Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jim Morrison, we hardly knew ye

A couple of nights ago I was at a professional meeting where someone left behind some books, free for the taking. I had a quick browse and noticed a couple of paperback volumes of poetry by Jim Morrison. I was intrigued; I picked them up.

What I know about Jim Morrison you could comfortably write on the back of a stamp, lick it, and never get ink on your tongue. Here it is: he was a rock singer with The Doors, he took drugs, he died of an overdose in Paris. I've heard something about how he saw a dead Native American as a kid and it did something to him spiritually, but I'm pretty vague on the details. Okay, maybe enough to get ink on your tongue, but just.

Subjectively, I know that I like the handful of songs by The Doors that I'm privy to. I rather like Touch Me; it's upbeat and kind of a departure from all the rest, except maybe Come On Baby Light My Fire... except Touch Me knows to leave the party while it's still welcome (I'll never forget hearing Light My Fire on the radio in grade 11 shop class in the mid-80s, when one of the metalheads finally begged, "Somebody shoot the organist...").

Anyway, I've started reading the poems.

My God. This guy is jaw-dropping. It's as though, 35 years later, his ghostly finger can reach down into me and press little buttons I didn't even know were there. Poetry is always a matter of taste, but wow, does Jim Morrison ever plug into me. Or vice-versa.

From the second volume, there's a poem from a collection called TAPE NOON...


you must confront
__your life
which is sneaking up
__on you
like a rapt coiled


you must confront
________the inevitable
Bloody Bones has got you!

This poem can be interpreted in so many ways. Is it about death? Some unattractive aspect of modern living? For me, it reads very much like a warning to an unborn soul, drafted to be conceived and delivered into life. The snake is phallic, snail-slime a metaphor for semen, and "Bloody Bones" the living body, flesh-wrapped bones, that will imprison the soul. Heaven knows what Jim may have intended, but I'm a deconstructionist... whatever you get out of it, you largely bring to it yourself, and this is what my mind fills this container with.

Listen to this from the very beginning of the first book, a "self-interview", as he characterizes it. This man was in his mid-20s when he wrote this; you'd expect this kind of clarity from a person much older. My parting comment on this score is Jim Morrison's own...

Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything, it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.

...and that's why poetry appeals to me so much — because it's so eternal. As long as there are people, they can remember words and combinations of words. Nothing else can survive a holocaust but poetry and songs. No one can remember an entire novel. No one can describe a film, a piece of sculpture, a painting, but so long as there are human beings, songs and poetry can continue.

If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it's to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel.

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