Jim Morrison Essay

At the beginning always stands the god

(W.F. Otto, Dionysos p. 29)



Chapter One: Insider/Outsider

Chapter Two: The Poet Possessed

Chapter Three: The Unrepressed Man

Chapter Four: Artist Tyrant

Chapter Five: Erotic Politician

Chapter Six: Meta-Orpheus

Chapter Seven: Poet-Politician


copyright Bill Osborn 2009
Revised 2011


Nietzsche's influence has crossed many boundaries, sometimes even inhabiting that no-man's land between high culture and popular culture. Appropriate then that Nietzsche's work should influence singer Jim Morrison of the rock group the Doors, as he was very much the embodiment of the cultured and the primitive combined, and testified to their tension as he straddled the hedge between them.
Nietzsche's Apollo/Dionysos symbolic antinomy is given a strange echo in Morrison's assertion that "we appeal to the same human needs as classical tragedy and early Southern blues."[1]
And does not Morrison himself become a sym-bol, with his various personae: - that of the mythic hero, the primal bluesman, and the erudite poet - all being generated by this rift?

This essay will explore this, and related issues, by focusing on key books that Morrison studied and chose to live by. These include Friedrich Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy', Wilhelm Reich's 'The Function of the Orgasm', Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider', James Campbell’s ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’, and Norman O. Brown's 'Life Against Death.' I shall try to keep to the editions and translations that Morrison would have used and note how they influenced his complex artistry and thought.
The underlying thrust though is to achieve a comprehension of the (Nietzschean) Dionysian; and Morrison is a worthy, if dangerous, guide for this part of the quest.
While writing, I began to see the increasing importance of Colin Wilson's ideas, his 'New Existentialism' being a powerful development of a Nietzscheanism that Morrison well understood.
Strange then that in her otherwise admirable 'Historical Dictionary of Nietzscheanism' (The Scarecrow Press, London, 1999), Carol Diethe does not mention Wilson’s treatment of Nietzsche at all ... but then she doesn't mention the Doors either.
As the two main subjects of the essay will be quoted frequently, the quotations will be attributed to the abbreviations 'JDM' (James Douglas Morrison), and 'FWN' (Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche).

Note to Introduction
1. Lisciandro p. 16 See also Davis p. 229 - he dates the quote to 1969.

Chapter One: Insider/Outsider

1) Dualities

"There is an old illusion - it is called good and evil."
FWN [2]

"You favour Life, he sides with Death: I straddle the fence, and my balls hurt."
JDM [3]

"Mankind will not put aside its sickness and its discontent until it is able to abolish every dualism."
N. O. Brown [4]

"... there is a sharp conflict between natural demands and certain social institutions. Caught as he is on this conflict, man gives in more or less to one side or the other; he makes compromises which are bound to fail; he escapes into illness or death; or he rebels - senselessly and fruitlessly - against the existing order. In this struggle, human structure is molded ..."
Wilhelm Reich [5]

The first three quotes imply that dualities are in some way illusory. Morrison suggests that he inhabits the place in between duality – “the fence”, or that the poet is the place in between, and that this ‘fence’ is the reality, rather than the duality. Or that the (false) belief in dualities is a cause of ‘sickness’ as Brown has it.
But the Reich quote suggests rather that dualities, real or otherwise, (as the necessary components of ‘conflicts’) create the struggle which ‘molds’ “human structure.”
So dualities - real or imagined - seem to be indispensable to this discourse.

Dualities invite us to choose what side we might be on; ultimately the law of non-contradiction tells us we must either be or not be. Those who seek to surmount such dualities and even dissolve them can themselves be torn apart and even destroyed in the attempt. Jim Morrison [1943-1971] was such a one, dead at the age of 27 after attempting to overcome the antinomy of Apollo and Dionysos.

"Nietzsche killed Jim Morrison."
John Densmore [6]

And here we arrive at our first philosophical problem. We often express ourselves in terms of dualities; and yet life is a totality. Ultimately then, are all dualities illusory? This will be picked up again in section 15 in relation to the main Nietzschean duality of Apollo/Dionysos.

2) Jim Morrison as a Nietzschean

"Jim Morrison was probably the most effective populariser of Nietzsche in the twentieth century." [7]

"The first and greatest satyr alive today."
FWN [8]

In the first book-length biography of Morrison, published 1980 in the USA - i.e. some nine years after his death - its co-authors presented him very much as a Nietzschean. Not only was he said to be well-read in Nietzsche, but he too was a 'philosopher'. The authors assert that: "like Nietzsche, Jim identified with the long-suffering Dionysos, who was without images, himself pure primordial pain and its primordial echoing." [9]
One of the co-authors, Danny Sugarman, went on to publish a (semi-fictionalised?) autobiography nine years later which included an account of his supposed relationship with Morrison - Sugarman had a junior administrative role in the Doors LA office.
He claims that Morrison gave him books which exemplified his Nietzschean devotion to Dionysos. In a somewhat garbled account Sugarman describes the Doors' singer enthusiastically giving him a copy of Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy', but then goes on to quote from W. F. Otto's 'Dionysos,' while seeming to describe another book by Karl Kerenyi : "I was digging through the books Jim had given me. I set down the one I was reading and picked up 'Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life.' [10]

In a later, thorough, and less hagiographical biography of Morrison, author Stephen Davis confirms that "nothing he read left a more lasting impression on Jimmy Morrison than his encounter with Nietzsche." [11]

While the posthumous 'legend' of Morrison has emphasised the Dionysian Nietzscheanism, the same image was being cultivated in his lifetime during the 1960's when writers on the popular music scene obviously longed to put a more intellectual spin on a hitherto lowbrow culture. Among those writers was Richard Goldstein, who in 1967 called the emerging 24 year-old singer and song-writer with the Doors a 'Shaman Superstar', going on to say that Morrison "suggests you read Nietzsche on the nature of tragedy to understand where he is really at. His eyes glow as he launches into a discussion of the Apollonian-Dionysian struggle for control of the life force."

3) The Hiway

“Kerouac! I salute your
wordy beard, Sad Prophet!”
Ginsberg [13]

We can be certain then that Morrison was imbued with the Nietzschean theories of the Dionysiac found in 'The Birth of Tragedy' and had looked further into the work of other scholars regarding the nature of the god Dionysos. Patricia Kennealy, the music critic/writer who was said to have 'married' Morrison in a Wicca ceremony on Midsummer's Night in 1970, [14] says that in his last years Morrison was studying Jane Harrison's tomes 'Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion' (1903) and 'Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion' (1911). This is confirmed independently by an interviewer noting in 1970 the book 'Themis' on a table in Morrison's house, [15] as well as 'Themis' being the name of the boutique that he had bought for his long term girlfriend Pamela Courson. [16]

But in what intellectual/cultural context did he imbibe his Dionysian Nietzscheanism?
The son of a military careerist, frequently moving from State to State as a boy, he is immediately attracted to the 'Beat Movement'. The seminal 'Beat' text, 'On the Road', by Jack Kerouac is published in 1957 when Morrison is 14 and he quickly becomes an adherent. [11]
The first paragraph of 'On the Road', referring to the correspondence between the book's hero Dean Moriarty and "Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist," [17] has Kerouac saying: "I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew." [18]

Morrison identified with Moriarty - "a wandering cowboy and rebellious spirit of the fifties" [19] - and might have taken Kerouac's effusion as his personal credo:

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centrelight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'" [20]

Like Kerouac, Morrison saw direct connection between the 1950s Beat Movement and the Hippies of the 1960s. In a televised interview made shortly before he died, Kerouac said that they were of the "same movement, which is apparently some kind of Dionysian movement in late civilisation." [21]
Two years later, in a radio interview, Morrison echoes Kerouac by describing the Hippie movement as a "kind of Dionysiac reaction, but very naive and fruitless." [22]
Here we note Morrison's realistic outlook that always helped him to maintain a certain distance from the Hippie movement. His Nietzscheanism then extended beyond any beatific interpretation, and had more in common with an 'existentialist' outlook.

4) Wilson's Nietzsche

Morrison read Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider' - published the year before 'On the Road' - when he was about fifteen [23]. Wilson is an English writer who created a stir by producing a philosophically mature work at the age of twenty-four. [24] Wilson later noted with a sardonic irony that he "was at least as important as Sartre and Camus, a real British home-grown existentialist." [25]
Wilson also had something of an affinity with the American 'Beat Movement.' [26] The leading Beat poet Allen Ginsberg - who therefore had a profound influence on Morrison's own poetry - met Wilson in 1978. Recollecting the meeting, Ginsberg wrote: "we'd not encountered before, though 'Outsider' and 'Beat' ethos had theoretically some sense of spiritual expansiveness and hermetic insight in common." And yet remained mystified as to how Wilson could have got that "open mind". [27]
The main interest for us though is Wilson’s treatment of Nietzsche in 'The Outsider' and how this influenced Morrison's own Nietzscheanism. [28] It is a view of Nietzsche which probably has its root in those passages in his first book, 'The Birth of Tragedy' (section 7), where it is said that the character of Shakespeare's Hamlet "resembles the Dionysian man," [29] who seeks to conquer the "nausea of the absurd." [ib.]

Poor Ophelia
All those ghosts he never saw
floating to doom
on an iron candle.
JDM [30]

But the Existentialist despairs of ever being able to conquer, whereas the Nietzschean-Dionysian man is very much a conqueror. The Existentialist interpretation of Nietzsche is therefore somewhat nihilistic - although Wilson will later insist that his own Existentialism is a positive philosophy (see his 'New Existentialism' e.g., Wilson 1980 passim). In 'The Outsider', Wilson says that, while Nietzsche saw the potential of genius in man, he felt that it was "only inertia" that "keeps him mediocre" [31]
This may be the seed of Morrison's idea for 'The Lords', who prey on this tendency to "inertia" - an idea we shall look into in more detail later [32]

In relation to this nihilistic notion of Nietzscheanism is the view that the profound thinker must necessarily experience pain - a masochistic tendency in the 'outsider' hero/genius. [33] Wilson takes a biographical approach to Nietzsche's work in keeping with a philosophy which says that one must live ones ideas. [34]
As a young man of 21 Nietzsche is said to have experienced a kind of pagan epiphany during a storm on a hill while witnessing a man killing two lambs as the man's son looked on. The mixture of thunder, death, sacrifice, and blood and childhood innocence conspired to evoke a world of "Pure Will," - that is a world that is "free", and "without morality." [35]

Wilson quickly compares this with the "drunken" "Dionysian emotions" [36] that Nietzsche will describe in his 'The Birth of Tragedy'.

We may also relate this to Morrison's own epiphany, when he "experienced death for the first time." [37] As a four-year-old, he and his family chanced upon the immediate aftermath of a truck accident which had left a group of American Indians strewn across the road, bleeding to death. He later said, "At that moment, the souls of those dead Indians ... landed in my soul". [ib.]

Similar to Nietzsche's experience, we have the ingredients of blood, death, a sudden inexplicable catastrophe, blended with childhood innocence:

Like our ancestors
The Indians
we share a fear of sex
excessive lamentation for the dead
& an abiding interest in dreams and visions.
JDM [38]

5) The Clap

"He would go to prostitutes and expose himself to venereal disease."
Reich [39]

The most crucial aspect of Wilson’s portrayal of Nietzsche for our study though, is that of the manner of Nietzsche's collapse into insanity.
While contemporary opinion differs, [40] Wilson was of the general view held at the time that Nietzsche's insanity was due to "venereal disease contracted in his student days from a prostitute." [41] Sugarman claims that "Morrison said that's how he wanted to go. First you go crazy, then you go blind, get visions, get dead." [42]
This leads Morrison to speculate that Nietzsche deliberately had himself infected with syphilis in order to experience a progressive disintegrating insanity - a kind of masochistic, calculated, break-down:

"One line of Rimbaud in particular was a favourite [of Morrison's] ... 'The poet makes himself into a visionary by a long derangement of all the senses,' Un long dereglement de tous le sens, describes and explains Jim's activity." [43]

Wilson quotes a letter of Nietzsche's where he says that "I must live a few years longer. I feel a presentiment that the life I lead is a life of supreme peril. I am one of those machines that sometimes explode," [44] adding that Nietzsche "died insane, like a big gun with some trifling mechanical fault that explodes." [45]
This all directly inspires the language Morrison will use when he writes of the moment of Nietzsche's collapse into madness:

"On the third of January, near the door of his lodgings, Nietzsche saw a cabman whipping a horse. He threw his arms around the animal's neck and burst into tears, marking first hour of his madness.
He had purposely contracted syphilis as a student - playing Wagner on an upright for the whores - and carried the germs of chaos all his years. When he at last despaired of embodying in words his entire world of thought, he let those forces sweep 'through him and explode chambers in his brain.
But not before capping his philosophy with that last symbolic act - the final chapter in his philosophy - and wed himself with the act and the animal for all time." [46]

Fitting that the philosopher who wrote that one should "die at the right time" [47] would eke out a protracted creative suicide, inaugurated by a seemingly bizarre mockery of Celtic pagan 'horse marriage.' [48]
And the first animal is jettisoned
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop.
JDM [49]

Morrison seemed somewhat obsessed with this dramatic scene. As a film student at UCLA (1964-5) he had planned to make a film of the incident. The soundtrack "would be applause" [50] - no doubt meant to be a pun on 'clap' - i.e., syphilis.

We got our final vision
by clap
JDM [51]

Morrison's relentless program of drugs and alcohol abuse coupled with a self-harming could be seen as an emulation of a Nietzschean 'salvation' through 'the body' as envisioned by Wilson. [52] Morrison would say that "to transcend the limitations of the body, you have to immerse yourself in it." [53]

Was this the "new religion" that Wilson claimed Nietzsche wanted to start?

