemplation of the meaning of this world with a new awareness. At 27 he wrote: “I have ploughed my seed thru’ the heart of the nation. Injected a germ in the psychic blood vein.” And then, in the same poem, his prophecy with its somewhat disquieting sound: “Spectators at the Tomb – riot watchers”. Whose tomb? His own? Was he really able to predict the delinquent crowds gathering around his grave at Père Lachaise in Paris some twenty years after his death?
“I Can Forgive My Injuries In the Name of Wisdom, Luxury, Romance…”
This is a passage he wrote in one of your longer poems, “Lament” which was based on the idea of a wounded, victimized male. In “Dance on Fire”, a 1985 documentary videotape about The Doors there is one sequence which corresponds to what he has written and which I find especially unique. It opens with all four of The Doors walking together along a rocky beach to the background music of “The Unknown Soldier”. Jim Morrison is playing the role of Hyacinthus, a beautiful youth who was slain by Apollo, or Orpheus, the victim whose body was ultimately torn apart by wild boars, or even, perhaps, St. Sebastian – because he is being tied to a pole. A shot is fired (or so we only hear) and blood spills out from your mouth – right on the white hyacinths, the flowers which figure prominently as symbols in the Greek myth of Hyacinthus (they are known to have grown from the bloodstained grass).
And I am sure that, being so well versed in classics, he must have deliberately thought it over, – he read Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks, a fact meticulously recorded in the history of rock ‘n roll. The ‘firing squad-Hyacinthus’ sequence is perhaps the most striking image in the whole ‘cinema verite’ documentary of ‘The Doors’.
Morrison and Arthur Rimbaud
I am not the first person to notice the similarity between their poetry. Professor Wallace Fowlie has written a whole brilliant and scholarly book about it – The Rebel as a Poet. But he never mentions these examples, these are the lines I spotted in Rimbaud’s ‘Season in Hell” (which is largely Dionysian in nature, as opposed to his ‘Les Illuminations’ which are decidedly Apollonian) and which reminded me of some of Jim’s poetry and isolated lyrics:
In the towns the mud would suddenly seem
Blood in the streets of the town of
to me to be red and black.
Autumn already!- But why look with longing
Summer’s almost gone, almost gone
at an eternal sun, if we are pledged to the
Morning found us calmly unaware
discovery of the divine light- far from those
Noon burned gold into our hair
who die according to the seasons.
At night we swam the laughin’ sea…
Autumn. Our ship towering in the motionless
When summer’s gone,
mists turns toward the port of poverty…
Where will we be?
Still, now is the eve. Let us receive all influxes
Now night arrives with her purple legion,
of strength and of real tenderness. And at dawn,
Retire now to your tents and to your dreams
armed with a burning patience, we shall enter
Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth
into the splendid cities.
I want to be ready…
The best thing of all is a good drunken sleep on
And night was what night should be:
a girl, a bottle, and blessed sleep.
I could go on like this forever. I think that he really must have identified with Arthur Rimbaud, he wanted to model your life on Rimbaud’s poetry. His language is definitely reflected in your thoughts. And then, of course, that famous line from Rimbaud’s brilliant letter to Paul Demedy, written on the 15th of May, 1871:
“The poet makes himself a seer by a long, gigantic and rational derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering, and madness.He searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences. Unspeakable torture where he needs all his faith, all his superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great criminal, the one accursed – and the supreme Scholar!- Because he reaches the unknown! Since he cultivated his soul, rich already, more than any man! He reaches the unknown, and when, bewildered, he ends by losing the intelligence of his vision, he has seen them. Let him die as he leaps through unheard of and unnamable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where the other one collapsed!” And Jim’s, quite matching that of Rimbaud, from The Lords: “Metamorphose. An object is cut off from its name, habits, associations. Detached, it becomes only the thing, in and of itself. When this disintegration into pure existence is at last achieved, the object is free to become endlessly anything.”
At least two lines from his poetry indicate that this particular aspect of shamanism has had a profound effect on his consciousness: “Insanity’s Horse Adorns the Sky” from “I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind” and “Awkward instant/ and the first animal is jettisoned/ legs furiously pumping/ the stiff green gallop (…)/ Consent/ in mute nostril agony…” – from “Horse Latitudes”, a poem he wrote while still in high school. It was indeed not uncommon for Indo-European shamans to sacrifice horses to a god of the sky or storms. You were very much into shamanism, you must have known that when the Altaian shaman sacrifices a horse, he invokes a multitude of spirits and the birds of heaven. Then, he beats the drum violently, indicating a ‘mounting’ into the sky, accompanied by the spirit of the dead horse. After ascending through several heavens in visionary consciousness, the shaman converses with the creator god Yayutsi and also bows before the Moon and Sun in turn. Finally, at the celestial abode of bai Ulgan, the shaman learns details of future weather patterns and the outcome of the harvest. The shaman then collapses in a state of ecstatic release (from Shamanism by Nevil Drury, p. 23).
