James Douglas Morrison, Poet:
Observations on the Work - Pt 1

So much of Jim Morrison’s life is a mystery to us. We know almost nothing of his youth, not much which is certain about his passing, and very little really, about the years between. But in some respects, his poetry might be regarded as the biggest mystery of all.

James Douglas Morrison's poetic legacy sprang up in a timing which was not particularly conducive to finding popularity on its own merit. Too late to be a part of the Beat Generation lexicon, Jim’s work was destined to find itself in a situation which can only be described as abominable billing. Not only did it follow such a potent performer as the Beat poetic, It’s pointedly mental focus was completely at odds with the world of confusion and swirling emotion which was the experience of the majority of Americans during that time. Add to that its ubiquitous arcane literary, mythological and metaphysical references, and one would have expected his poetry books to go out of print in about a week. Yet his work has prevailed in a startling fashion; one would have to say it has triumphed in light of the aforementioned factors. Chalk it up to one more mysterious cosmic joke perpetrated by the master of mystery himself!

Jim’s poetry can perhaps best be characterized as drawing thematically from the Symbolist tradition and stylistically from the Beat poetic. Much of the work’s power lies in its ability to provide glimpses into a surreal alternate reality, accomplished through a minimalist style. While Jim’s alternate reality was not in alignment with any reality we knew of, either in the physical or literary world, it was cohesive within the context of his own work. Recurring themes thought to be benign, even blessed, in our physical reality, undergo disturbing transformations within the world of Jim’s work. Not subtle - but then, Jim was not known for diplomacy - he pointed to the results of our actions as thoughtless, irresponsible human beings, unwilling to be present even in our own lives - this at a time when most of his contemporaries chose to ignore their personal responsibility in the slow degeneration of human values, destruction of the environment and the ever-increasing move toward slavery of the average human being to those whose avarice would devour us all - Jim’s “Lords”. Over time, his stark and disturbing visions have come closer and closer to being the reality we DO know, until there is now little to distinguish the reality of his work from the reality we see on our television news programs every single day. Perhaps the way to describe his work is as a visionary poetic.

Despite the gravity of his message, and true to the poet’s integrity, his work is not didactic. His message was an attempt in part, to deliver his audience from acceptance and capitulation - to think for themselves, rather than accept the dictates of others, including his own. I believe he felt the incredible weight of the chosen enslavement of those who would, and still do, follow him blindly. Rather his work simply tells the truth, providing a shining beacon for the discerning observer to (perhaps) take to heart. It “clicks off the possibilities” as he once said. It is up to us to make our own choices.

But there is another face to the work - one which hints at the potential in each human being to find enlightenment, providing another possibility from which we might choose to draw. These are my favorites of his works, for I believe they give us the greatest, if not the clearest glimpses into the true nature of this most mysterious of men - an intensely personal and spiritual side of Jim which more often is hidden in deeply obscure references which make up his more apocalyptic themed work - an excellent example being his frequent use of the hotel/motel image - the perfect metaphor for the many cells of personal reality which co-exist within the greater, or consensus reality. In his more personal works, his references to advanced metaphysical and spiritual truths are clear and concise - for instance, that one’s personal reality is limited only by one’s belief system, appears in his beautiful ode to human potential, Yoga Powers. Originally the second part of a prose poem tryptich in The Lords, it also appears in a more stylized form in Wilderness as Power:

Yoga Powers. To make oneself invisible or small. To become gigantic and reach to the farthest things. To change the course of nature. To place oneself anywhere in space or time. To summon the dead. To exalt senses and perceive inaccessible images, of events on other worlds, in one's deepest inner mind, or in the minds of others.


I can make the earth stop in
its tracks. I made the
blue cars go away.

I can make myself invisible or small.
I can become gigantic & reach the
farthest things. I can change
the course of nature.
I can place myself anywhere in
space or time.
I can summon the dead.
I can perceive events on other worlds,
in my deepest inner mind,
& in the minds of others.

I can

I am 

Another wonderful example is found in the following untitled prose poem from The Lords:

“The alchemists detect in the sexual activity of man a correspondence with the world's creation, with the growth of plants, and with the mineral formations. When they see the union of rain and earth, they see it in an erotic sense, as copulation. And this extends to all natural realms of matter. For they can picture love affairs of chemicals and stars, a romance of stones, or the fertility of fire.”

A “romance of stones” is an exquisite metaphor for the sacred element which exists in even the most apparently mundane of “objects” - energy, the simple building block of life-force creates the matrix of physical manifestation. The fact that all things have life energy, and therefore the ability, on some level, to have attraction for another, is the key to unity. We are all one, and therefore we must feel at every level, that attraction to those whom we are closest to in spirit. The closer we come to God in our evolution, the more expansive becomes the scope of that attraction. Avatars are capable of loving all, despite their human weakness, despite whatever unpleasant, or even repulsive qualities humans find within each other. Perhaps at the level of stones, there can only be attraction for one other, but that is the first point on the path of evolution.

I love those of Jim's writings which explore metaphysical ideas. Because he was such a mystery, I am always most touched by the writings which provide a glimpse, however small, into what his deepest beliefs may have been.
While his poetry still remains for the most part a mystery, I am always very grateful for the small insights which occasionally find me, almost like a gift. I hope to share more of them in the future.

Copyright 2002 by laciefae/waitingfor-the-sun.net

James Douglas Morrison. Poet