James Douglas Morrison Clarke aka Jim Morrison was born December 8, 1943 and died on July 3, 1971. He was only 27 years old at the time of his death. Most people know him as the lead singer from the band, the Doors. But Jim was much more than that, Jim was an American singer, songwriter, philosopher and poet. Extremely well read, Jim began writing in earnest during his adolescence. In college he also experimented with film making.
My great joy is to give form to reality. Music is a great release, a great enjoyment to me. Eventually I’d like to write something of great importance. That’s my ambition—to write something worthwhile. – Jim Morrison
Jim attended St. Petersburg Junior College in St. Petersburg Florida. In 1962, he transferred to Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee where he stayed for two years. In January of 1964, Jim moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA he studied theater, film, and cinematography.
At UCLA, Morrison enrolled in Jack Hirschman’s class on Antonin Artaud in the Comparative Literature program within the UCLA English Department. Artaud’s brand of surrealist theatre had a profound impact on Jim’s dark poetic sensibility of cinematic theatricality. Morrison completed his undergraduate degree at UCLA’s film school within the Theater Arts department of the College of Fine Arts in 1965.
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.
Jim self-published two separate volumes of his poetry in 1969, titled The Lords/Notes on Vision and The New Creatures.
The Lords consists primarily of brief descriptions of places, people, events and Morrison’s thoughts on cinema.
The New Creatures verses are more poetic in structure, feel and appearance. These two books were later combined into a single volume titled The Lords and The New Creatures. These were the only writings published during Morrison’s lifetime.
If my poetry aims to achieve anything, it’s to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel. – Jim Morrison
The mythical Lizard King, Morrison’s alter ego, appeared first in the best-selling record Waiting for the Sun (1968) in a poem that was printed inside the record jacked. It was entitled The Celebration of the Lizard King. Part of the lyrics were used in Not to Touch the Earth and the complete Celebration appeared on record Absolutely Live (1970).
In the following photo taken at the Chateau Marmont hotel by Art Kane in 1969, Jim Morrison sits in a closet reading a book. Several people have tried to make out the title but no one is quite sure.
Silver Birch Press thinks it’s part of the City Lights Pocket Poets series that publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti started in 1955. Their guess is that it is by Allen Ginsberg, a 144-page collection published in 1968 under the title of Planet News. Jim Morrison adored Ginsberg’s poetry.
“Jim would get a few dollars from his mother so he could by a new shirt but he would get a .50 shirt at the Salvation Army and spend the rest of the money buying books on one of his outings to Washington DC.” (From The Lizard King Was Here: The Life & Times of Jim Morrison in Alexandria, Virginia by Mark Opsasnick.)
“He had tons of books over there in his basement room and I’d go over there and look at them and I didn’t have a clue as to what most of that stuff meant. Morrison devoured that stuff when he was a teenager and he was in another world and you have to wonder how that affected him. The whole point is that he was so far advanced in terms of literature he took in and he really seemed to become what he read sometimes.” (Jim Merrill)
“Jim Morrison’s high school reading. These are just a few selected titles – he had over 1000 books in his room and according to Andy Morrison when the family moved out of the house the books went to a local library and probably ended up being sold at a rummage sale for about .25c each. He read Friedrich Nietzsche, James Joyce, Charles Baudelaire, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Plutarch of Chaeronea (Greek Historian), James T. Farrell, Norman O. Brown, Colin Wilson, Antonin Artaud, Julian Beck, Charles Baudelaire, Honore de Balzac, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Jean Cocteau, Jean Baptiste Moliere, Jean Genet, Jean Paul Sartre, Brendan Behan, Joseph Campbell, William Blake, Aldous Huxley, T.S. Elliott, Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Corso, William Burroughs, James Frazer, Arthur Rimbaud, and John Clellon just to name a few.
According to Andy Morrison, “Jim spent a lot of time making entries in his personal notebooks, painting and drawing and watching art house films. He also perfected his ledge walking in Hanes Point by scaling across an old piece of a pier that jutted out over the Potomac River. His friends who witnessed this feat claim that if Jim had fell there would no way he could have ever recovered.”
Andy continued, “Jim would make collages. He’d take a magazine with a color photo and pour lighter fluid on it and he’d make a circle of what he wanted to the back side and take a ball point pen and go back and forth over it. It forced the ink out of it. He made his own collages out of anything he wanted.”
During later years there are reports from his UCLA friends that Jim had several collages hanging on his walls at the tiny one room apartment that he lived in. All of the original artwork and notebooks were destroyed when Jim left Alexandria for Clearwater Florida on August 13, 1961.
After his death, more of Jim’s poetry was released. The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison Volume I is titled Wilderness, and upon its release in 1988 it became an instant New York Times Bestseller.
The Paris Journal has been released as The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison Volume II and was published by Vintage Books in 1990. It has also seen commercial success.
Some poetry recorded from the December 1970 session remains unreleased to this day and is in the possession of the Courson family.
This is the end, beautiful friend.
It hurts to set you free,
But you’ll never follow me.
The end of laughter and soft lies.
The end of nights we tried to die.
This is the… end.