We could plan a murder, or
Start a religion.
JDM [55]

To Wilson, 'the outsider' is "a prophet in disguise - disguised even from himself ... If we tried to express the prophet's purpose in the simplest graspable form, we could say that it was a desire to shout 'Wake up!' in everybody's ear." [56]

Wake Up!
You can't remember where it was
Had this dream stopped?
JDM [57]

Colin Wilson, in the 50s

Notes to Chapter One: Insider/Outsider
2. Nietzsche 1999B p. 140 (TSZ III, 56:9)
3. From poem 'Adolf Hitler', by Jim Morrison, 1969 (cf. Davis p. 310) http://www.alwaysontherun.net/doors2.htm
Also on live recording of the Boston concerts 1970
Harrison thought that the duality was religiously prior to the "trinity" which "grew out of the duality." (Harrison p. 286) Dionysos himself expresses the dualism of mortal/immortal (Otto p. 73). The American Western operates on the dichotomy of White (good) and Black (bad) with its racial undertones. "Bad whites in westerns are often associated with darkness." (Dyer p. 35) Morrison himself can be seen to fusing the 'Good White/Bad White' in his personae.
4. Brown introduction p. ix
5. Reich p. 247 (Chapter VII 'Break-through into the Biological Realm') Note the term ‘break-through’ used extensively by Morrison.
6. Densmore p.3
7. ed. Rocco ed's intro. p. xviii
8. Nietzsche 2001 p.21 (DD; Nietzsche's dedication to the poet Catulle Mendes, January 1st 1889)
9. Hopkins & Sugarman 1980 p. 45 ‘Without images’, therefore anti-Apollonian. The first edition paperback has a blurb on the back which begins; "Jim Morrison, singer, philosopher, poet, delinquent ..." The book's title is a line from one of Morrison's songs ('Five To One') - see note 246 below
10. Kerenyi's book, 'Dionysos: 'Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life' was not published until 1976, although Part One was completed in 1967. Otto's book [Otto 1965] was translated in 1965, and it is this that is quoted ('A god who is mad!' etc.) Presumably the book that Sugarman first "sets down" was Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy'; "I hadn't been reading long when I came across: 'A god who is mad!' “(Sugarman 1991 p. 131) It seems we must take Sugarman’s claims with a pinch of salt, at least in their detail.
11. Davis p. 21
12. ed. Rocco p. 6
13. Ginsberg (from 'Aether', 1960) p. 251
14. Hopkins & Sugarman 1980 pp. 293-6. See also Davis pp. 366-7
15. Jim Morrison: Ten Years Gone, L. James - Creem Magazine 1981, available at http://archives.waiting-forthe-sun.net/Pages/Interviews/JimInterviews/TenYearsGone.html (accessed 25/02/2005)
16. Davis pp. 301-2 - Themis was opened in 1968 and "became a hip fashion spot in late-sixties L.A. "
17. Kerouac p. 10
18. ib. p. 4
19. Fowlie p. 82
20. Kerouac p. 8
21. Firing Line with William Buckley Jr. The Hippies, taped on Sept. 3 1968. Available at http://www.amazon.com/Firing-Line-William-Buckley-Hippies/dp/B001MBTSK4 (accessed 9/4/09)
22. Interview with James Douglas Morrison, Canadian Broadcasting Co. May 27th 1970, track#1 The Lost Interview Tapes, Featuring Jim Morrison Vol. 1, Bright Midnight 2004
23.Hopkins & Sugarman 1980 p. 18
24. Wilson 1990 (Postscript 1967) p. 290 "I was nearly twenty-five".
25. ib. (Introduction, The Outsider Twenty Years On') p. 6
26. ed. Stanley p. 292 Wilson lectured in the USA in 1961 and 1966
27. ib. ('A Literary incident') p. 60. The connections between the Beats and Wilson was noted early on. In a collection called 'Protest' of 1958 (USA), the editors included a section of excerpts from Beat writers such as Ginsberg and Kerouac, and another section of the English 'Angry Young Men', which included an excerpt from Wilson's Outsider. (cf. ed. Feldman & Gartenberg 1960 p. 10) However, in 1959, Wilson distanced himself from the Beats, writing that they may "represent a kind of revolt, but it is difficult to discover a great deal more." (Wilson 2001) Of Kerouac, Ginsberg, McClure, Ferlinghetti et al he says that their work "achieves vigour at the expense of content." (ib. 93) By the 1960s, Wilson's attitude may have softened slightly as he writes in his book 'Poetry and Mysticism'; "In March 1968, I sat in a San Francisco bar with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and we discussed the death of a girl who had taken an overdose of a new psychedelic drug, and failed to return from her 'trip'. Ferlinghetti admitted to having many reservations about the use of psychedelics, and I tried to explain briefly my own view that mystical experience is a normal potentiality of everyday consciousness, and not something that has to be snatched by inducing states over which we have no control." (Wilson 1970 p. 13) . Wilson dedicated that book to the Beat poet Ferlinghetti who was one of Morrison's heroes. As a young teenager, Jim is said to have visited Ferlinghetti's 'City Lights Book Shop' in San Francisco , once plucking up the courage to say 'hello' to the poet. (Henke 2007 p. 24)
28. cf. Chapter 5 of Wilson 1990 called 'The Pain Threshold'.
29. Nietzsche 1995 p. 23 (I use the Fadiman translation as I assume this was the one that Morrison was most familiar with). Here are some of the basic concepts of Existentialism: "The discomfort in the face of man's own inhumanity, this incalculable tumble before the image of what we are, this 'nausea', as a writer of today calls it, is also the absurd. Likewise the stranger who at certain seconds comes to meet us in a mirror, the familiar and yet alarming brother we encounter in our own photographs is also the absurd." Camus 1975 p. 21. The writer referred to is of course, J.P. Sartre. Camus' first novel was called 'the stranger' (L 'Etranger). Morrison had studied Camus and Sartre. (Hopkins & Sugarman 1980 p. 18)
30. Morrison 1989 p. 129 ('Ode to LA while thinking of Brian Jones, deceased', 1968)
31. Nietzsche 1995 p. 123. cf. "Dionysus entered the world as a conqueror." (Otto p. 77)
32. Morrison 1971 p. 112
33. Wilson 1990 p. 124
34. "And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example." (Camus 1975 p. 11)
35. Wilson 1990 p. 126 Harrison says of Dionysus: "his Epiphany is marked by a manifest thunderstorm." (Harrison p. 408)
36. Wilson 1990 p. 127
37. ed. Doe & Tobler p. 10
38. Morrison 1989 p. 71
39. Reich p. 185
40."Nietzsche 'died of brain cancer' May 6 2003, Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher thought to have died of syphilis, was the victim of a posthumous smear campaign by anti-Nazis, new research shows. A study of medical records has found that, far from suffering a sexually transmitted disease that drove him mad, Nietzsche almost certainly died of brain cancer." full article available at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/05/1051987657451.html (accessed 4/6/2009)
41. Wilson Outsider p. 130
42. Sugarman 1991, p. 134
43. Fowlie p. 4 : Fowlie published (Chicago University Press) his translation of Rimbaud's 'Complete Works' in 1966. In 1968 he received a brief note from Morrison:
" 'Dear Wallace Fowlie, Just wanted to say thanks for doing the Rimbaud translation. I needed it because I don't read French that easily ... I am a rock singer and your book travels around with me’ ... " (Fowlie p. 16) Fowlie hadn't heard of Morrison at the time, and as a university teacher had to ask his students who Morrison was. He put the note with other letters he had received about the book in the University archive.
44. Wilson 1990 p. 131
45. ib. p. 145
46.Nietzsche Prose available at http://www.the-doors-world.com/pages/DoorsMania.htm (accessed 5/6/09)
Link is now dead [2013]:

47. Nietzsche 1999B p. 46 (TSZ 1:XXI 'Voluntary Death')
48. "In Celtic Britain and Gaul the horse goddess Epona was associated with water, fertility and death. There was widespread sacrifice of horses in Celtic Europe in the belief that they would become soul-mounts for their masters' symbolic ride of death." (Saunders p. 82) Note that Morrison regularly symbolically associates the horse with water, most notably in his poem 'Horse Latitudes'. In Greek mythology, Poseidon the sea god was also said to have created the first horse - "he gave the first horse to man." (Hamilton p. 27)
A radio play Nietzsche's Horse (1997) by Lavinia Murray concentrates on and dramatises the moment of Nietzsche's collapse over the beaten horse (BBC Radio 4 broadcast 28/4/1997) in a series of somewhat absurd and surreal vignettes.
49. Morrison 1991 p. 156 (Horse Latitudes) track #5 on Strange Days, the Doors, Elektra Records EKS-74014 October 1967
50. Hopkins/Sugarman 1980 p. 47 - cf. Davis p. 64 & ed. Rocco, ('Cameras Inside the Coffin', J. Rocco) pp. 71-2
51. Morrison 1991 p. 4. In the Doors self-made documentary film 'A Feast of Friends' there is a scene backstage (New York, September 1968) where Morrison improvises an absurdist 'Ode to Friedrich Nietzsche' at the piano, recounting Nietzsche's collapse and subsequent sectioning. (cf. ed. Rocco pp. 71-72)
52. Wilson 1990 p. 144
53. ed. Sugarman 1988 (Lizzie James interview with Jim Morrison 1970) page p. 124
54. Wilson 1990 p. 145
55. Morrison 1991 p. 124
56. Wilson 1990 p. 146
57. Morrison 1991 p. 40

Chapter Two: The Poet Possessed

6) A Poet's Manual

Morrison evidently read Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy' very closely, taking it almost as a manual of poetic method. When Nietzsche says that dreams are the inspiration for the "glorious divine figures" of which the poets write, [58] Morrison will adopt this as his mode of poetic creation.
The singer Nico [59] had a brief relationship with Morrison in 1967. She wanted to write her own songs but couldn't get started. Morrison "told her to write down her dreams ... This would provide her raw material." [60]

Nietzsche would assert: "The beautiful appearance of the dream-worlds, in creating which everyman is a perfect artist, is the prerequisite of all plastic art, ... and an important part of poetry also." [61]

For Nietzsche, dreams themselves 'interpret' life, and provide ‘training’ for life, [ib.] because "our innermost beings, our common subconscious experiences, express themselves in dreams." [ib.]

Enter again the sweet forest
Enter the hot dream
JDM [62]

Brown writes that "dreams are certainly an activity of the mind struggling to circumvent the formal-logical law of contradiction."[63]
Morrison develops this thought in an interesting compressed poetic aphorism:

Dreams are
at once fruit & outcry
against an atrophy of the senses.
JDM [64]

Whereas Brown sees the dream as a rebellion against the logical tendency, Morrison has the dream as a protest against the supposed degradation of sense perception. Man has ‘fallen’; his perceptions have been ‘narrowed’ – no doubt to allow the development of logic. But the usurped senses will not go quietly; they are the conscience pangs of the defeated irrational. The poet takes up these remnants and restores perception to its former glory via his disordered senses.

In his book on Rimbaud and Morrison, Fowlie confirms that Rimbaud used this method:

"By use of the dream, Rimbaud adds his testimonial to the belief of Nerval, Baudelaire and Mallarme that the purest disinterestedness of poets manifests itself in the dream." [65]

Morrison was searching for the ability to write poetry automatically [66] , for, as Nietzsche said, the Dionysiac poet creates "unconsciously." [67]

Even when awake, the poet's world must have a dreamlike quality:
"The poet is a poet only in so far as he sees himself surrounded by forms which live and act before him, and into whose innermost being he penetrates." [68]
For "at bottom the aesthetic phenomenon is simple: if a man merely has the faculty of seeing perpetual vitality around him, of living continually surrounded by hosts of spirits, he will be a poet." [ib.]

And here we can see the connection with music too, it being used to enable and to enhance this 'faculty'.

Music inflames temperament
JDM [69]

Of Schiller, Nietzsche says that "before the act of creation he did not perhaps have before him or within him any series of images accompanied by an ordered thought-relationship; but his condition was rather that of a musical mood ... A certain musical mood of mind precedes, and only after this ensues the poetical idea." [70]

Morrison would then be drawn to working with musicians hoping to unlock the free flow of his poetic dream worlds, saying that "poetry is very close to music", and that music's "hypnotic quality" puts the poet in the right "state of mind" leaving him "free" to allow his "subconscious" to "play itself out wherever it goes." [71]
Not only that, but musical accompaniment gave Morrison the feeling of "a kind of security" [ib.] to recite his poetry.

In other words, music re-creates that lost world of perception which is inhabited by the dream. However, a poem is not the dream itself. The poem is – in this case – an attempt to put the dream into words. A dream itself is never words but always images.

7) Words & Music

"Words can lie. The mode of expression never lies."
Reich [72]

"Lyric poetry is dependent on the spirit of music."
FWN [73]

"When one talks about music its power is lessened, it loses its effectiveness, the smallest loss due to verbalisation occurs in tragedy, says Nietzsche."
Meltzer [74]

Nietzsche claimed there to be a gulf and an antagonism between words and music. In a posthumously published fragment from the time of 'The Birth of Tragedy' he wrote that "there cannot ... be any question as to a necessary relation between poem and music; for the two worlds brought here into connection are too strange to one another to enter into more than a superficial alliance." [75]

For Nietzsche, "the origin of music lies beyond all individuation," [ib.] i.e. it is primal, non-Apolline.
"The Will is the object of music but not the origin of it." As Schopenhauer - Nietzsche's mentor during the period of 'The Birth of Tragedy' - says, music is a 'copy' of the will, [76] and it certainly shouldn't concern itself with the emotions - in the way that lyric poetry does: "The lyric poet interprets music to himself through the symbolic world of emotions." [75]

Words then are parasitic and inferior to musical tones, while poetry itself is generated by "melody." [77]

Once again, we see Morrison following Nietzsche; his song writing consists in his quickly putting words to an initial melody. [78]

"A song comes with the music, a sound or rhythm first, then I make up words as fast as I can just to hold on to the feel." JDM [79]

It is the music that comes first - and last.

Nietzsche will say that "language can never adequately render the cosmic symbolism of music, because music stands in symbolic relation to the primordial contradiction - primordial pain in the heart of Primal Unity, and therefore symbolises a sphere which is beyond and before all phenomena." [80]

Morrison accordingly would feel that "lyrics aren't that necessary in music." [81]

However, Nietzsche's views on 'folk song' were no doubt interpreted by Morrison as a positive endorsement of the blues:

"What is the folk-song ... but the perpetuum vestigium of a union of the Apollonian and the Dionysian? Its enormous diffusion among all peoples, further re-enforced by ever-new births, is testimony to the power of this artistic dual impulse of Nature: which leaves its vestiges in the folk-song just as the orgiastic movements of a people perpetuate themselves in its music. Indeed, it might also be historically demonstrable that every period rich in folk-songs has been most violently stirred by Dionysian currents, which we must always consider the substratum and prerequisite of the folk-song." [82]

Nietzsche waxed poetic on the awesome transfiguring power of music: "we find our hope of a renovation and purification of the German spirit through the fire-magic of music." [83]

Similarly, Morrison saw his musical performance as a striving "to break through to a cleaner, freer, realm." [84]

Poetry then, as expression of the dream, can lead back into the wordless, irrational and antilogical realm of Dionysian music.

8) Shamanism

It might be well here to mention the oft discussed figure of the shaman, particularly as it is associated with Morrison's stage performances with the Doors. The 1980 biography says that as a student Morrison was "into the shaman: the poet inspired," [85] as if the shaman and the poet were synonymous.
Eliade's influential book on shamanism was published in 1964, and Norman O. Brown's 'Life Against Death' - which, as we shall see, had an important influence on Morrison in the same period - also mentions shamanism. The "primitive shaman" is described by Brown as "the historical ancestor of philosopher and prophet and poet ... with his techniques for ecstatic departure from the body, soul-levitation, soul-transmigration, celestial navigation." [86]

When around eighteen years old, Morrison wrote "a paper called 'The Sexual Neuroses of Crowds'. It is the germ of Jim's conception of the performer as healer, the shaman who can draw out evil spirits and banish them. Crowds, like people, have diseases that can be diagnosed and treated."

In his published poetry Morrison has a section in 'The Lords' describing; "A sensuous panic, deliberately evoked through drugs, chants, dancing" which 'hurls the shaman into a trance." [88]

Music critics also talked of Morrison's shamanistic performances, [89] and he certainly played up to that during 1966-9. However, by 1970 he is playing it down, telling an interviewer that "the shaman is a healer - like a witch-doctor. I don't see people turning to me for that."

