Patricia Kennealy-Morrison – FAQ 14

Okay, but we do hear interminably about Jim and Rimbaud: what’s up with that? What other poets did Jim admire?

Probably people only remember Rimbaud ’cause they’re thinking Rambo–maybe some of them even spell it that way–or he’s the only poet they’ve ever heard of because they keep reading his name in all the Morrisonographies, and only because the usual suspects (the regurgitators) keep blithering on about how Jim was soooo into Rimbauuuud…

Alors, Rimbaud et Baudelaire, bien s[ring]r, mais beaucoup d’autres aussi… Like Yeats, f’rinstance: in fact, one of the first things Jim ever gave me is a gorgeous 1912 edition of Willie’s early (obviously!) poems, beautiful Art Nouveau decorated boards…
Also the Romantics, in which his poetic tastes exactly paralleled my own: Shelley–primo; Byron–okay; Keats–not so much; Wordsworth–cool; Coleridge–any friend of tripping is a friend of mine; and of course Blake, who wasn’t really a Romantic…
Wallace Stevens–a favorite with both of us. I had a volume of Stevens with me in Miami, and even in the middle of our personal emotional upheaval Jim noted it, and was impressed; I have a vivid memory of reading aloud to him, in one of our calmer moments, from “The Idea of Order at Key West”, which somehow seemed appropriate for the time and place…
I’m a big Kipling and Tennyson fan, so I turned Jim on to them–he liked some stuff, but he wasn’t as into them as I was–though for a 25th-birthday present he gave me one of the most incredibly beautiful books I have ever seen and one of my most cherished possessions: a first edition of the Idylls of the King, suitably and tenderly inscribed.
But his poetic taste was all over the lot, sonnets here, blank verse there…everybody from Edna St. Vincent Millay to Petrarch to obscure Jacobeans, and he was not shy about lifting bits he liked.
Presented for your consideration:
“We that did nothing study but the way

To love each other, with which thoughts the day

Rose with delight to us, and with them set

Must learn the hateful art, how to forget.”

–Henry King (1592-1669),

A Renunciation
“God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.”

–William Cowper

(1781-1800), Olney Hymns
He was absolutely thrilled that I had busted him on these; he loved it when someone actually GOT what he was doing, grateful that someone else was not only on the same page but in the same poem as he was… I’ll let you track down the many other allusions on your own; good hunting!

Mais Rimbaud et Jim? A while back I read the recent Wallace Fowlie book on Jim and Rimbaud that the knuckledraggers never fail to cite, oooh wow!, as proof positive of Jim’s poetic credentials–oh, and by the way, Professor Fowlie, you discourteous clod, you never even bothered to send me a thank-you note for the very nice letter and books and words about Jim I sent you (at your home address, even!) a few years back. Miss Manners would be very cross with you…
But since in his book Fowlie spends soooo much time impressing us (or himself) with his various Doors connections–the anti-Patricia contingent, needless to say, including Gopher Boy–and activities, and with how hip he himself is even though he actually DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHO JIM WAS at first, perhaps I’m not so surprised at his appalling rudeness after all…
Now. I myself am utterly UNimpressed with Fowlie’s literary treatment. As a quondam Lit. major (I was trained in Joyce by the great Zack Bowen himself, and by Boyd Litzinger in Browning and Tennyson, and by Paul Matthiessen in the Romantics! Now there’s collegial litcred for you!), I had been hoping for some nice, preposterously academic parsing of Jim’s stuff–always good for a laugh–and maybe even some real insights.
Fowlie’s parvissimum opus is more about Wallace Fowlie than about Rimbaud, and it’s way more about Rimbaud than about Jim. In fact, it’s hardly about Jim’s poetry at all, really–it seems that Jim’s actual work, as opposed to his life and his legend, is the least of Fowlie’s interests and, indeed, understanding. The book certainly isn’t the scholarly exegesis complete with allusional annotations I had been hoping for, and I certainly would not recommend that anyone buy it, or even read it.
The whole thing started not with rock `n roll but with a letter from Jim to Fowlie in 1968, in which Jim thanks the Prof for his newly published English translation of Rimbaud’s poetry, “since I don’t read French very well”.
One of the very few instances of Jim being disingenuous: HE COULDN’T READ A WORD OF FRENCH! Pas un petit mot…well, maybe in Paris he learned `bonjour’ and `merci’ and `croque monsieur’–if that–but c’est tout…and that was much later anyway.
He studied Spanish in college (maybe high school too?), and got average grades for it, but that appears to have been the extent of his linguistic education and flair. [Whereas I am not only fluent in French and Latin–straight A’s through high school and college–capable of quoting Catullus and, yeah, okay, Rimbaud too, in the original from memory (Jim was, like, you know, impressed), but accomplished enough in German to check the translations of my books auf Deutsch for style and error, and can manage enough Irish and Welsh to tamper with both for my novels. Brag, brag, brag… ]
And I don’t happen to think Fowlie’s translations are so great, either…
Anyway, the bottom line is that yeah, Jim liked Rimbaud just fine. But he liked other poets just as much, if not more. Maybe we’ll start seeing that reflected in the ravings of the subliterate Jimolatrous hordes; maybe not.


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