Moving to No. 17 Rue Beautreillis, Morrison placed a desk near the window in order to write at. Spending the majority of his time wandering the streets, Morrison carried his notebooks in a bag at his side at all times.
- One Jim Morrison’s final notebook from his time in Paris, 1971.
Despite its obvious merits to any literate that would take the time to read it, the poetry of Jim Morrison has always been too casually dismissed. This dismissal mostly comes as a flippant reaction to the audience who have come to embrace Jim Morrison: generally comprised of awkward adolescents and teenagers who believe they are obsessed with death—when in actuality it is sex and a sense of discovery that has strangled their brains. Often, for this group of admirers it’s not even the man Morrison they cling to but the dark image of him, the risk and pleasure he represents. Yet, developing and hormone-addled youth shouldn’t be judged here, nor their easy acceptance of projected iconography that has certainly been marketed towards them; but the adult academics and intellectuals who continue to not only disregard the man’s work, but actually let out a little chuckle of disdain at his mention do deserve a harsh word or two.
To my mind and tastes Jim Morrison was a truly gifted American poet with a distinctive Americanvoice and cadence that should be appreciated and celebrated, as Whitman’s is, as Robert Frost’s is, as Hart Crane’s is.
Again, he is dismissed because he was a rock star, but who could argue that if Rimbaud had come of age during the 1950s and 1960s in the United States that he wouldn’t have pursued the decadence of rock ‘n’ roll as a form of artistic expression before abandoning it all for the world of commerce?
Another factor for the lack of recognition (if not contempt) for Morrison’s writing is the confounding of his lyrics with his poetry. Although the two are not always mutually exclusive, for the most part they remain two different animals. Whereas Morrison might have crooned into your ear that there were “weird scenes inside the goldmine,” within his poems he could go on to meditate on these scenes, and although odd, it’s also all so very familiar:
I have a vision of America
Seen from the air
28,000 ft. and going fast
A one armed man in a Texas
A burnt tree like a giant primeval bird
in an empty lot in Fresno
Miles and miles of hotel corridors
& elevators, filled with citizens
There are certain conventions and limitations placed upon a lyricist that might work splendidly while sung along with the buzz and hum of an electric guitar or the roll of a drum but that nevertheless fall flat or seem simply self-indulgent when read upon the page. With the verse, notes, and fragments of dialogue that he constantly scrawled into the notebooks he always carried, Morrison could drop any “Lizard King” posturing of his rock ‘n’ roll persona and indulge in what he always saw as his true work: poetry.
Freeways are a drama, a new
art form. Signs. Houses.
Faces. Loud gabble of Blacks
at a bus stop.
By 1969 Morrison often seemed dissatisfied if not outright bored with The Doors and their music, but had been dissuaded from quitting by the other members. He would go on to state in an interview with CBC Radio, “I’m hung up on the art game, you know? My great joy is to give form to reality. Music is a great release, a great enjoyment to me. Eventually I’d like to write something of great importance. That’s my ambition—to write something worthwhile” (Nester, 2011). His growing lack of interest in the music is occasionally evident in the band’s creative output of the time. This statement is in no way meant to disparage the music of The Doors, as I still believe to this day that together, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger had one of the most singular sounds ever created by a rock band. I’m not even certain they qualify to be labeled as “rock.”