Note that Morrison is recoiling from the over-wide and loose use of the term 'shaman'.
As the classical scholar Fritz Graf points out, "'shaman' is a term that originally belonged to a very small and clearly defined area among the Tungus in Northern Siberia : those societies believed that a specialist could communicate with the powers that govern the world and distribute or withhold health or a successful hunt. He did so in an ecstatic journey to these powers with the help of spirits that he had acquired during his initiation. Mainly through the work of the historian of religion Mircea Eliade, this narrow definition of a shaman has been broadened to encompass all religious specialists that combine ecstasy and healing; the underlying notion is that shamanism is a phenomenon that was shared at one time by most human societies. This assumption and its underlying evolutionary concept are highly problematic; it works only at the price of emptying the term of much of its specificity."

Naturally, Graf had little time for the notion that Dionysos was a 'shaman': "Early Greece had no shamans," [92] although Dionysos is undoubtedly connected with "the ecstasy of dance and drugs." [93]

Morrison rejects the ‘healing’ aspect of shamanism in relation to his own work. It might be proper to say that Morrison wanted his work to wound, rather than heal.

9) Drink & Drugs

Zarathustra stood there like one drunken: his glance dulled, his tongue faltered and his feet staggered.
FWN [94]

"Drug addiction is the dead end where only youth exists, and from which you pass not to adulthood, but to death and transfiguration." [95]

In 1970 Morrison would tell an interviewer, "Three years ago there was a wave of hallucinogenics. I don't think anyone really has the strength to sustain those kicks forever. Then you get into narcotics, of which alcohol is one. Instead of trying to think more, you try to kill thought." [96]

No doubt reflecting his own transition from experimenting with lysergic acid - in order to open the 'doors of perception' - to an alcohol habit, a "pain killer." [ib.]

He describes an attraction to alcohol due to its being "like gambling", because "it could work out good or it could be disastrous. It’s like the throw of the dice." [ib.]

This is reminiscent of the passages about Dionysos in Hamilton 's 'Mythology' - a book he is said to have carried around with him : [97] "wine is bad as well as good ... The reason that Dionysus was so different at one time from another was because of this double nature of wine and so of the god of wine. He was man's benefactor and he was man's destroyer."

Nietzsche implies that drunkenness is the origin of music and song. [99] Those who might call this Dionysian 'rush' [100] a "folk disease" [101] are "bloodless weaklings", incapable of experiencing the "glowing life" of the Dionysian. [ib.]

But at what cost is this drunkenness? Drinking for Morrison was 'like the difference between suicide and a slow capitulation." [102] He had read Reich's warnings but heeded them not, for had not the latter written that narcotics "ruin the organism", and that narcotic addition was caused by "the denial of sexual happiness" and the "lack of genital satisfaction."? [103]

In his book 'Beyond The Outsider' (1965), Wilson discusses Huxley's 'The Doors of Perception' [104] and the use of hallucinogenics. After taking mescaline himself, Wilson thought that it "seems to inhibit evolutionary consciousness." [105] By 'evolutionary consciousness' he means; "all pleasures associated with the intellect and intellectual sensibility (which includes music, painting ...)" [ib.]
Neither kykeon [106] nor "the wine, dying on the vine" [107] is the answer.

Am I soothsayer?
Or a dreamer?
Or a drunkard?
Or a dream-reader?
Or a midnight-bell?
FWN [108]

Running, I saw a Satan
or Satyr, moving beside
me, a fleshly shadow
of my secret mind ...
A hairy Satyr running
JDM [109]

"The Greek fearlessly embraced the figure of the satyr; the man of the primitive, the natural, the man of the woods." FWN [110]

God, you are a satyr in disguise.
JDM [111]

"The Dionysian reveller sees himself as a satyr, and as satyr he in turn beholds the god."
FWN [112]

"... the essence of the Oedipal complex is the project of becoming God."

Notes to Chapter Two: The Poet Possessed
58. Nietzsche 1995 pp. 1-2
59. German born Christa Pfaffgen - "the world's first supermodel" (The Times, 26/9/2008, 'The Perfect Sturm', J. Cale, pp. 13-15) appeared in Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita' before joining Andy Warhol's 'Factory' in 1967. She made solo recordings as well as recording with the avant-garde rock group 'The Velvet Underground'. Cale, of the Velvets and her producer remarked that Morrison "drew her into his poetic circle."(ib.)
60. ed. Rocco 1997 ('Nico: The Life of an Icon', R. Witts) p. 137
61. Nietzsche 1995 p. 2
62. Morrison 1989 p. 136
63. Brown p. 319. The 'law of contradiction', also called 'the law of non-contradiction': "In modern logic, the principle that no statement of the form (p and not-p) can be true. The classical defense of the law is in Aristotle's 'Metaphysics' Book IV, 4f." (Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. T. Mautner, Penguin 1997 p. 390)
64. Morrison 1991 p. 131
65. Fowlie p. 72
66. Morrison 1989 (Prologue, 'self-interview', p. 1)
67. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 12) p. 45
68. ib. (BT 8) p. 26
69. Morrison 1991 p. 5
70. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 5) p. 14
71. Hopkins 2006 p. 214
72. Reich p. 176
73. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 6) p. 19
74. Meltzer p. 245
75. On Music and Words, F. Nietzsche, A Fragment from 1871. Available at http://users.compaqnet.be/cn127103/Nietzsche_various/on_music_and_words_and_rhetoric.htm
(accessed 7/5/09)
76. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 16) p. 56
77. ib. (BT 6) p. 17
78. ed. Sugarman, 1988 p. 95
79. Rolling Stone p. 16
80. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 6) p. 19
81. Circus Magazine (1970) Interview by Stevenson available at: http://archives.waiting-forthe-sun.net/Pages/Interviews/JimInterviews/circus.html (accessed 25/07/2005) . Excerpts from the original tapes of this interview are also available in Henke on an enclosed CD called 'Jim Speaks'.
82. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 6) p. 17
83. ib. (BT 20) p. 75
84. Doe & Tobler p. 48
85. Hopkins & Sugarman 1980 p. 45
86. Brown pp. 157-8
87. Dalton p. 28
88. Morrison 1971 p. 71 This was written before Morrison’s involvement in music.
89. ed. Rocco p. 6
90. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 123
91. Graf 2009 pp. 48-9
92. ib. p. 49
93. ib. p. 170
94. Nietzsche 1999B (TSZ IV 'The Drunken Song') p. 229
95. Roger Scruton 1998 p. 99
96, ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 189. Hallucinogenics did indeed wreak some havoc in the 1960s, early 1970s. There were many 'acid casualties', such as Peter Green, the talented guitarist, singer and composer who played with John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac. He left the latter band suddenly in 1970; "I had to go to hospital 'cos I took too many LSD trips. I wanted the wisdom of LSD but I couldn't quite get back again. I took one trip too many ..." (Interview with Peter Green by Cliff Jones, Mojo Magazine September 1996 #34, London, Emap p. 75). He goes on to say; "You come back from your first few trips and it’s OK, but when you do six or seven and you have a few under your belt it gets more intense. Something happens to you so you're not in control anymore. Some one else is."(ib. p. 76) This last quote reminds us of Morrison's 'Lords', as explored in this essay - see chapter four, 'The Artist Tyrant'.
97. Davis p. 73. Hamilton 's book 'Mythology' had a deep effect on Morrison. For example, its account of the death of Hyacinth describes Apollo's discus unintentionally striking Hyacinth - "a beautiful youth" - in the head, killing him. He dies in Apollo's arms: "while he held him the boy's head fell back as a flower does when its stem is broken. He was dead. Apollo kneeling beside him wept for him, dying so young, so beautiful." (Hamilton pp. 115-6.) Compare this to Morrison's expression: "A child is like a flower, his head is just floating in the breeze." (quoted by Patti Smith in a review of the album 'An American Prayer', Creem Magazine (1979) available at http://www.oceanstar.com/patti/poetry/amprayer.htm  (accessed 17/10/2003)
98. Hamilton p. 72
99. Nietzsche 1995 p. 4
100. German 'Rausch - cf. Nietzsche 1999A p. 15
101. Nietzsche 1995 p. 4
102. Rolling Stone p. 21
103. Reich p. 220
104. Huxley, also available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_of_Perception (accessed 2/7/09)
105. Wilson p. 221 1966. However, some argue the opposite and suggest that the ingestion of hallucinogenics brought about a 'leap' in human consciousness in pre-history (cf. McKenna's 'Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution' 1992, and Hancock's 'Supernatural: Meetings with the Ancient Teachers of Mankind' 2005.
Hancock [Kindred Spirit Magazine #77 2005] contends also that the supernatural beings encountered in drug induced shamanic visions actually exist(ed) and were the teachers of early mankind, enabling the Nietzschean leap ‘from ape to man’. Such beings can relate to Morrison’s Lords and Connectors, of course.
106. Hallucinogen used in the Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient Greece, "made from ergot, a toxic fungus that grows in grain containing substances related to LSD" (ed. Badiner & Grey p. 91) The Eleusinian Mysteries "became affiliated to the mysteries of Dionysos." [Harrison p. 150]
107. Morrison 1991 p. 5
108. Nietzsche 1999B (TSZ 'The Drunken Song') p. 233
109. Morrison 1989 pp. 37-9
110. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 8) p. 24
111. Morrison 1991 p. 174
112. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 8) p. 27
113. Brown p. 118

Chapter Three: The Unrepressed Man

10) Freedom

You call yourself free? I would hear of your master thought, not of your escape from the yoke.
Are you a man that should escape from the yoke? Many have cast off all their values when they cast off their servitude.
Free from what? How does that concern Zarathustra?
Let your eye answer me frankly: Free for what?
FWN [114]

"People claim they want to be free ... (But) people are terrified to be set free - they hold onto their chains. They fight anyone who tries to break those chains."
JDM [115]

Norman O. Brown's 'Life Against Death' was published in 1959 when Morrison would have been about 16. He read it then alongside Wilson's 'The Outsider' and Nietzsche's 'The Birth of Tragedy' [116] when it became a "deep influence." [117] There are indications that he studied the book closely, using its extensive bibliography to make further inroads into Brown's meaning. [118]

If Wilson gave Morrison the persona of Nietzsche, then Brown gave him a conceptual orientation for a Nietzschean philosophy. The main Brownite theme was 'freedom' (in Nietzsche, 'the will to power') [119] , personified as 'the unrepressed man' (or in Nietzsche the 'Uebermensch'). [120]

For Brown, mankind as a species is sick, neurotic, diseased. He cites Nietzsche as his authority for this view. [121]

To quote in full the passage in Nietzsche to which Brown alludes:

"But thereby he [i.e. man] introduced that most grave and sinister illness, from which mankind has not yet recovered, the suffering of man from the disease called man, as the result of a violent breaking with his animal past." [122]

‘The animal past’ – i.e., the Dionysian; man is a disease in as far as he has evolved away from his healthy animality. As he had to ‘narrow perception’ to become man, so too did he have to repress his instincts, and became sick thereby.
The same idea also occurs in Nietzsche's 'Thus Spake Zarathustra’: " 'The earth', he [i.e., Zarathustra] said, 'has a skin, and this skin has diseases. One of these diseases, for example, is called "man'. " [123]
For Brown, this disease is a "general" [124] neurosis [125] which afflicts all mankind. Following Nietzsche, this neurosis is caused when "instincts which do not find a vent without turn inwards." [126]

Morrison would say that "if natural energy and impulses are too severely suppressed for too long, they become violent." [127]

11) Eros & Thanatos

The duality of life (Eros) and death (Thanatos) dominates Brown's thinking, as the book's title makes clear. They are "the energies which create human culture." [128]

death & my cock
are the world
JDM [129]

The repression of both life and death instincts has made man sick; he needs to return to a state of childlike innocence [130] to get healthy. Nietzsche advocated the same:

Innocence is the child, a forgetfulness, a new beginning, a game, a self-rolling wheel, a first movement, a holy Yea.
FWN [131]

For Brown, the concept of play typifies this childlikeness. This was also central to Morrison's view. He differentiated between 'play' - which is 'open' and 'free' - and 'the game', which involves rules and so isn't free. [132]

When play dies it becomes the Game.
JDM [133]

A real man wants two things: danger and play.
FWN [134]

Note that danger and death are always close to this affirmation of life in play.
To Brown, "death is the reality with which human beings ... cannot come to terms." [135]

In his quest to become Brown's 'the unrepressed man', Morrison will obsess over and court death [136] :
"Jim Morrison's life and art entailed a continuous dialogue with death." [137]

They are waiting to take us into
the severed garden ...
Death makes angels of us all
gives us wings
where we had shoulders
smooth as raven's
claws ...
JDM [138]

Gently they stir
Gently rise
The dead are new-born
with ravaged limbs
& wet souls
JDM [139]

In an interview of 1969 he would say:

"I want to feel what death's like. I want to taste it, hear it, smell it." [140]
Indeed, he found it strange that death is feared more than pain, because "life hurts more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over."

And to the dead there is no time.

12) Time

Time does not exist ... JDM [142]

"Unrepressed life has no sense of time." [143]

Just as to Nietzsche the healthy man does not have an historical sense, [144] to Brown, "activity without any sense of time is play." [145]

Art, philosophy and psychoanalysis, then, must work towards the unification of an acceptance of death with that of life; this can only happen when all repression is swept aside. [146]
A major stumbling block to this project, according to Brown, is the "human family." [147] Morrison's cutting himself off from his own family and claiming that they were all dead, [148] no doubt demonstrated yet another attempt at lifting 'repression'.
This leads us to the so-called oedipal complex - the desire to kill the father (death) and to copulate with the mother (life), which is actually unsatisfactory to Brown, as we shall see.

Morrison would say: "I used to have this magic formula ... to break into the subconscious. I would lay there and say over and over, 'Fuck the mother, kill the father, fuck the mother, kill the father...' That mantra can never become meaningless. It's too basic." [149]

To Brown the Oedipal desire to have a child with the mother is to become the father of oneself. [150]
This is the continual re-invention of oneself, an 'eternal recurrence of the same,' [151] and so is a 'flight from death' - a "perverted world" to Nietzsche, "like that of a son wanting to create his father." [75]
Incestuousness is the negative aspect of the eternal return – it is the inhuman repetition of a closed circuit [e.g. Oedipus, Myrrha – the latter tricked her father into having sex with her – see Ovid’s Met. X].

Morrison's Nietzschean Dionysianism, as refracted by Brown, is an attempt to remove repression by embracing death in the form of joy in destruction and the refusal to flee from death.

Morrison's 'slow capitulation' is a form of suicide which incidentally projects art-forms as it spirals out of control. It kills the past as it goes forward to copulate with its future demise.

