Picks and Pans Review: Wildernes

updated 01/16/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1989 01:00AM

by Jim Morrison

In life, Jim Morrison, the lead singer for the '60s rock band the Doors (a group whose popularity has shown a stubborn durability), was something of a charismatic embarrassment: a sloppy, rude, self-absorbed, often-drunk exhibitionist. Death, which came to Morrison at 27 under cloudy circumstances in Paris in 1971, conferred on him—to some people, at least—the status of rock poet. This scattershot collection, culled from the copious notebook jottings he left behind, makes an attempt to legitimize that posthumous reputation. Long before reaching this tangled alliteration—"Round-up, Rondolay, Rhonda/Red, Rich roll ruse rune/Rake roan ran regard"—the reader will have recognized that Morrison posed no serious threat to Gerard Manley Hopkins. For the most part this book contains fragmented, untitled free verse that attempts to be either startling or self-contradictory in the images it evokes. Again and again, the phrases "I can" and "I am" pop up as Morrison seemed to be as obsessed with asserting his personality on paper as he was onstage. "My flaming sword tongue/Spraying verbal fire-flys/I'm real/I'm human/But I'm not an ordinary man/No No No." Two of the longer pieces, "Ode to LA while thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased" and "The Anatomy of Rock" are nicely realized, with rhythms that for some will bring to mind Ferlinghetti and other Beat poets. They are exceptions. Relative to his rock star peers, Morrison was certainly clever, literate, imaginative and original. But most of his poetic energy was used up in the sheer living of his short life. (Villard, $12.95)

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