For those of you who had no idea what “insanity’s horse adorns the sky” meant in Morrison’s lyrics, this aspect of shamanism offers a quick explanation, I believe.
Jim and Jean Genet
For better or for worse, the influence of Jean Genet’s (the ‘French Beatnik’s’) work on Jim’s creativity has been greatly underestimated. However, if one reads Thief’s Journal, full of homosexual acts and crime, one is at once reminded about the trait of his personality – transgressive. And it was Genet, too, who wrote in his famous novel:
“It is right for men to shun a profound work if it is the cry of a man monstrously engulfed within himself… Creating is not a frivolous game. The creator has committed himself to the fearful adventure of taking upon himself, to the very end, the perils risked by his creatures…” Sounds like a good preface to Jim’s collections of poems which were entitled: The Lords and The New Creatures, respectively.
Jim and Juliusz Slowacki
Jim’s oracle-filled, ancient, masterly tone of “The American Prayer” as well as his frequent references to shamans, angels, and omens are all reminiscent of the work of Juliusz Slowacki, the great national Polish romantic poet who, before his premature death at 39 in 1849, penned “Anhelli”. This poetic masterpiece about a group of Polish insurgents, sent to exile in the midst of the Siberian winter, and of the Shaman, their leader, tells of the Northern Empire where the spacious and colorful skies reigned supreme over the boundless, hallucinogenic, and frozen plains full of angels, ghosts, strange heavenly apparitions, as well as ominous signs lighted by stars shotgun in the night. It seems unlikely that Morrison could have known about Slowacki since the latter’s major works have not been translated into English at that time. But to me, the similarities were striking.
The Little Game Called Go Insane
Jim’s own transformation into a shaman on the desolate Venice roof in the summer of 1965 after he finished college sounds like a flirtation with madness. In the most comprehensive biography to date, Riordan and Prochnicky tell us about this time: “Jim Morrison knew that a change was taking place inside him. After a while he rarely left the roof, dropping acid almost continually, and spending his time meditating and writing…” There was the lack of regular meals, heavy drug use, and utter isolation. But Jim did not go insane. Jim’s transformation was quite successful as it culminated in him changing from a slightly overweight kid to a rock legend, a shaman, a poet.
Yet, according to Nietzsche, what may be nourishment and delectation to the higher type of men may become poison for the inferior type. Let us take as an example the case of Ross David Burke, a paranoid schizophrenic with manic depression who believed he had invented rock music and whose journal “The Truth Effect” had recently been published under the title: When the Music’s Over (1996).
One of the people in the introduction described him as “always making references to or quoting Jim Morrison… a lot of really heavy Doors stuff”. He would self-medicate with alcohol and marihuana, sit in his room for days playing loud rock music, read Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, write poetry (not bad), or compose music and play it out with a band on weekends. But at the age of 32 this intelligent,highly sensitive, perceptive, talented, and at times even brilliant man, who knew how to write as well as play drums, guitar, and harmonica, has committed suicide by taking much more than a lethal dose of drugs. Reading his book is a journey into his mind, into his delusions, hallucinations, and fantasies. The people who helped put this book together (Dr. Gates and R. Hammond) found themselves listening to the Doors and other bands of the 60’s and 70’s as well as reading the poetry of Jim Morrison in order to piece together his life story. The moral of the story? It is very dangerous to find oneself obsessed with the Jim Morrison myth.
And another example, straight from Riordan and Prochnicky’s biography, Break On Through: “At a Denver, Colorado, swap meet a thirty-three-year-old woman who pays $300 for a publicity photo signed by Jim Morrison… She calls herself a collector but sees a psychologist twice a week about her obsession”.
Père Lachaise, summer 1996
I wasn’t an elegant woman in Paris in August, 1996… In fact, I ran out of the 60 francs I had been saving to buy those seven roses I intended for Jim’s grave. Instead, I just wrote a note-poem and attached it to the geranium standing in a pot which someone had already deposited there. I was 22 at that time and have been reading and translating his poems ever since…
The Question of Innocence…
To be successful and to make a career out of his good looks and sexy crooning, he had to know the rules of this unfair world. He repeatedly quoted Blake: “Some are born to sweet delight, some are born to endless night”. Furthermore, he had a special predilection for visiting such perverse places as the ‘Butterfly’ in New York (a porno theater)or the Rock & Roll Circus in Paris (a heroin dive).
He had a great interest in human misery, perversion, and degeneration. After all, he once wanted to be a sociologist or a writer which only makes it seem logical that he must have possessed the qualities of an observer. Was his own innocence lost in the process? Or is innocence as such only a mystification? In one of his published interviews, I remember him having been quoted that if he had to do it all over again, he would have settled for a quiet and unknown artist undemonstratively plodding away in his little garden. With the kind of intelligence he was endowed with, he must have known the price for playing with his own survival.