I haven't fucked much with the past
But I've fucked plenty with the future
Over the skin of silk are scars
From the splinters of stations and walls I've caressed
[Patti Smith, Babelogue,

Those who Race toward Death
Those who wait
Those who worry.
JDM [152]

It is "art" that "seduces into the struggle against repression," [153] says Brown.
And if life is justified through art, "then man's sickness may be, again Nietzsche's phrase, a sickness in the sense that pregnancy is a sickness, and it may end in a birth and a rebirth." [154]

Notes to Chapter Three: The Unrepressed Man

114. Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Tille’s translation) quoted in Wilson 1990 p. 142
115. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 64
116. Hopkins & Sugarman 1980 pp. 13-18
117. ib. p. 45 - cf. Davis p. 36
118. Clear evidence of Brown's influence on Morrison: "the incest taboo in effect says that you may enjoy your mother only by looking at her from a distance" (Brown. p. 173). In 'The Lords', Morrison has: "You may enjoy life from afar. You may look at things but not taste them. You may caress the mother only with the eyes. You cannot touch these phantoms." (Morrison 1971 p. 45) Brown's bibliography to his book is extensive, and one can imagine Morrison working through it; Blake, Coleridge, Eliade, Frazer, Freud, Hegel, Huxley, Kaufmann, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Otto, Reich, Rilke, Ruskin, Russell, Sartre, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Sombart, Sorel, Spengler, Tillich, Veblen, Weber, Whitehead, Wittgenstein; all have works listed, as well as many rather more obscure authorities.
119. cf. Nietzsche 1999B (TSZ I:15 'The Thousand and One Goals') p. 36
120. cf. ib. (TSZ Prologue: 3) p. 3
121. Brown p. 6
122. Nietzsche 2003A p. 57 (GM II 'Guilt Bad Conscience and the like') Brown used Samuel's translation.
123. Nietzsche 1976 p. 242 (TSZ II On Great Events)
124. Brown p. xi
125. 'Neurosis: Mental disturbance characterised by a state of unconscious conflict, usually accompanied by anxiety, obsessional fear' (Chambers Dictionary)
126. Nietzsche 2003A ib. p.56
127. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 123 But Morrison's use of 'suppressed', rather than Brown's 'repressed', suggests an influence from Wilhelm Reich. However, one assumes that he was introduced to Reich via Brown's book which comments on him.
128. Brown p. 21
129. Morrison 1991 p. 60 ('Lament for the Death of my Cock')
130. Brown p. 32
131. Nietzsche 1999B p. 14 (TSZ I 'The Three Metamorphoses')
132. ed. Rocco p. 9
133 Morrison 1971 p. 13
134. Nietzsche 1976 p. 178 (TSZ I)
135. Brown p. 38
136. ed. Rocco p. 82
137. ib. p. 146
138. Morrison 1991 p. 10
139. ib. p. 57
140. ed. Doe & Tobler p. 92
141. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 124
142. Morrison 1989 p. 120
143. Brown p. 93
144. Nietzsche 1980 pp. 8-9 (section 1) "He cannot learn to forget but always remains attached to the past ..."
145. Brown p. 96
146. ib. p. 109
147. ib. p. 113
148. Press release of 1967: under 'Family Info.', Morrison put one word - "dead." (ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 9)
149. Davis p. 131
150. Brown p. 118
151. cf. Nietzsche 1999B p. 108 (TSZ III: 46, 2, 'The Vision and the Enigma')
152. Morrison 1989 p. 194
153. Brown p. 64
154. ib. p. 84

Heroic depiction of Nietzsche

Chapter Four: Artist Tyrants

13) Tour of the Labyrinth

" ... art is the highest task and the proper metaphysical activity of this life."
FWN [155]

"It is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified."
FWN [156]

"In the vision, this chorus beholds its lord and master Dionysus, and so it is forever a chorus that serves."
FWN [157]

"The eye symbolises Apollo as 'viewer of the heavens', the sun, which is also the eye of Zeus."

It was the Beat poet Michael McClure who encouraged Morrison to publish his poetry. Two volumes, 'The Lords' and 'The New Creatures' respectively, being eventually published together in one book . [159]

'The Lords', subtitled 'Notes on Vision', can be seen as an Apollonian work due to its content and its oracular form. While 'The New Creatures' - in its evocation of a primal world - can be called Dionysian. [160]

Philosophically, the concept of 'the Lords' - which actually appears in both volumes - is worthy of discussion. In his online study of Morrison's poetry, Grant Cook relates 'the Lords' to Nietzsche's 'The Lords of the Earth' [161] named in his posthumous collection 'The Will to Power'. [162]
True, they certainly bear some relation to Nietzsche's "ruling race," [163] but they have a more ambiguous character all their own.

Given Morrison's deep interest in Greek mythology, we might bring in the fact that the term 'Titans' means 'Lords' in Greek. [164] The successors to the Titans - the Olympians - were also known, in relation to the Titans who they had conquered, as 'the New Gods'. [165] So we can draw a parallel here with 'the New Creatures': 'the Lords and the New Creatures' reflect the Titans and the Olympians. Furthermore, Dionysos inaugurated a "new worship." [166] The name of Dionysos most probably derives from the Phrygian dio- (god), and -neos (new); - so 'new god' [167] - i.e., Dionysos, was not at first accepted as one of the twelve Olympians. [168]

All in all, we have a Nietzschean process of upward evolution, a process of continual self-overcoming. As Cook acknowledges, this is a hierarchical philosophy. [162]
In Morrison's world - as in the world of Nietzsche and the ancient Greeks - there are Lords or Masters, and there are Slaves.

"You are all a bunch of slaves!" JDM [169]

"Rimbaud resembles Nietzsche in denouncing what both interpreted in Christianity as the morality of enslavement." [170]

"There is nothing more terrible than a barbaric slave class, who have learned to regard their existence as an injustice, and now prepare to avenge, not only themselves, but all future generations." FWN [171]

There is one consolation for the aristocrat faced with the terrifying "revolt of the slaves," [172] and that is the fact that "the slave is somehow in love with his own chains." [173]

It is this psychological insight that induces the idea of 'the Lords' to Morrison. Whereas force, or 'the will to power,' suggests the Nietzschean 'Lords of the Earth', it is Brown's question - "How can there be an animal which represses itself?" [174] that evinces Morrison's own 'Lords'. Due to the very slavish nature of the average man, 'the Lords' are able to insinuate themselves covertly and control by acquiescence.

They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
['The Secret People', G.K. Chesterton] [175]

Fear the Lords who are secret among us
The Lords are within us
Born of sloth and cowardice.
JDM [176]

It was while he was at UCLA (1965) that Morrison "wrote concentrated poems that described a superhuman elite of elevated beings - 'the Lords' - who operated on a higher psychic plane than the rest of humanity, who 'saw things as they were' ..." [177] " ... the hyperreal controllers of human culture and behaviour, the invisible high lamas who intercede on humanity's behalf with destiny and the gods." [178]

"The Lords. Events take place beyond our knowledge or control.
Our lives are lived for us." JDM [179]

This describes an inauthentic existence: it is "the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness that people have in the face of reality. They have no real control over events or their own lives. Something is controlling them." JDM [180]

And this is the antithesis not only of the unrepressed existence, but of authenticity too. As Colin Wilson says; "Inauthenticity is to feel futile, contingent, without purpose. Authenticity is to be driven by a deep sense of purpose." [181]

"How can man escape inauthenticity? There are two ways [according to Heidegger]. First of all, one must live constantly in the face of death, recognising it as the ultimate necessity ... There is another way ... Poetry and myth can bring man closer to the realm of pure Being." Wilson [182]

To Morrison, as well as the above two ways there is a third - to assert ones will and to master and control others.

"We can only try to enslave others."
JDM [179]

"Freedom only exists in a world where what is possible is defined at the same time as what is not possible. Without law there is no freedom ... At the conclusion of the most complete liberation, Nietzsche therefore chooses the most complete subordination." [183]

He who controls others is free in himself; intentional – not passive - perception is the means to control:

"But gradually, special perceptions are being developed."
JDM [179]

Where Blake wanted to widen perceptions [Blake p. xxii] and where Rimbaud wanted to derange them, Morrison advocates the evolution of unique perceptual powers which will allow the new masters to enslave others.

"It became clear to me that what we are dealing with here is a problem of evolution." [184]

"The idea of the 'Lords' is beginning to form in some minds."
JDM [179]

These new masters - the Lords - are the product of the 'mind', i.e. the higher minds of a few. They are more evolved beings by token of their heightened perceptual powers. Seeming to inhabit other planes of existence, like the gods, they are able to intersect with our own.

"we should enlist them into bands of perceivers to tour the labyrinth during their mysterious nocturnal appearances."
JDM [179]

I am thy labyrinth.
FWN [185]
"We must now avail ourselves of all the principles of art hitherto considered in order to find our way through the labyrinth, as we must call it, of the origin of Greek tragedy." FWN [186]

I am a guide to the labyrinth.
JDM [187]

With the emphasis on perception, and the mention of nocturnal mystery, 'the Lords' have a decidedly Apollonian cast.

The night like a vast
conspiracy to dream.
JDM [188]

"This deep consciousness of nature, healing and helping in sleep and dreams, is at the same time the symbolical analogue of the soothsaying faculty and the arts generally which make life possible and worth living."
FWN [189]

"The Lords have secret entrances, and they know disguises. But they give themselves away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a glance."
JDM [179]

Just as the ancient Norse believed that their god Odin went among them in a broad brimmed hat, so too the Lords are amongst us. To Morrison "the Lords are a romantic race of people who have found a way to control their environment and their own lives. They're somehow different from other people." [190]

What else is this but resurgence in the belief in an Aryan race? [191] Driven underground by the Judeo/Christian 'repression,' [192] Morrison's "hidden gods of the blood" [288], linger on, ready to reappear, recognised by those who know the sight - blood calls to blood.

"He simply disappeared when the times turned against him, and remained invisible for more than a thousand years, working anonymously and indirectly. Archetypes are like riverbeds which dry up when the water deserts them, but which it can find again at any time."

The Lords have been busy these past two millennia developing 'special perceptions'. They are a master-race - and who are their slaves today? It seems the slaves are those consumers of modern culture which the Lords have manipulated in preparation for their return one day in the future.

As befits the hierarchical concept, there are another layer of people in between the Lords and the slave masses [thereby adhering to the basic Indo-European tripartite division of functions]. These are 'the connectors', who serve to facilitate the Lords in their enslavement of the masses.

People need
Writers, heroes, stars
To give life form ...
Ceremonies, theatre, dances
To reassert Tribal needs & memories
a call to worship, uniting.
JDM [194]

The connectors "are able to assemble masses," [22] and no doubt prepare the ground for the Lords, who concentrate on higher culture.

"The Lords give us books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas. Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent." JDM [195]

The emphasis on cinema once again announces the Apolline nature of 'The Lords: Notes on Vision', with its dreamlike image-making. It points too to Morrison's counterpointed longing for the Dionysian:

"There are no longer 'dancers', the possessed. The cleavage of men into actor and spectators is the central fact of our time ... we are content with the 'given' in sensation's quest. We have been metamorphosised from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark."
JDM [196]

And yet there is a recognition - as in Nietzsche - that the Apolline is necessary to temper the Dionysian. What Nietzsche called "gradations of rank." [197]

"Cinema is the most totalitarian of the arts."
JDM [198]

"Vision is a form of prophecy. When Rimbaud says in 'Parade', 'I alone have the key to the barbarous procession ... He sees the invisible spectacle (parade) going on behind the real one."

The soft parade has now begun.
JDM [200]

Morrison sees not a 'barbarous parade', but a decadent one - a 'soft parade'.

The Apollonian eye is itself erotic perception:

"exhibition was thought to be due to an especially strong erogenicity of the eye."
Reich [201]

"Too much glint of light in the eye."
JDM [179]

There is a pronounced obsession with the eye, with vision, in all of Morrison's writing. Rocco says that Nietzsche's "Dionysian force" challenged Apollonian ocularcentrism. And yet it seems that Morrison, that supposed disciple of Dionysos, is rather praying at the temple of Apollo - in his writings at least. But this can be deceptive. Even here, Morrison is not an adherent of the single-point vision, but rather of the multiple-vision - those 'special perceptions'. Just as Brown extols the polysexuality of the 'polymorphously perverse,' [202] so Morrison extols a polymorphous perception.

"Seeing all perspectives at once."
JDM [203]

More than that, Morrison exhibits a veritable aversion to the 'evil eye' in his longing for touch in a remarkable piece he wrote for 'Eye' magazine in 1968. Here he complains: "Ask anyone what sense he would preserve above all others. Most would say sight, forfeiting a million eyes in a body for two in the skull."
The piece begins with a prophetically autobiographical vignette:
"He sought exposure, and lived the horror of trying to assemble a myth before a billion dull, dry eyes. Leaving his plane, he strode to the wire fence, against the advice of his agents, to touch hands."
He says further that "Blind, we could live and possibly discover wisdom", and that the "blind copulate, eyes in their skin."
The eye is like a parasite:
"The eye is a hungry mouth
"That feeds on the world."

There is a sense that 'the world' seen by the eye is not real, as well as being dangerous and damaging;
"'Seeing' always implies the possibility of damaged privacy, for as eyes reveal the huge external world, our own infinite internal spaces are opened for others."

He laments that a desired woman is "chosen first by visual appeal", but her "image is never real in the eye, it is engraved on the ends of the fingers."
But the eyes have established a tyranny. They have usurped the authority of the other senses."

Morrison's fear of the eye also contains a sense of awe, because the eye is godly:
"Ptah gave birth to man from his mouth, the gods from his eyes."
After referring to Oedipus, Tiresias, St. Paul and others, he asks with some anguish:
"Why is blindness holy?"
The answer emerges that 'Light' is Promethean and salvific;
"The eye is a creature of fire."

The idea of vision escapes
the animal worm whose earth
is an ocean, whose eye is its body.
JDM [205]

Herein lays Morrison's fascination with the Apollonian art-form of the cinema.

Jim Morrison

14) Cinema

"Camera, as all-seeing god." JDM [206]

"True art is the ability to create images." FWN [207]

"I offer images." JDM [208]

"The eye symbolises the solar door giving access to celestial regions."

"The Apollonian frenzy excites the eye above all, so that it gains the power of vision."
FWN [210]

"That sunlike eye [of Apollo] which perceives but does not taste, which always keeps a distance." [211]

Morrison saw cinema as having its roots in magic and sorcery, "a summoning of phantoms," [212] and in alchemy too, "an erotic science, involved in buried aspects of reality, aimed at purifying and transforming all being and matter." [213]
He echoes Brown here, who described alchemy as "the last effort of Western man to produce a science based on an erotic sense of reality." [214]
Morrison thought that film was "the closest approximation in art that we have to the actual flow of consciousness, in both dreamlife and in everyday perception of the world." [215]

He noted though that "film compresses everything", because when "you put a form on reality, it's going to look more intense." [216]

And as befits an Apollonian art-form, film is also ephemeral because it is "perishable" in contrast to poetry which is "eternal." [217]

And yet cinema touches on something most profound;

"Cinema returns us to anima, religion of matter, which gives each thing its special divinity and sees gods in all things and beings." JDM [218]

Morrison hoped that film would be able to create "an intermittent other-world, a powerful, infinite mythology." [219]

"The Apollinian power to give form is further associated with the creation of illusions, while the Dionysian frenzy carries with it a suggestion of blind will."

15) Apollo & Dionysos

"The continual development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality."
FWN [221]

"Though I love the bull's neck on him; I also want to see the eyes of the angel."
FWN [222]

From his throat, dreams
sing to ships and sailors
nightmares of our time:
island universe
dark with narcotic
over quicksilver
waters ...
[from 'Some Deaths', W. Lowenfels (1964)]

How do the antinomies of life/death instincts play against Nietzsche's Apollonian/Dionysian antinomy in 'The Birth of Tragedy'?
Brown devotes a whole chapter to the latter in 'Life Against death.' [223] Brown understands Apollo and Dionysus as a process of sublimation. [224] The 'Greek Dionysian' [225] of Nietzsche is an example of the Apollonian sublimation of the primitive Dionysian. The latter, unsublimated, is the Dionysian "witch's brew" Nietzsche talks of, [ib.] which can be found, according to Brown, in de Sade and Hitler, for example.

