The line may be long, but the poet will get to you eventually.
Back on September 11th 2009, when the poetic/writing community lost Jim Carroll, it hit a particular segment very hard. Disbelief, as it always is with untimely death, was the predominant reaction. One looks around, shakes one's head, tries to get mind around the idea of death. Grief prompts something like an irrational, inconsolable searching. We've all been there, with those closest to us to those we "know," share a deep kinship with, through their work.
It is significant that we characterize this type of kinship with the feeling of having been "touched"; I was deeply touched by the work of Jim Carroll. And for others, like myself, who went looking for an "explanation," or that other type of kinship, shared mourning, we found something profoundly moving.
We found Tom Clark on Jim Carroll.
Back in September, on the 14th, a mere 3 days after Jim's passing, Tom Clark posted his memories of Jim. Somehow, his glimpses into the life of Carroll were just what folks needed to hear. The few scenes were significant, sketched as they were by his friend Clark, a powerful memoirist. Those glimpses, with a touch of poetry by both poets, began a healing process for a community of readers who had always felt that Jim was close to them in spirit.
I'm happy to say, though blogs come and go as quickly as the seasons, Bob Arnold of Longhouse Publications has published Tom's post in a little 23 page booklet that, with the exception of a one photo and minus one or two that were on the blog, essentially replicates that post in its entirety.
The handful of tales Clark recounts of Carroll signify. Jim's deep bond with his dog during his protracted period of kicking dope, his reluctance at pickup games of basketball, his reaching out to a woman reading her poetry at a rehab session, all of these moments, though seemingly small details in a much larger life, feel like a full portrait of a poet that many a whole biography might fail to capture. Clark's account of his own distaste for poetry readings quickly dissipates watching Jim reading to a room of 10 fellow recovering substance abusers:
It was totally mesmerizing; I felt privileged, uplifted, and scared. While reading Jim seemed to leave himself and become the conductor of energies from another place. I understood then I was in the presence of a master, his powers palpable yet perhaps beyond the understanding of anyone present.
Jim Carroll fans will always have Living at the Movies, The Book of Nods, The Basketball Diaries, Fear of Dreaming, Void of Course and Forced Entries, as well as his great rock recordings. And now we have this little set of scenes in which Jim comes to life once again in a way that only a friend and master stylist can make happen. Though it might be both premature and presumptuous to think the inevitable full length biography might not capture Jim as well as this short little memoir, it can surely be said that no one will capture the tone and feel of Tom Clark's thoughts on the great Jim Carroll. If you think this is just the publication for you, jump at it since this little booklet is a limited run (see Tom's note about run in comments below) . I know it will always sit right next to Jim's work on the shelf with all of his writings I have on hand.
There is a photo, by Beatrice Murch, that concludes the book and wasn't on Tom's original post [CORRECTION: This photo did appear in Tom's original post. See his comment, below.] It is a photo of a path out in Bolinas just like the ones Clark describes Jim as often traversing with his dog, Jo'mama, all the while wrestling with loneliness and his various demons. Perhaps it is one of the very paths he walked.
A path that is now empty.
The Birth and Death of the SunNow the trees tempt
the young girl below them
each moves off the other's wind
endlessly, as stars from the earth,
stars from the stars.Jim Carroll
Thanks to Bob Arnold for making this available.
And thanks to Tom Clark, for everything.
This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review #100, a broadside by Cid Corman entitled "You Don't Say."
Here is a
long way off
and as far
at my feet
when did you get here?
translated by David G. Lanoue
PS Books mentioned in this post. Support Independent booksellers.
The Book of Nods
The Basketball Diaries
Fear of Dreaming
Void of Course