Masters and Servants
From Aristotle he picked out this quote: “equality for equals and inequality for unequals”. And from Nietzsche: “The Lords of the Earth – that higher species which would climb aloft to new andimpossible things, to a broader vision, and to its task on earth”(from: The Will to Power).
During one of his infamous performances, Jim, the Lizard King, addressed his audience as “a bunch of idiots”. But, in the end, I also think that he wasn’t really enjoying the fruits of his success. Because he was well experienced in the indecent politics of fame.
The Mystery of Africa
What about it? Was it the virginity of a continent which, in the past, had attracted some of his favorite authors – the young Rimbaud, the young Celine? The phrase about African magic repeatedly comes up in his early lyrics suggesting that he, too, was quite enthralled by it. And some still argue that this is where he is living today. The controversial book The End by Bob Seymore questions the validity of the French doctors’ death certificates and insinuates that the whole thing, including the almost secret and surprisingly hasty burial in Paris attended by a closed circle of the most intimate friends, had only been a part of a deliberately prearranged ‘exit’ or rather an escape from the prison and pressures of fame. And the whole thing with singer Marianne Faithfull (who used to run around with Mick Jagger) and the French count who, apparently, have helped Jim out in his secret passage to some remote place in Africa… Well, this is definitely something to be inspected further. Let’s hire a detective or write a mystery novel.
‘On the Road’
I, too, had some ‘on the road’ experience. During my first summer in the US, I went from Sarasota, FL to Denver, CO by car – with my parents and two dogs. That was in 1989…
On Jim and Pamela…
One thing a man can teach a dependent co-living female without a marriage license is how to be a good whore. In ancient Greece, daughters of aristocratic households would associate with men for intellectual purposes and be treated as their equals. They would think it a disgrace to allow themselves to engage in sexual relations with these men. (Such services were performed by the lower class: both women and men. Nowadays, on the other hand, in a ploretarian society, we all have come down to this level – we are all -except for a handful workers and we are all prostitutes. Aristocracy is dead).
And so, after Jim’s death, when he, in fact, had left millions in the records, Pamela was forced to sell her fragile beauty by the hour to keep her expensive drug habit – all of this due to some legal inconsistencies in their alleged ‘marriage’. I personally prefer Jim’s relationship with Patricia Kennealy – his real intellectual equal who in her autobiography Strange Days righteously encourages us all impressionable fans to “get some weight into our lives, read some books, think some thoughts” and who basically implores us all not to thoughtlessly imitate Jim Morrison but rather to seek that very same light for ourselves which had guided his creativity and which he so spontaneously recognized in his own individual life.
On the issue of materialism
One thing to admire is that he was totally against any notion of it. He came (as most such people) from a rich family. He was much better off than his fellow university students, for example. And then, in his art and in his lyrics, he has tried to expose and fight against the American materialism. This was a big break-through in Rock’n’Roll compared to what is being advertised by most rock stars today: all they project is a desire for money, after the dollar. Their message reads: “money equals power and control”. And Jim Morrison happened to own a car at some remote point of his short life – very briefly – while refusing to own something like a house altogether, for example.
How it all began
One languid summer morning in Concord, MA where I was renting a room in my cousin’s old wooden Queen Anne style house w/ a garden, I happened to watch TV. They had something on the original rock bands: ‘The Animals’, ‘Cream’, and ‘The Doors’. I heard “In the White Room” by ‘Cream’, “When I Was Young” by ‘The Animals’, and “Alabama Song” by The Doors. And the very next day I bought a couple of tapes. I fell in love with “Summer’s Almost Gone” and “I Can’t See Your Face in my Mind” by The Doors. I took that tape to Poland with me and I listened to it constantly. It gave me a great deal of joy, a great deal of pleasure. I was able to get Jim’s The Lords & The New Creatures in Warsaw and I read it both in English and in translation. Upon my return to US in early fall of 1995, I found myself looking for and buying more and more of the Doors’ stuff. I was 21 at the time.
Why I fell in love
Because when he sang: “She has a house and garden, I would like to see what happens, she has wisdom and knows what to do”, I thought it was all about me. And when he sang: “You’re lost little girl, tell me who are you?”, I also thought it was about me. And when he wrote: “Awake, shake dreams from your hair, my pretty child, my sweet one, choose the day and the sign of your day, the day’s divinity – first thing you see”, I could only think it was addressed to me alone and no one else. That was the magic and secret behind his art.
My Poem for the Last Poet
I wrote it on the night of 3rd of July, 1996, the 25th anniversary of Jim’s death:
He was a poster prophet
a favorite of gods
who had proclaimed that sex
made summers ripe
Girls would spread their legs
to embrace his timeless image
both beautiful and sad
a warrior dying on the battlefield
of golden fame
“the gardener found the body
he wrote in his ode to Brian Jones
two years before his own death
-nobody quite knew what for and why
On that night in July
when some faceless French dandies
the treeless and narrow
a jet shot to the sky