"The mass death in the war for the glory of the German race is the apotheosis of this witches' dance." Reich [226]

The sublimated Greek Dionysian consciousness, on the other hand, can be discerned in the Romantics, like Blake, and in their 'heirs', Nietzsche and Freud. [227] These have taken the first steps towards the immense task of "constructing a Dionysian ego" [ib.] according to Brown - but is this not a willful paradox?
The ego, after all, is a construction of the Apollonian and its principle of individuation, [228] and is therefore alien to the Dionysian which eschews all individualism. [229] Camille Paglia, looking back at the "sixties vision" of Morrison, calling him "brilliant and learned", says that "no one can control Dionysus", and that "we can never totally harmonise Apollo and Dionysus, but we have to try." [230]

Why do we have to try? In order to survive? Is the Dionysian in its raw unformed aspect literally too destructive to behold?

And here we must look towards Reich who's influence has been bubbling under. He advocates a complete Dionysianism which some might fear as being too unrestrained, too 'unsublimated'. It is said that Morrison read Reich's book 'On the Function of the Orgasm' carefully, making his own marginalia. [231]

Notes to Chapter Four: The Artist-Tyrant
155. Nietzsche 1995 (Foreword) p. iv
156. ib. 1995 (BT 5) p. 17
157. ib. 1995 (BT 8) p. 27
158. Cooper 1978 p. 62
159. Both volumes were completed in manuscript form in 1968. At McClure's urging they were published privately and separately in 1969 (Davis p. 268, p. 331). They were subsequently published together by Simon and Schuster ( New York ) in 1970 ( Davis p. 331)
160. Fowlie says Rimbaud's Une Saison is "largely Dionysian and Les Illuminations largely Apolloninan." (Fowlie p. 74)
161. Nietzsche 1924 p. 365 (WP 958) Kaufmann's later translation of 'The Will to Power' [1967] has "masters of the earth", rather than "lords of the earth".
162. Jim Morrison's Poetry: A Critical Analysis, G. Cook 2001 (available at) http://jimmorrisonspoetry.blogspot.com/  (accessed 1/7/2009)
163. Nietzsche 1924 (WP 960) p. 365
164. McLeish 1996 p. 612
165. Evans & Millard s.l. p. 59
166. Hamilton p. 66
167. Room 1983 p. 116
168. Hamilton p. 64; "Homer did not admit him." Harrison agrees: "In Homer, Dionysos is not yet an Olympian" calling him an "immigrant Thracian." (Harrison pp. 364-5) Otto was a lone voice insisting rather that Dionysos was "indigenous to Greek civilisation." (Otto p. 58) It seems that subsequent discoveries have now shifted towards Otto's view (Otto p xx translator's introduction 1965)
169. Fong-Torres 2002 p. 165 ( Miami 1969)
170. Fowlie p. 70
171. Nietzsche 1995 (BT18) p. 65
172. Nietzsche 2003A p. 17 (GM I:7)
173. Brown p. 242
174. ib. p. 242
175. Quoted in Chesterton 1975 p. 5 This conspiracy classic by A.K. Chesterton and the lines quoted from G.K. Chesterton - they were cousins - certainly reflects the sinister aspect of Morrison's secret Lords. Nietzsche himself construed Christianity itself as a conspiracy engendered by the priests so that the slaves could overthrow the masters. (cf. Nietzsche 2003 pp. 31-2 - GMI:16). Morrison sees 'the Lords' both negatively and positively. In the former perspective we might compare them with Colin Wilson's 'mind vampires' in his book 'The Mind Parasites' (1967). Wilson too sees that the 'mind vampires' might also have a positive function: "The vampires might serve, therefore, to inoculate man against his own indifference and laziness." (Wilson 1985 p. 207)
176. Morrison 1971 p. 112
177. Davis p. 64
178. ib. p. 269
179. Morrison 1971 p. 89
180. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 188
181. Wilson 1980 p. 153
182. Wilson 1966 p. 108
183. Camus 1971 p. 62
184. Wilson 1990 pp. 293-6 (Postscript 1967)
185. Nietzsche 2001 p. 65 (last words of 'Ariadne's Complaint' - said by Dionysos to Ariadne)
186. Nietzsche 1995 p. 70 (BT 7) Nietzsche wants to get back to the point before the worship of Dionysos becomes theatre, before Dionysos transforms from being god to a mere actor. cf. Bertram, Chapter 8, ‘Masks’.
187. Morrison 1989 p. 12 (also p. 84)
188. Morrison 1991 p. 139
189. Nietzsche 1989 p. 3
190. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 188
191. cf. Nietzsche 2003A p. 14 (GMI:5) Densmore says that Jim and Ray Manzarek [Doors keyboard player] had "constant arguments ... about man's evolution. Ray wanted the golden race to come out of blending" and Jim "argued against the loss of individual characteristics." (Densmore p. 28) Ray married a Chinese girl, while Jim always sought out red-haired girls, so much so that the very Aryan Nico dyed her hair red to please him (Davis p. 191). The following could even sum up Morrison's Lizard King persona: "Classicism, Californianism, barbarism and crucifixionism are specific and strongly White representational traditions." (Dyer p. 150)
192. cf. Brown p. 15, Nietzsche 2003 (GMI:7 pp. 16-17)
193. Jung 1988 p. 20, chapter 2, 'Wotan' [1936]; here Jung refers to the Germanic god Wotan, but says, "No doubt it sounds better to academic ears to interpret these things as Dionysus, but Wotan might be a more correct interpretation." (ib. p. 12)
194. Morrison 1989 p. 14
195. Morrison 1971 p.89
196. ib. p. 29
197. Nietzsche 1997 p. 89 (BGE 219)
198. Morrison 1971 p. 52
199. Fowlie p. 71
200. Morrison 1991 p. 50
201. Reich p. 95
202. Brown p. 30
203. Morrison 1999 p. 168
204. All quotes here from Morrison 1978 pp. 218-226. Herve Muller, the editor and translator of this bilingual edition, says of the piece 'Eye': "Enfin, le texte qui termine ce recueil fut publie en 1968 dans le revue americaine Eye, pour qui Jim offrit de l'ecrire plutot que de se preter a une traditionnelle interview. Il est particulierement interessant dans la mesure ou il se situe dans le prolongement direct de Seigneurs ('The Lords'), sous-titre, rappelons-le, Notes sur le vision ('Notes on Vision')." [ib. p. 6]
205. Morrison 1971 p. 105
206. ib. p. 17
207. Nietzsche 1999A ('The Dionysiac World View' 1870) p. 128
208. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 67
209. Cooper p. 62
210. Nietzsche 1976 (TI Skirmishes 10) p. 519
211. Brown p. 174 cf. Morrison, "You may look at things but not taste them." (Morrison 1971 p. 45)
212. Morrison 1971 p. 67. Compare: "Western society is characterised by the albeit troubled centrality of vision to knowledge and power." (Dyer p. 106) Dyer sees a link between photography/light and the privileging of racial 'Whiteness'. (ib. p. 122) Compare to the iconic 'Young Lion' picture of Morrison: "photographer Joel Brodsky took the famous black and white pictures that presented Jim Morrison as the bare-chested incarnation of classical Aryan manhood: a hypnotically gazing Adonis." (Davis p. 153)
213. ib. p. 84
214. Brown p. 316
215. Rolling Stone p. 16
216. ib. p. 18
217. ib. p. 15
218. Morrison 1971 p. 87
219. ib. p. 54
220. Kaufmann 1956 p. 108
221. Nietzsche 1995 p. 1
222. Nietzsche 1976 (TSZ II 'On Those Whose Are Sublime') p. 230
223. Chapter XII 'Apollo & Dionysus'
224. Brown p. 174
225. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 2) p. 6
226. Reich p. 241
227. Brown p. 176
228. cf. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 1)
229. Kaufmann 1956 p. 108
230. Camille Paglia available at http://allinonefilms.com/html_pages/paglia.htm (accessed 9/1/11)
231. Davis p. 39

Chapter Five: Erotic Politician

16) Wilhelm Reich

"There is but one road leading from orgasm."
FWN [232]

The influence of Reich on Morrison is obvious. For example, in an interview Morrison says - playfully - that he once conceived of "the universe as a mammoth peristaltic snake." [233]
We find Reich describing his 'Orgasm Formula', which has cosmic significance for him, [234] as having the "serpentine motion" of "peristalsis." [235]
Frequently, Reich speaks of natural sexuality "breaking through," [236] a favourite phrase of Morrison's too, with his song 'Break on Through'. [237] Reich also adumbrates Wilson , declaring himself to be an "outsider". [238]
Reich's notion of a "sex-economy" - i.e., a society governed by "orgastic potency" rather than by "compulsive morality" [239] suggests Morrison's "erotic politicians". [240] Reich saw the repressive nature of "patriarchal society" [241] as all-pervasive, covering at least six-thousand years of history [ib.]. Its root lay in the family itself which seeks to "suppress" the "sexuality" of children. [242] Here again we are reminded of Morrison's rejection of his own family. [243] To Reich, "sexual repression, biological rigidity, moralism and puritanism are not confined to certain classes or groups of the population; they are ubiquitous." [244] Obviously, this is a far more radical message than Brown's, and chimes with the Beat Movement and the subsequent 1960s 'counter-culture', which it pre-figured by some 25 years.

"The development into the future is consistent and uninterrupted only if that which is old and senescent, after having fulfilled its function in an earlier phase of the democratic development, is now wise enough to make room for what is young and new, wise enough not to stifle it by reason of its dignity and formal authority." Reich [245]

The old get older and the young get stronger
JDM [246]

Because, to Reich, "the sexual orgasm" is "the supreme experience of happiness", [247] then "every release of sexual tension through genital satisfaction immediately reduced the breaking through of pathological drives." [248]

17) Theatre

Then I grew wings to soar off into distant futures. Into more distant futures, into more southern souths than any artist ever dreamed of - where gods are ashamed of all clothes. FWN [249]

I am not allowed to take my clothes off.
I am outside the gates of paradise.
The Living Theatre [250]

It was ‘The Living Theatre’ who exemplified the Reichian message in the 1960s. Formed in 1947, this radical New York based theatre troupe was "dedicated to transforming the organisation of power within society from a competitive hierarchical structure to cooperative and communal expression." [251]
In the 1950s the troupe "shared aspects of style and content with 'Beat generation' writers", [ib.] their play about drug addiction, 'The Connection', (1959) being noted for its "harsh language." The troupe's leaders were "briefly imprisoned" in the early 1960s in the USA, leading the Living to spend the most of that decade touring Europe producing work that was "even more politically and formally radical, carrying an anarchist and pacifist message." [ib.]
Their most famous piece of this period, 'Paradise Now!', "challenged every given in Western civilisation - borders, morals, laws, behaviour, received wisdom - in a loud argumentative presentation that deployed semi-naked actors moving among the audience." [252]
The work "led to multiple arrests for indecent exposure." [251] The Living toured 'Paradise Now!' in the USA from 1968 to 1969, before breaking up in the latter year. They performed four nights in early 1969 in Los Angeles - Jim Morrison, accompanied by his friend the Beat poet Michael McClure attended each performance.

"McClure called the troupe 'eagle angels of the anarchist spirit'," [253] and had known the founders of the troupe for some years hoping that they would perform his own play 'The Beard'. (1965) He said that "we were involved in activity against the war, in protesting censorship ... We were deliberately living a gypsy revolutionary lifestyle. Drugs were a part of it ... taking them to deepen our consciousness, which we felt was a liberational act." [254]

This is very much what Morrison wanted to be doing. McClure recounts attending those Living shows with Morrison, with the latter outrageously drunk, joining in the production by among other things, screaming "Nigger!" [255]

After attending the Living's show on Friday 28th February 1969, when Morrison had "a madder look than usual" according to a friend, [256] he went on to perform a concert with his band the Doors in Miami (March 1st 1969). Determined to break every taboo in language and nudity, he made it clear that it was the Living Theatre who had inspired him. Saying from the stage that he used to think that stage performing was "a joke", he had "met some people" - i.e. the Living Theatre - who were doing something of real importance; he wanted to "get on that trip too." The message at Miami was simple: "there are 'No limits! No laws!'" [257]
Taunting his audience, he jeered at them: "'You want to see my cock don't you? That's what you came here for isn't it?'" [258] Of course, Morrison would be arrested for that performance, charged, tried and found guilty. [259]

He was still appealing the verdict when he died in Paris in 1971.

He later rationalised his performance at Miami , saying that he had "tried to reduce the myth to absurdity, thereby wiping it out. It just got too much for me to stomach, so I put an end to in one glorious evening." [260]

Notes to Chapter Five: The Erotic Politician
232. Nietzsche 1995 (BT 21) p. 76
233. Stevenson (interview with Jim Morrison Circus Magazine 1970) http://archives.waiting-forthe-sun.net/Pages/Interviews/JimInterviews/circus.html
234. Reich p. 360-1 "Orgone Energy; Cosmic Energy; universally present and demonstrable visually. Hermetically and electroscopically and by means of Geiger-Mueller counters. In the living organism: Bio-energy, Life Energy." (ib., Glossary p. 370) - And in Nietzscheanism, the 'Dionysian'?
235. Ib. pp. 270-1
236. Reich passim. see e.g., p. 60, p, 68 etc., and Chapter VII heading. It seems to be a 'Beat' cliché too: "For the man who is hip, there is nothing more cool than breaking through and swinging." (ed. Feldman & Gartenberg 1960 p. 16)
237. Track #1 'The Doors', Elektra Records EKS-74007, January 1967
238. Reich ib. p. 59
239. Reich ib. pp. 28-9
240. Doe & Tobler p. 75
241. Reich. p. 29
242. Ib. p. 30
243. ed. Sugarman 1988 p. 9
244. Reich p. 33
245. ib. p. 36
246. Morrison 'Five to One' lyric, track #11 Waiting for the Sun, the Doors, Elektra EKS-74024 1968
247. Reich p. 214
248. Ib. p. 94
249. Nietzsche 1976 (TSZII,'On Human Prudence') p. 256
250. From Paradise Now!, The Living Theatre, available at http://www.sterneck.net/utopia/living-theatre/index.php  (accessed 13/6/09)
251. The Living Theatre (available at) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Living_Theatre & http://www.livingtheatre.org/  (accessed 14/6/09)
252. Davis pp. 313-4
253. ib. p. 314
254. Beat Scene #40 March/April 2002 ed. K. Ring , England s.l. (interview with Michael McClure) pp. 17-18. "Dionysus is, after all, given the highly significant name of the 'liberator'." (Otto p. 97)

"He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."
-Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

James Douglas Morrison's poetry was born out of a period of tumultuous social and political change in American and world history. Besides Morrison's social and political perspective, his verse also speaks with an understanding of the world of literature, especially of the traditions that shaped the poetry of his age. His poetry also expresses his own experiences, thoughts, development, and maturation as a poet--from his musings on film at UCLA in The Lords and The New Creatures, to his final poems in Wilderness and The American Night. It is my intention in this essay to show Morrison as a serious American poet, whose work is worthy of serious consideration in relation to its place in the American literary tradition. By discussing the poetry in terms of Morrison's influences and own ideas, I will be able to show what distinguishes him as a significant American poet. In order to reveal him as having a clearly-defined ability as a poet, my focus will be on Morrison's own words and poetry. I will concentrate on his earlier work to show the influence of Nietzsche and French poets such as Arthur Rimbaud and Antonin Artaud and the effect they had on Morrison's poetry and style.

Morrison's poetic style is characterized by contrived ambiguity of meaning which serves to express subconscious thought and feeling--a tendency now generally associated with the postmodern or avant garde. His poetic strength is that he creates poetry quite profound in its effect upon the reader, by using vividly evocative words and images in his poems. While it is obvious that Morrison has read writers that influence his work, and their influence remains strong in subject and tone, he still manages to make it his own in the way he adapts these influences to his style, experiences, and ideas. We would expect to find remnants of quotes, stolen lines and ideas, in a lesser writer, but Morrison shows his strength as a poet by resisting plagiarism in order to achieve originality in his own verse. As T. S. Eliot has said, "Bad poets borrow, good poets steal."

Morrison's poetry is very surreal at times, as well as highly symbolic--there is a pervading sense of the irrational, chaotic, and the violent; an effect produced by startling juxtapositions of images and words. Morrison's poetry reveals a strange world--a place peopled by characters straight out of Morrison's circus of the mind, from the strange streets of Los Angeles boulevards and back alleys. Morrison's speech is a native tongue, and his eye is that of a visionary American poet. He belongs to what poet and critic Jerome Rothenberg calls the "American Prophecy . . . present in all that speaks to our sense of 'identity' and our need for renewal." Rothenberg sees this prophetic tradition as "affirming the oldest function of poetry, which is to interrupt the habits of ordinary consciousness by means of more precise and highly charged uses of language and to provide new tools for discovering the underlying relatedness of all life . . . A special concern for the interplay of myth and history runs through the whole of American literature. Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman saw the poet's function in part as revealing the visionary meaning of our lives in relation to the time and place in which we live . . . we have taken this American emphasis on the relationship of myth and history, of poetry and life, as the central meaning of a 'prophetic' native tradition."

The lasting impression of Morrison's poems is that they attempt to render the dream or nightmare of modern existence in terms of words and imagery, quite bizarre and obscure, yet compelling at the same time. An important aspect about the body of his work and his commitment to his particular style, one closely aligned to Rothenberg's prophetic tradition, is that it is in the tradition of what other poets of his time were writing.

Critiquing the Myth of Morrison

In 1994, Professor of French Literature at Duke University, Wallace Fowlie, published the first scholarly study of the poetry of the charismatic lead singer of the sixties rock band The Doors. The book was titled Rimbaud & Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet, and as suggested by the title, it is a comparative study of the lives and work of Arthur Rimbaud and Jim Morrison. The fact that Morrison had written to Fowlie, thanking him for his 1966 translation, Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters, proved the starting point for Fowlie's comparison between the two poets. Despite Fowlie's apparent good intentions, his knowledge of Rimbaud's work and his understanding of French symbolism far outweigh any of the observations he makes about Morrison's poetry. Perhaps the most insightful point he makes is when he labels Morrison "Kouros," the Greek word for "a youth attractive to men and women . . .[a word used] At times in praise of his beauty. At other times it is hurled almost as a curse at those youths who insolently torment older people."

After inadvertently making his own contribution to the Morrison myth by stereotyping him as Kouros, Fowlie goes on to disclaim his own observation by stating that "[t]his name I suggest as representative of the non-hypocritical innocence of Jim when he was not aware of the power of his appearance and his personality." When was Morrison ever not aware of his appearance and his personality? Pre-teens? This is a typical example of Fowlie's misunderstanding of Morrison's character and is what informs most of his discussion of Morrison's poetry. Consequently, Fowlie only ever illuminates the obvious in the poems, although he does make solid connections between some of Morrison's poems and their allusion to and the influence of Rimbaud.

Fowlie has written a perceptive analysis of Rimbaud's poetry and the poet's role as rebel, yet the same observations are in his 1946 study, Rimbaud: The Myth of Childhood. Again, by concentrating on the myth of Morrison, as he does successfully with Rimbaud, Fowlie ignores the literary qualities of the poetry. Like most people that encountered Morrison, either through books or in person, Fowlie never seems to get past the myth. In view of this unfortunate aspect of his discussion of Morrison's poetry, his approach is neither scholarly nor enlightening. However, what Fowlie does provide is a superficial guide to those wanting to pursue certain points, such as the influence of Nietzsche, Artaud, Rimbaud and the Beats on Morrison's own writing.

Most literature on Morrison is predominantly biographical, preferring to regurgitate the myth and scandal surrounding his life and times, rather than give his art any serious consideration. Despite interest, both negative and positive, his writing has not been comprehensively analyzed in the context of his life and culture. Nor has it been discussed in terms of its merits (and failings), or its place in the ranks of American literature, and the reasons for this are twofold. First, Morrison's verse is obscure, highly subjective and at times obscene or grotesque in imagery and speech, as in "An American Prayer" from The American Night:

Cling to cunts & cocks
of despair
We got our final vision
by clap
Columbus' groin got
filled w/ green death
(I touched her thigh
& death smiled)

Secondly, the myth tends to impede any progress past itself--the romantic idea of Morrison as poet-performer is preferable to the critics than any serious attempt to actually understand or analyze the poetry itself. For example, Fowlie's judgement of Morrison's life pigeonholes him in terms of the poetry; he cannot separate Morrison's poetry from the "persona [which] had everything to do with the principle of Dionysus."

To this point, Morrison's reputation precedes any serious literary analysis of the work. Despite his failings as a human and as a poet, he has left behind some valuable and important examples of his poetic talent that deserve serious analysis. This discussion will focus primarily on Morrison's earliest work and the display of ideas, influences, and style that evolved into his own poetic voice. It is my belief in the strengths and significance of Morrison's poetry, which has led me to situate him as a poet in the American literary tradition.

Motivation & Motif

Morrison's early experiments with poetry and prose, written between 1964-69, depict--in the language of an intellectually ambitious film student--the strong influence of people such as Nietzsche and Artaud, and his ideas on aesthetics, philosophy, life, and film in particular. His early writings are the foundation on which he develops his poetical style. All the motifs, symbols, and imagery introduced in his first collection of poems recur continuously throughout his later works. The Lords and The New Creatures was conceived as two separate books; however, it was published as one book containing Morrison's ideas and poetry. Essentially, it is a forum for the fleshing out of style. The first half of the book The Lords: Notes on Vision, is a collection of notes and prose poems; while the second half, The New Creatures, is an assortment of poetry.

The Lords is a motley work of ideas and prose, loosely held together with motifs of death, cinema, and the reinterpretation of mythical and theatrical theory. While originality seems to be in short supply, and naive idealism in abundance, it is interesting for the allusion to, and presentation of, philosophical and aesthetic ideas central to Morrison's poetry. Stylistically, The Lords reflects his propensity for dark imagery and self-mythology, which would later be a fundamental characteristic of his poetry and performance. The motifs that pervade all of his poetry abound: the city, sex, death, assassins, voyeurs, wanderers, deserts, shamanism, and so on. The autobiographical and historical references in the poems reflect the myth-making process of turning fact into fiction: the inner world of the psyche and its perceptions of surroundings, a mythological landscape of Morrison's mind.

His own life sets the tone and scenarios of the poems. His itinerant childhood constantly spent shifting around the country, combined with his career choice of international rock star, made Morrison identify himself with the image of the vagabond or wanderer. It was a literary figure that he would use in his poems, obviously having symbolic and poetic appeal, as well as personal significance. As he has suggested of himself and others: "We're like actors, turned loose in this world to wander in search of a phantom, endlessly searching for a half-formed shadow of our lost reality."

His poetry, however, has a strong sense of place; the strong observational power of the astute outsider, works well in the invocations of strange border towns and locations. His vision of Los Angeles, or "Lamerica", is profound in its focus and impressions. It is even stranger because of the ambivalent nostalgia Morrison seems to hold for the place, where he had lived and performed with the Doors: "Los Angeles is a city looking for a ritual to join its fragments."

At first, for Morrison, it was musical theatre that would attempt to provide the ritual for the city, using his shaman principles to try to join its fragments, and bring his audience together. When that failed, and the summer of love and the notion of hippie solidarity had dissipated, he turned to his poetry as the ritual that would piece together the fragments of his own experience. Like Eliot's fragments shored against his ruins in "The Waste Land", Morrison's words and poetry are the means by which he can make sense of his world and guard against his aesthetic mortality. However, as always in his poems, there is a sense of cynicism, directed toward himself as well as the reader. Almost as if, his suffering and sacrifices, made in the name of art and cultural freedom, were not for his own benefit but for the benefit of you, the reader:

Words are healing.
Words got me the wound
& will get me well

If you believe it.

This segment from his absurdly titled poem, "Lament for the Death of my Cock", reflects Morrison's pessimism and poetic idealism. The sense of suffering expressed in this later poem is also found in his earlier work The Lords, in relation to the idea of sacrifice for the good of all: "What sacrifice, at what price can the city be born?"

Morrison's early awareness of society's ills, and his benevolent sense of social responsibility, meant that he had a personally doomed and intense experience of America and its ideals. In particular, the Western Dream, as expressed in his apocalyptic invocation of a brave new world of dreamlike existence and ritual: "We are from the West. The world we suggest should be a new Wild West, a sensuous, evil world, strange, and haunting."

With his own experience informing his work, Morrison begins The Lords by addressing the reader rhetorically, as if revealing some truth about modern existence. He introduces his analogy of a society's relation to place, in terms of a game. His vision of the city is one of a dystopian environment--it is an interpretation of the American condition and all modern civilizations. Morrison sees the city in modernist and symbolist terms: the metropolis as a metaphorical reflection of society:

We all live in the city.

The city forms--often physically, but inevitably psychically--a circle. A Game. A ring of death with sex at its center. Drive toward outskirts of city suburbs. At the edge discover zones of sophisticated vice and boredom, child prostitution. But in the grimy ring immediately surrounding the daylight business district exists the only real crowd life of our mound, the only street life, night life. Diseased specimens in dollar hotels, low boarding houses, bars, pawn shops, burlesques and brothels, in dying arcades which never die, in streets and streets of all-night cinemas.

Like T. S. Eliot's invocation of the unreal city in "The Waste Land", inherited from Baudelaire's line about the "[s]warming city, city full of dreams, where ghosts in broad daylight catch the walker's sleeve," there is a relation of person to place. Rimbaud's perception of a city is more in line with Morrison's, when he cries: "O sorrowful city! O city now struck dumb, / Head and heart stretched out in paleness / In endless doorways thrown wide by time; / City the Dismal Past can only bless: / Body galvanized for sufferings yet to come."

Morrison's motif of the city is as surrealistic as it is symbolic in the strange juxtapositions of vivid imagery, symbol, and metaphors of human consciousness. Throughout Morrison's poetry, the city appears paradoxically as a place of despair, yet a place where experiences of sensuality and euphoric indulgence abound. It is a place of malaise and tensions, yet it offers art and life as well as an ominous source of disease and death. Nevertheless, this place of binaries and complexity is his primary source for an assortment of bizarre characters and experiences from the dark side. It is a place where the lords and the new creatures cohabit.

Morrison's notion of American society and its effect upon culture and people, is one of the main concepts behind The Lords. He defines it as "the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness that people have in the face of reality. They have no real control over events or their own lives. Something is controlling them. The closest they ever get is the television set. In creating this idea of the lords, it also came to reverse itself. Now to me, the lords mean something entirely different. I couldn't really explain. It's like the opposite. Somehow the lords are a romantic race of people who have found a way to control their environment and their own lives. They're somehow different from other people."

The notion of the lords is a philosophical construct and a poetical device used to distinguish society as hierarchical. Morrison's idea of the lords can be related to Friedrich Nietzsche's view in The Will to Power, of "the Lords of the Earth -- that higher species which would climb aloft to new and impossible things, to a broader vision, and to its task on earth." The lords are the poets and artists--the people who are revolutionaries, who seek to change the conformist culture in which they exist and lead society forward:

"The Lords. Events take place beyond our knowledge or control. Our lives are lived for us. We can only try to enslave others. But gradually, special perceptions are being developed. The idea of the Lords is beginning to form in some minds. We should enlist them into bands of perceivers to tour the labyrinth during their mysterious nocturnal appearances. The Lords have secret entrances, and they know disguises. But they give themselves away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a glance. The Lords appease us with images. They give us books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas. Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent.

Door of passage to the other side, he soul frees itself in stride."

Philosophy, Poetry, & America

To decode Morrison's poetry, we need to recognize the philosophy that informs and underlies the meaning, symbolism, imagery, and theme. The philosophy is primarily Nietzschean in origin, although the poetry is not singular in its allegiance to the European philosopher. Rather, Morrison adapts variations of Nietzsche's philosophy to correlate with his own experience as expressed within the verse. In other words, the philosophical system behind the meaning of the poem is not really a system as such, but more of a set of ideas which Morrison draws upon for inspiration.

Morrison's various biographers concur that he read and revered the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. In the most widely read biography of Morrison's life, No One Here Gets Out Alive, the authors attest to the fact that Morrison "devoured Friedrich Nietzsche, the poetic German philosopher whose views on aesthetics, morality, and the Apollonian-Dionysian duality would appear again and again in Jim's conversation, poetry, songs, and life." John Densmore, the percussionist in The Doors, wrote in his memoir Riders on the Storm that "Nietzsche killed Jim Morrison . . . Morrison the Superman, the Dionysian madman, the Birth of Tragedy himself."

Ray Manzarek, the organist of The Doors, also remembers "walks in the soft shore break of Venice Beach discussing Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy" with Morrison. Morrison himself revealingly suggested to New York Magazine reporter Richard Goldstein in an interview, that he should "read Nietzsche on the nature of tragedy to understand where he's really at." [Goldstein noted that] His eyes glow as he launches into a discussion of the Apollonian-Dionysian struggle for control of the life force."

Pervading Morrison's work is an unshakeable dedication to Nietzsche's ideas on aesthetics and human nature. Intermingled with this influence is a loyalty to the theatrical manifestos of Antonin Artaud, and an understanding and empathy with the poetic dictums of visionary poets such as Rimbaud and William Blake. This forms an underlying blend of philosophy that is apparent in Morrison's words and actions. He welds philosophy, myth, and his own contemporary perspective of culture, society, and the world into his poetical vision.

Using an everyday symbol of modern existence, such as television or the cinema, he associates it with the timeless philosophical and existential subject of life: "the attraction of the cinema lies in the fear of death." Combined with the excesses of an age where stimulants, sex, quasi-religion, and cultural revolution are the norm, it is both surprising and understandable that he had such a consistently borderline nihilistic tone in his verse:

We live, we die
& death not ends it
Journey we more into the
Nightmare . . .
We're reaching for death
on the end of a candle
We're trying for something
that's already found us . . .

Do you know how pale & wanton thrillful
comes death on a strange hour
unannounced, unplanned for
like a scaring over-friendly guest you've
brought to bed
Death makes angels of us all
& gives us wings
where we had shoulders
smooth as ravens

Simultaneously, and paradoxically, a relentless optimism pervades. In "An American Prayer", the poet calls for life to be invigorated and made sensual by the turning away from a chaotic present, sick with the throes of materialism and war, to a mythic past full of meaning and example:

Let's reinvent the gods, all the myths
of the ages
Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests
{Have you forgotten the lessons
of the ancient war}
We need great golden copulations

Despite the fact that in Notebook Poems and Paris Journal his poetry is concise and profound in the clarity of expression, imagery, and tone, depression clouds Morrison's later work. The verse is simple, emotional, and pessimistic -- an honest depiction of a melancholic and resigned reality. A poem such as "If Only I" expresses Morrison's existentialism in a confessional mode very similar to other poets of his day. The narrator of the poem laments the loss of his self, and then the illusion of the notion of self. The poet's disillusionment with life, has reached the point where he can not even feel himself to determine the validity of his own existence:

If only I
could feel
The sound
of the sparrows
& feel child hood
pulling me
back again
If only I could feel
me pulling back
& feel embraced
by reality
I would die
Gladly die

Morrison's self-conscious portrayal of the anguished poet paused on the edge of the abyss of the self, is a symbolic expression of an ultimately destructive conflict between birth and death. It is a resolutely sad search for an ideal--it is the distance between an ordinary human and Nietzsche's ubermensch, and very similar to Nietzsche's own sentiments and poetry in Entflohn die Holden Traume (Fled Are the Lovely Dreams):

Fled are the lovely dreams
Fled is the past . . .
I have never experienced
The joy and happiness of life.
I look back sadly
Upon times that are long vanished . . .

I do not know what I believe
Or why I am still living. For what?
I would like to die, die " ...

The fact that Morrison's death looks increasingly like a heroin overdose (the culmination of self-destructive excess and aesthetic idealism), gives the above mentioned poem and his earlier poems an autobiographical significance in relation to his life, thoughts, and intentions. Ironically, and somewhat prophetically, in his earliest writings, The Lords, he speaks of death, fate, and the consequences of the game:

When play dies it becomes the Game.
When sex dies it becomes Climax.
All games contain the idea of death . . .

French Deck. Solitary stroker of cards. He
dealt himself a hand. Turn stills of the past in
unending permutations, shuffle and begin. Sort
the images again. And sort them again. This
game reveals germs of truth, and death.

This understanding of death reflects an existential world-view (as in his poem "If Only I") and a belief in the ultimate sacrifice/demise of the outsider artist with whom Morrison identified himself. Sex is the connector to the physical, to the realm of the real, populated by other players in the game. Love or attachment to another, is an emotional experience which leads to a metaphorical death of the self, in the very act of coitus or ejaculation. Denial of the self is the consequence of not experiencing the void, or the abyss of the self. As Morrison himself states emphatically and ironically, "Love is one of the handful of devices we have to avoid the void, so to speak."

Morrison's sense of isolation is complete in his concept of the game--it is existential in its inescapable net of death, and the performance or existence is his only saving grace. It is an acknowledgement of the solipsistic nature of the poet, the sacrifices to be made, the psychological pain of giving birth to a new self:

Urge to come to terms with the "Outside," by absorbing, interiorizing it. I won't come out, you must come in to me. Into my womb-garden where I peer out. Where I can construct a universe within the skull, to rival the real.

Like the metaphorical imagery in Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra, the womb is a symbol of the earth, the place where, like a flower or a clay man, the superman or ubermensch is born. It is a goal and a belief that we are capable as humans of constructing a heightened existence by the destruction of the old self or reality. It is an ideal, very much a part of the Morrison myth, and the American myth that through self-destruction comes enlightenment, transcendence of the unnatural societal-self. This creative destruction is also evident in the lives of other American literary figures like Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Hart Crane.

Another interesting connection to Nietzsche is Morrison's use of the metaphor of the Edenic garden/gardener, as a kind of internalized organic place/state of being, or symbolic representation of the intellectual or creative genius. In Daybreak, Nietzsche draws a very similar parallel between thinker and the earthy allegorical figure of the Gardener and garden:

Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude, out of loveless words directed at us, conclusions grow up in us like fungus: one morning they are there, we know not how, and they gaze upon us, morose and grey. Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but only the soil of the plants that grow in him!

Themes of power and violence in The Lords and The New Creatures were also part of the dark aspect of the '60s. Morrison's song lyrics that spoke as much about death as they did about love were associated with an end of an era. With the Vietnam War in full flight, Civil Rights protests and assassinations, the death of hippie naivete was imminent. Morrison himself sums up the reasons why things had changed: "It's different now. (Pause) It used to seem possible to generate a movement--people rising up and joining together in a mass protest--refusing to be repressed any longer--like, they'd all put their strength together to break what Blake calls "the mind forged manacles" . . . [t]he love-street times are dead. Sure, it's possible for there to be a transcendence--but not on a mass level, not a universal rebellion. Now it has to take place on an individual level--every man for himself, as they say save yourself. Violence isn't always evil. What's evil is the infatuation with violence."

The end of the 1960s was characterized by an exalting of passion over intellect, body over mind, the perverse over the normal, the risks of violence and disaster over normal modes of existence. When asked by an interviewer his opinion on the social climate of America in the late '60s, Morrison summed up the feelings of a generation and the effects of cultural change on the nation: "I think for many people, especially city dwellers, it's a state of constant paranoia. Paranoia is defined as an irrational fear, but what if the paranoia is real? Then you just cope with it second by second."

As a poet of his time, and as someone with a sensitive social consciousness, Morrison makes his poems reflect the age and place in which he writes. Yet, he does so in a way that makes a current event seem timeless, even ancient in its cloak of metaphorical language. In The Lords, what is possibly a simple interpretation of the savage Tate-LaBianca killings by Charles Manson and his followers is turned into an archetypal image of the power of violence. Their capture in Death Valley California, hiding out in caves after the murders, waiting for their apocalyptic race war (Helter Skelter) to begin, is reflected in Morrison's perception of the media events of his day:

It takes large murder to turn rocks in the shade
and expose strange worms beneath. The lives of
our discontented madmen are revealed.

Within the context of the surrounding poems, we recognize other significant events in American cultural and political history. In "Baths, bars, the indoor pool. / Our injured leader lies prone on the tile," we can find a reference to the death of Brian Jones who drowned in a swimming pool. Kennedy's assassination is mentioned: "Modern circles of hell: Oswald (?) kills President," and indirectly Vietnam and "people burdened by historical events or dying in a bad landscape." The more these references are turned over, like "rocks in the shade," the greater the depth and significance of meaning revealed in the verse.

Poetic & Poet

In contrast to The Lords, Morrison's companion text The New Creatures, emphasizes the nightmarish existence of other creatures who are submissive and almost sub-species in their herd mentality and hellish existence. The violent imagery and surreal nature of the verse in The New Creatures, creates a disorganized and chaotic collection of poetry that seems to have no apparent motive or logic. The content is highly subjective and foreign to most readers; some allusions and imagery are familiar in their generality, yet pointless in the apparent obscurity and juxtaposition. The poems' personal content unfortunately makes most of The New Creatures inaccessible in their metaphorical and symbolic rendition of Morrison's psyche. In parts, Morrison evokes a tone and a cadence with the structure of word and image interplay similar in effectiveness to the lyrics he wrote for The Doors, some of which he actually performed:

the dead seal
the dog crucifix
Ghosts of the dead car sun.
Stop the car.
Rain. Night.

Most of the poems in The New Creatures seem strange and unrelated. Morrison gives the reader a clue to his method of poetry, by his comments on art forms like film, especially when his poetry is so obviously cinematic in its style and effect. He states, with a reference to the modernist idea of art replicating stream of consciousness, that he was "interested in film because, to me, it's the closest approximation in art that we have to the actual flow of consciousness."

Many of Morrison's poems throughout his work are like film clips in an avant-garde surrealist cinema. There is an intellectual, yet dreamy quality to his juxtaposition of ideas and insights about the world. Like the main technique of crowd manipulation he used on stage, Morrison uses the pause for great effect, yet not in the conventional grammatical or formal sense. Instead of a caesura, ellipsis points or a new line (all of which he also uses to effect), he uses an image as a barrier to overcome, to be broken through:

Savage destiny
Naked girl, seen from behind,

on a natural road

explore the labyrinth

young woman left on the desert

A city gone mad w/ fever

This pause, this break in flow or subject (in this case the metaphorical labyrinth) renders the verse as a staccato series of images rather than a progressive stream of ideas and words. In other words, the structure of the poem does try to replicate the irrational logic of stream of consciousness. Often these poems differentiate themselves from Morrison's more coherent pieces; characteristically, they are like abstract paintings of violent and bizarre scenes, giving the reader a sense of the intoxicated state prevalent throughout much of Morrison's notorious alcoholic and drug-abusing life.

Reading some of Morrison's less adept poetry is like reading notes someone took while experiencing an LSD trip. This is what a vast percentage of them actually are according to legends of Morrison's excesses. The same elements combine in his more proficient poetry; in intonation, profound visions, states of consciousness, and hallucinatory images, all culminating in a unique contemplation of the world. His cinematic technique of image juxtaposition also emulates the effects of a psychedelic experience, which could also be interpreted as no less than an experience of Morrison's world and the '60s itself.

Poetry was the genesis for most of Morrison's experience. Poetry inspired and vocalized his love of the cinematic visual, performance art, and musical lyricism. It also expressed his most profound thoughts, philosophies, and beliefs; it was a means to relay his world, which was increasingly close to destruction. In The American Night, his poem "An American Prayer" echoes Frazer's "Golden Bough" along with the philosophies of Artaud and Nietzsche. Morrison appeals in his lament for understanding, for a consensus that technology and so-called progress is not necessarily better or more exciting than the mythically imbued past:

Let's reinvent the gods, all the myths
of the ages
Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests . . .
We have assembled inside this ancient
& insane theatre
To propagate our lust for life
& flee the swarming wisdom
of the streets . . .
I'm sick of dour faces
Staring at me from the T.V.
Tower. I want roses in
My garden bower; dig?

In this sense, his attitude toward modernity is one of disdain, similar to Eliot's perception of a defunct Western civilization in "The Waste Land". Throughout his poems, Morrison is consistently anti-TV, almost as if he sees it as responsible for contemporary society's decline. It is paradoxical in that he vehemently supports a view of the world through the camera lens of the filmmaker's eye.

Apart from this cinematic aspect that carries through from his earliest work, the consistent use of dark and violent imagery, and the allusion to sublime philosophy and art, there is no one unifying aspect to his poetry. There is, however, an element of autobiography in the poems, subtly placed in the symbols and motifs associated with the lead singer of The Doors:

Snakeskin jacket
Indian eyes
Brilliant hair
He moves in disturbed
Nile Insect

In The New Creatures, references abound to his clothes, Indian visions, Alexandrine hair, and shamanic dance moves--it is a story about himself. We then are introduced to the poet's perception of his reader:

You parade thru the soft summer
We watch your eager rifle decay
Your wilderness
Your teeming emptiness
Pale forests on verge of light
More of your miracles
More of your magic arms

"You" are the reader along for the journey; "we" are the lords, the poet speaks--enlightened ones, the ones who can see "your wilderness" . . . America? He continues: You are lost now, we are still the ones who can see what the reader cannot. Morrison invites us into his world, but the reader is always kept at arm's length.

In the next section of the poem, we are introduced to the state of the world and its inhabitants, as well as disease, despair, images of torture, and the ominous presence of death always lurking in the background. A strange exotic world is revealed, with rites and customs straight out of Sir James Frazer's "The Golden Bough":

Bitter grazing in sick pastures
Animal sadness & the daybed
Iron curtains pried open.
The elaborate sun implies
dust, knives, voices.
Call out of the Wilderness
Call out of fever, receiving
the wet dreams of an Aztec King.

The elaborate sun is elaborate in its context; the iron curtain forcibly opened reveals war, communism, Stalinist tyranny etc. The sun could be a reference to the east, the land of the rising sun (also the name of a city in Ohio); its place in the wilderness implies its ancient and customary qualities of meaning. The Aztec King brings a whole new dimension and significance to the sun as the ancients used the blood of human sacrifices to strengthen the daily journey of the sun across the sky.

The characters of the poems are creatures of a nightmarish world. It is only upon realizing that the creatures are meant to be us--we modern humans--that the fragments of society, held up to us as a mirror of ourselves through the experience of the author, become familiar. Robert Duncan, a poet from Morrison's era, in a passage reminiscent of Morrison's credo of wake up and the paradoxical consequence of his (Morrison's) beliefs, perhaps best sums up the poet's meaning and reason for creating such a world: "It is in the dream itself that we seem entirely creatures, without imagination, as if moved by a plot or myth told by a story-teller who is not ourselves. Wandering and wondering in a foreign land or struggling in the meshes of a nightmare, we cannot escape the compelling terms of the dream unless we wake, anymore than we can escape the terms of our living reality unless we die."

Later in his life, as a more mature and serious writer, Morrison attempted to awaken from his own living reality, he had become very aware of the naivete of his early work. He reflects on the significance of some of his early ideas and acknowledges the limits of his experience and youthful literary talents in terms of an expression of his life, art, and as a prophetic poet: "I think in art, but especially in films, people are trying to confirm their own existence. Somehow things seem more real if they can be photographed and you can create a semblance of life on the screen. But those little aphorisms that make up most of The Lords -- if I could have said it any other way, I would have. They tend to be mulled over. I take a few seriously. I did most of that book when I was at the film school at UCLA. It was really a thesis on film aesthetics. I wasn't able to make films then, so all I was able to do was think about them and write about them, and it probably reflects a lot of that. A lot of passages in it--for example about shamanism--turned out to be very prophetic several years later because I had no idea when I was writing that, that I'd be doing just that.

Trials & Tradition

After the publication of Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, an increase in availability of drugs, and the popularity of Blake's poetry, radical experimentation by poets and artists flourished in the '60s. Morrison, equally influenced by these ideas, applied them to his life --romantically drawing on Blake's dictum that "the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." He inundated his senses with a barrage of stimulants in order to invoke the shaman's vision -- an aspect of Morrison's aesthetic ideal of the role of the poet-performer. It was also a belief that he was directly linked with his American compatriot, the indigenous Indian shaman. He saw himself as poet and as an American, in terms of a lineage of unity:

Like our ancestors
The Indians
We share a fear of sex
excessive lamentation for the dead
& an abiding interest in dreams & visions

However, Morrison's notion of a shaman's vision, somewhat differed from that of a Native American: "The Shaman . . . was a man who would intoxicate himself. See, he was probably already an . . . unusual individual. And, he would put himself into a trance by dancing, whirling around, drinking, taking drugs--however [he could]. Then, he would go on a mental travel and . . . describe his journey to the rest of the tribe."

Morrison's ideal is saturated with contemporary white-American values and beliefs, which did more to invoke the struggle of good and evil than dispel it with any transcendental magical rite. His combination of traditional shamanic rites with Blakean dictums of knowledge by excess were a recipe for self-destruction and characteristic wild swings between good and downright obscure poetry. The association between the shaman and the figure of the poet was at times written as poetry:

In the seance, the shaman led. A sensuous panic,
deliberately evoked through drugs, chants, dancing,
hurls the shaman into trance. Changed voice,
convulsive movement. He acts like a madman.

Morrison's interest in the shaman was common amongst other poets of the time as well, but each had different views that represented an era of diverse, often exotic beliefs. For example, Jerome Rothenberg, a poet and critic associated with deep-image verse in the '60s and '70s, encouraged a shamanistic type of poetry, where primitive song takes precedence over received forms of English letters. However, Rothenberg did not want to appropriate shamanship, and what he called the "fable of ascendancy," nor did he want to have much to do with people who did:

the old people
ghosts will arise anew
in phantom cities
they will drive caravan across the land
bare chested gods
of neither morning
shaman serpent in thy final kingdom leave
my house in peace

In this poem, characteristically similar to Morrison's work, but different in ideas, Rothenberg emphasizes the resigned tone of the mature realist, a tone that Morrison himself would adopt in his later verse. Instead, Morrison's idea of the shaman's vision is the antithesis of Rothenberg's:

The dark girl begins to bleed.
It's Catholic heaven. I have an
ancient Indian crucifix around
my neck. My chest is hard
& brown. Lying on stained &
wretched sheets w/ a bleeding Virgin.
We could plan a murder, or
start a religion.

Aside from shamanism, Rothenberg also summed up nicely in a letter to Robert Creeley -- another well-known American poet of his day -- the principles of deep image, which apply appropriately to Morrison's style and also express the common stylistic concerns of artistic peers:

The poem is the record of a movement from perception to vision.
Poetic form is the pattern of that movement through space and time.
The deep image is the content of vision emerging in the poem.
The vehicle of movement is imagination.
The condition of movement is freedom.

The idea that perception can be altered and consciousness enlarged, was a central tenet of the Beats as well as Morrison. The idea was made explicit in the French poet Rimbaud's derangement of the senses and in Baudelaire's Le Voyage, the "fire that burns our brains, to plunge into the depths of the abyss, Hell or Heaven, what does it matter? To the depths of the unknown to find something new." Rimbaud's proclamations in his 1871 letter to Paul Demeny, would prove the most influential to Morrison's aesthetic sensibility and his notion of himself as poet seer:

The first study of the man who wants to be a poet in the knowledge of himself, complete. He looks for his soul, inspects it, tests it, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it! It seems simple: in every mind a natural development takes place; so many egoists call themselves authors, there are many others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! -- But the soul must be made monstrous: in the fashion of the comprachicos [kidnappers of children who mutilate them in order to exhibit them as monsters], if you will! Imagine a man implanting and cultivating warts on his face.

I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. 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 visions, he has seen them. Let him die as he leaps through unheard of and unnameable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where the other one collapsed!"

Rimbaud's views, combined with Morrison's knowledge of Native American shaman rituals, romantic poetry, and Beat attitude, was enough to formulate a prescription for experience and what he thought would be an expanded consciousness: "By listening to your body - opening up your senses, Blake said that the body was the soul's prison unless the five senses are fully developed and open. He considered the senses the 'windows of the soul.' When sex involves all the senses intensely, it can be like a mystical experience . . . If you reject your body, it becomes your prison cell. It's a paradox--to transcend the limitations of the body, you have to immerse yourself in it--you have to be totally open to your senses."

In addition, in relation to his stage performance, which is as much about his experiences offstage and his poetry, he continues:

It's a search, an opening of one door after another. Our work, our performing, is a striving for a metamorphosis. Right now, we're more interested in the dark side of life, the evil thing, the night time. But through our music, we're striving, trying to break through to a cleaner, freer realm. Our music and personalities as seen in the performance are still in a state of chaos and disorder, with maybe an element of purity just showing. Lately, when we've appeared in concert, it's started to merge.

More in line with Blake and Nietzsche's aesthetic and messianic path of knowledge, Morrison manages to give his quest a distinctive flavor with the use of indigenous folklore and cultural symbology -- characteristics that make it distinctly American.

Morrison acknowledged he was a product and the embodiment of a violent age; he had reached a crossroads of self-realization, it is as if Morrison desired the death of all he had come to represent. A poem such as "Hurricane and Eclipse" epitomizes this weariness and self-flagellation:

I wish a storm would
come & blow this shit
away. Or a bomb to
burn the Town & scour
the sea. I wish clean
death would come to me.

When he states in his poetry his wish to die; it is hard to see it as merely a desire to die figuratively. Rather, there was a sense that it was somehow the shamanistic poet's duty to sacrifice the self in order to save the tribe. As he had said earlier in an interview, the whole death trip was not entirely of his own making although he wore the role of martyr like a crown: "I'm not sure it's salvation that people are after, or want me to lead them to. The shaman is a healer--like the witch-doctor. I don't see people turning to me for that. I don't see myself as a saviour . . . The shaman is similar to the scapegoat. I see the role of the artist as shaman and scapegoat. People project their fantasies onto him and their fantasies come alive. People can destroy their fantasies by destroying him. I obey the impulses everyone has, but won't admit to. By attacking me, punishing me, they can feel relieved of those impulses."

The Influence of Style

In his book The Living Theatre, Art, Exile, and Outrage, John Tytell recalls Morrison and poet-friend Michael McClure participating in performances of Paradise Now with The Living Theatre company. He also recalls how Morrison offered financial aid to the theatre troupe such was his commitment to the art. Tytell offers an important insight into Morrison's political and aesthetic beliefs and also his loyalty and support of fellow artists: "Morrison--who had read Artaud and Ginsberg in college--saw himself as a revolutionary figure. Agreeing that repression was the chief social evil in America and the cause of a general pathology, he was typical of the sectors of support The Living Theatre had received in America. His long improvisational song 'When the Music's Over' was a basic statement of apocalypse. Another of his songs proclaims, as in Paradise Now, 'we want the world and we want it now.' Morrison had seen every performance in Los Angeles and followed the company up to San Francisco."

The founder of the Theatre of Cruelty, Antonin Artaud, described the motifs of his plays in his manifesto Theatre and Cruelty, as "eroticism, savagery, bloodlust, a thirst for violence, an obsession with horror, collapse of moral values, social hypocrisy, lies, sadism, the plague, disease and depravity" amongst other things. Upon reading Morrison's poetry, this will appear to be a catalogue of his themes and subjects.

As Tytell recollects, Morrison read Antonin Artaud's theoretical ideas, and saw them performed by The Living Theatre Company, which affected his own performances with The Doors. Less has been said about the influence of Artaud the poet on Morrison's verse style. Artaud's poetry is very similar in the free-verse form style and subject matter, especially the way in which he juxtaposes violent imagery with archetypal symbols to invoke a nightmarish sense of reality. In a remarkable passage where Artaud describes what surrealism means to him, we find an almost accurate description of Morrison's perspective on art and performance:

Surrealism was never anything else than a new sort of magic to me. Imagination and dreams, all this intensive freeing of the unconscious whose aim was that those things the soul is accustomed to hiding should break through, and must of necessity usher in a profound transformation in the scale of appearances, in the value of meanings and creative symbolism. Concrete matter entirely changes its garb, its shell and no longer applies to the same mental gestures. The beyond, the unseen, reject reality. The world collapses. Then we can start examining our illusions and stop pretending.

And Morrison:

I offer images -- I conjure memories of freedom that can still be reached -- like The Doors, right? But we can only open the doors -- we can't drag people through. I can't free them unless they want to be free -- more than anything else ... Maybe primitive people have less bullshit to let go of, to give up. A person has to be willing to give up everything -- not just wealth. All the bullshit he's been taught -- all society brainwashing. You have to let go of all that to get to the other side. Most people aren't willing to do that.

Let's just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That's all it was: curiosity.

Ginsberg's use of Whitman's epigraph, preceding his poem "Howl", is in the same sense as Morrison's conception of the doors:

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!"

Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, his own howl--his declaration of the sacred self, an egalitarian America, and the immortality of the soul, was the precursor and the model for the American poet's sense of duty to expand their own, and their nation's, consciousness. Morrison possibly took his cue as much from Ginsberg's adoption of Whitman's symbolic poetic principle, as he did from Blake's dictum in "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" that "if the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." The Doors as the title of his band, and as the symbol of Morrison's own search for enlightenment, was evidence of his knowledge and use of symbolism, but also of his awareness of a tradition in signs and their resonant qualities in literature.

Morrison's writing is a creation of his own world, a journey into the unknown, an extension of the rebel's philosophy to break on through to the other side, where everything is spontaneous and unassured, apart from immortality. His work is a quest, not so much into the world of the unknown universe or spirituality, but rather an immersion in his own being, a search for the essence of the self of the individual and of the nation: "America was conceived in violence. Americans are attracted to violence. They attach themselves to processed violence, out of cans. They're TV-hypnotised -- TV is the invisible protective shield against bare reality. Twentieth-century culture's disease is the inability to feel their reality. People cluster to TV, soap operas, movies, theatre, pop idols, and they have wild emotion over symbols. But in the reality of their own lives, they're emotionally dead ... we fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict." Eliot's free-verse pastiche style of "The Waste Land", combined with Ginsberg's apocalyptic tone and gritty perception of America in "Howl", provided the structural models for Morrison's longer poems such as "American Prayer", which also focuses on aspects of society, in terms of a psychological landscape, and its imperfections. The poems can be read literally with the effect being a sense of malaise or confusion. Read figuratively or metaphorically, the better poems take on a multi-layered depth filled with allusion, imagery, mood, and meaning that is either quite sublime or disconcerting. Most of the poetry unfortunately is fragmented, yet the reader must not forget the chaotic and experimental age in which it was written and intended to translate.

Morrison chooses androgynous symbols and metaphorical figures to convey the mutability and temporality of his era, as in the lyrics of his song "Riders on the Storm" off LA Woman, the last album he made with The Doors. "Riders on the Storm" is a metaphor for those, such as the character of the lord, who is a god in his own right, riding the storm of violent experience and tempestuous forays into evil. It is also a literary allusion to two particular poems by English and American romantic poets whose lives were similar as were the style and subject of their verse. William Cowper's hymnal poem "God Moves in a Mysterious Way", calls to saints to trust the storm, for it is of God's making, it is he that "rides upon the storm":

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

The other reference is from the poem "Praise for an Urn" by Hart Crane, the wildly romantic American poet who inspired modern poets such as the Beats with his lust for life and experience, and his ultimate poetical act of suicide. The act of self-destruction placed Crane in a tradition of the poet as junction, where art meets life with fatalistic results, beyond the aesthetic realm of words. In his poem, the riders are those fragile words that ride the tumultuous storms of the mind and emotions. It is a poem full of sentiments suitable for thoughts on funeral rites, on a friend about to be cremated:

His thoughts, delivered to me
From the white coverlet and pillow,
I see now, were inheritances
Delicate riders of the storm.

The words for the poem within the poem are inherited from the person whose epitaph he writes. Like Morrison's later poems, they are personal moments and thoughts shared from someone whose mind was in turmoil, who perhaps in hindsight may have been whispering for help. Aware that those words, about to be cast into the crematorium with his friend's corpse, have a bittersweet profundity hard to match in other poetry, he realises that "they are no trophies of the sun." Morrison's use of riders on the storm is different again in its implications, but shows an awareness of a romantic motif and subsequent tradition. His rider is the poet figure, the wanderer, "like a dog without a bone / an actor out on loan", yet not the romantic version of the wordsmith of Cowper and Crane's making. Morrison's version of the rider is more like Stephen Crane's Rider from "The Black Riders and Other Lines":

Black riders came from the sea.
There was clang and clang of spear and shield,
And clash and clash of hoof and heel,
Wild shouts and the wave of hair
In the rush upon the wind:
Thus the ride of sin.


James Douglas Morrison died in Paris on July 3, 1971 at the age of 27 and was buried in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery, alongside his literary heroes such as Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine. Paris was an ideal world for Morrison, a world that was as equally ideal as his notion of the poet; it was a place to be a poet, not a famous American pop icon. Arguably, it was there that Morrison wrote his best poetry -- his verse bursting with American landscapes, history, philosophy, and literary allusion. However, it was a place that would make him feel isolated, depressed, and ultimately, suicidal, which was reflected in his poems. The outcome may have been different if Morrison had only heeded the words of his favorite philosopher Nietzsche, who said, "as soon as ever a philosophy begins to believe in itself [...] It always creates the world in its own image; it cannot do otherwise; philosophy is this tyrannical impulse itself, the Will to Power, the will to 'creation of the world,' the will to the causa prima." As Morrison found out, he could not escape the inevitable consequence of his idealism.

Just as Jim Morrison and The Doors were a significant part of America's musical tradition, so too was Jim Morrison's poetry a unique and influential chapter in American literary tradition. He was a poet on paper and in every other sense of the word. Rather than write about experience, he would subject himself to that experience first, physically, psychologically, or chemically, before he wrote about it.

Morrison proceeded to transform himself during his short life, through a series of comprehensive rites of passage. The delving into select works of literature and music, experimentation with different kinds of drugs, physical forays into states of isolation and sexual encounter ... the crucial element was that whatever happened, it was always an intense experience. He methodically sought a transformation and an awakening through rituals and intoxication, and was honest enough to write it down for all to read:

Why do I drink?
So that I can write poetry.
Sometimes when it's all spun out
and all that is ugly recedes
into a deep sleep
There is an awakening
and all that remains is true.
As the body is ravaged
the spirit grows stronger.

Forgive me Father for I know
what I do.
I want to hear the last Poem
of the last Poet.

Morrison saw poetry as an art form used to push the boundaries of convention and of reality. The concerts of the Doors were infamous for Jim's wild Dionysian use of poetry to incite his audience into a state of reckless abandonment and transcendence. More than the power of words to uplift people and to change their lives, he also saw poetry as a means of continuing tradition, history, and art.

In order for the reader to see Morrison as a serious poet, with a clearly defined poetic, we must read his work as poetry, rather than as a strange relic of a dead rock god. What follows is the prologue from Morrison's posthumous collection of poetry, Wilderness:

I'm kind of hooked to the game of art and literature; my heroes are artists and writers ... I wrote a few poems, of course ... 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 ... 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.

As can be seen, Morrison had a clearly defined poetic that would steer both his poetry and his performances (both onstage and off) throughout his life. This connection, between the poetic and the actual poetry itself, is what makes Morrison the committed figure of a genuine poet.

Whether Morrison will ever be recognised as a poet, rather than remembered as mythical pop idol, will depend largely on the passage of time and due critical attention to his poetry. His notion that "nothing else can survive a holocaust but poetry and songs" could perhaps be changed, substituting the word "time" for "holocaust". A century from now, literary critics will look back on the twentieth century as a period of literary change and diversity, unequalled in the history of the printed word. Their focus on the various movements and figures of American literature in the '60s and '70s will be tempered by prejudices and preferences of their own time. Literary historians will be looking for examples of an age when literary and social experiment was at its peak. Morrison will stand out as a poet who represented a time when writers experimented with drugs, language, form, philosophy, music, theatre, and social revolution. It was a time similar to the Romantic era of the French Revolution, but a time and a set of characteristics distinctly relative to literary America in the '60s and '70s.

Heroes of that age will stand out by their text's appeal to a future age when radicalism will perhaps say more than the regional voices of more conventional and canonically recognized poets. After all, Morrison's heroes such as Rimbaud, Artaud, Blake, and Van Gogh are examples of visionary artists, deemed unworthy of the canon in their own age, now considered exemplars of aesthetic style and genius in our time. Likewise, the same will be said of a poet like Morrison, whose work is, at least, no less significant or deserving than minor canonical poets of his time.

(For more of William Cook's thoughts on Jim Morrison's poetry, visit his website).

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