As a writer, try to imagine, after your death, someone in your family who’s not a writer going through all your work, past and present, drafts, false starts, deleted files, scribblings– all of it– and publishing whatever they thought best represented you. Scary, isn’t it?
Pardoned at last
Jim Morrison is in the news again. Governor Charlie Crist submitted his name to Florida’s clemency board as a candidate to be pardoned for two convictions Morrison received after the disruptive Miami concert in 1969, where he allegedly flashed the audience. Forty years after he was found guilty of exposing himself to a Florida audience, the late Doors lead singer Jim Morrison was pardoned by the state’s Board of Executive Clemency. Morrison’s pardon for two misdemeanors, indecent exposure and open profanity, was granted on Dec. 9, 2010.
While looking for more information, I stumbled onto Jonathan Jones’ blog post in The Guardian UK titled Pure poetry: why Jim Morrison’s way with words still lights my fire.
What lit my fire was reading some of the reader comments on Jones’ blog. It seems that many of the people who are compelled to comment did so out of vehemence. One such person writes: And his [Morrison’s] poetry was shit – the kind of thing a angst-ridden teenager would write. Someone else writes: But I wonder if anyone who upholds him as a great poet has actually read any of his poetry? Sub sixth form pretentious cr*p.
The real problem with Morrison’s poetry
No one has read the best of Morrison’s poetry. Both books, “Wilderness” and “American Night,” were published posthumously, whch means after he died. His girlfriend Pamela’s parents, the Coursons, his friend Frank Lisciandro and The Doors’ secretary, Kathy Lisciandro, sorted through sixteen-hundred pages of work gathered from his notebooks, diaries, and scraps of paper. They decided which poem to use, and which draft of each of those poems, to use. Not Jim.
Consider that one of his poems had 50 different versions. If it had been up to him, he might have sifted through those sixteen-hundred pages and found just five poems he thought were actually worth publishing. He had no voice, no choice, in this.These books may not have been what he wanted published. So who can rightly criticize?
The only collection of Morrison’s that was published when he was alive is “The Lords and the New Creatures,” which was a small run of 100 copies, published in 1969. It’s a first book- not the best, perhaps, but intense. I think his later poetry, even though it may not be a true representation of his work, is better.
Lamentation, not pretention
In any case, his later poetry is self-effacing, not pretentious. It’s lyrical. Evocative. Painfully honest. There are sad poems of longing for “the child’s version of a Christmas dream with no waking,” and rituals to give life form as we move to adulthood, as if he felt adrift growing up. There is wry humor, such as a line about a call girl: “She left a note on the bedroom door: if I’m out/ bring me to.” He admits to fears of plane death while on the road, hates being alone in a motel room while listening to “idiot laughter” and an “army of vacuum cleaners,” and he laments that he pissed time away and was left with a mind like a fuzzy hammer.
All these monstrous
words forsaken, falling
by all hell,
loose walls, forgotten
tumbling down into
night/ fast friends
fellow of the one true cross
earthly lovers crash
sweet sorrow blackness
on the spilled roadside
down, into fire
Occasion for sinners
alive if it seems
given to wander
alone at the shore
wanton to whisper
I am no more
Am as my heart beats
live as I can
wanton to whisper
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell her truth without shame.
2017 New Apple Book Awards Official Selection
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters