Friday, March 26, 2010

Jim Carroll by Tom Clark

Photograph by Mary K. Greer

One of the finest artist produced blogs on the net is by the great poet, Tom Clark. Beyond the Pale serves as a model for poets and writers wishing to produce content and extend the dialogue of author/reader beyond the printed page into the much vaunted digital world. The net is not a source of promotion for Clark, as the book before it was not the point of writing; it is the connection of one mind to another or, in the case of writers, many others. I, as a reader, like to think of the experience as one on one, poet and reader, one at a time.

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 Sun

Now 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
as you'll've
ever got.
Cid Corman

at my feet
when did you get here?

translated by David G. Lanoue



PS Books mentioned in this post. Support Independent booksellers.

Living at the Movies
The Book of Nods
The Basketball Diaries
Fear of Dreaming
Void of Course
Forced Entries


TC said...


Very sweet of you, this post. I've put up a link to it on my blog.

One minor correction: the Bea Murch photo of Bolinas did indeed first appear in my
Jim Carroll post. (Bea grew up in Bolinas.)

Yes, those eucalyptus woods would have been among Jim's haunts.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Thanks, Tom, for all your kind words. I've put the correction into the post.

TC said...


Thanks for making that small correction.

And while we're at clarification, this line --

"jump at it since this little booklet is a limited run" --

has made us wonder here if you have some specific information from Bob as to just how many copies there are in the edition.

Strange as it may seem, I myself don't know!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


A pleasure to set the record straight. I retraced my steps and see that Bob has said that the book would have "Limited availability." I seem to have translated that into limited run.

I'll be happy to change the wording if you think it necessary. Let me know.


TC said...


I owe you a debt of thanks for helping us to sort out the curiously muddled question of the print run of this little memoir. After some months of dwelling in obscurity on the issue I have now learned that the first print run is to be 250 copies, and that, if there is demand, there will be future editions after that. So indeed it seems the "limitation" is in fact unlimited. Hope that will help clear the air for others who may have been as mystified as I am on this point.

After fifty years of writing and publishing I am still learning new things every day about the tricks and tricksters of the trade. This is the sort of thing which it was once interesting to share a dark laugh about with Jim, back in the days when the world and poetry were (relatively) young.

(By the by, in case it does not go without saying, the memoir will continue to be available free of charge here for as long as the Cloud continues to float in the timeless virtual sky...)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Hmn, clears it up for me, too. In the interest of promoting that clarity, I've referred readers to your comment in the body of the post.

Just finished reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids" in which she devotes a few fleeting pages to Jim. She manages to capture his mercurial aspect - in some ways, her portrayal is almost archetypal, which has both its virtues and its drawbacks.

Again, many thanks for helping keep things straight for readers here and for your generosity and understanding.

I've made your post on Jim a permanent link on the sidebar under poetry and magazines. Here's to "Beyond the Pale" having a truly unlimited run.

Ed Baker said...

many many never were lucky
enough or had the 'where-with-all' to get
Beyond the Pale

a center for (many of) those who did:
New York City

I think the Sept 14 th post/memorial is exactly where it is supposed to be... on your Beyond The Pale site...

I was/am appreciative of the comments, too..

and other "stuff" you've broached ...

these days, an edition of 250 copies is a lot...

my 1974 book (Butcher of Oxen) was (also) 250 copies... I got the remainders... about 195

gave away 35 or so still have 50 +

... for those who "dig it"

Mary K. Greer said...

You can copy a better version of the picture of Jim from here - with my permission:

Mary K. Greer

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks very much. In transporting the book back and forth to work while writing the post, the cover got rubbed.

Such a wonderful photo.


TC said...


Sorry if this is becoming tiresome, or should I say hilarious, and I'm not sure anybody gives a hoot anyhow (and there again I hear Jim's gentle laughter from the dark behind the lit-up screen), but the latest news flash from the publishers revises the "limitation" to 125, though I think that figure too may be subject to further revisions and contingencies, circumstances withstanding, & c.

All this confusion on my part arose because of my innocent bumpkin misunderstanding, I suppose. When Bob Arnold first approached me soliciting a prose memoir about a poet, I took for granted he meant something small and fine, not something common in quality and relatively large in circulation.

At any rate, please do forgive all this silliness. I think the bottom line is simple: the old practice of putting clear and honest colophons at the ends of books was a custom that definitely had its uses. Being more than somewhat old and "out of it" I did not know that its time had gone. But whatever my age, I do hope that one day it comes again.

Ed Baker said...

a book of mine was recently "published" "where's the galley proofs?", I naively

the publisher said: "What's a galley proof? Your book is already UP... Its' just as you sent it.. a pdf, here (..)."

and "dig this" Y'all can get a paper copy via some thing called LULA print on demand...

so I got one ...

so no $$ investment (or minimally so) to "publish" a book ... these daze... just order it via "pay-pal" (some 'pal'!) and "they" magically push a button and print one copy one at a time!

I would prefer just printing out say 50 copies via this computer
(which does everything but ('edited out') me on this $500.00 HP 2605 dn... as soon as I can figure out how to use it and find staples for my 1969 Swingline AND get an order of/for 3 copies before so printing).. heck, I'll even sign 'em sign and number them "1/250"
actually, I can just number all 250 of them (or all 3)"1/250" and still be telling the truth!
what-it-is to just "pull the plug" and
dump these fucking machines and the attitudes that they are birth-
ing more! more! ..more and more of less and less!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Not tiresome at all - these are the things we turn over in our minds. As Ed Baker intimates in his own inimitable way, the age of the colophon isn't really gone. There are still folks out there doing it. It's just important, I think, from the beginning that everybody understand what's going on. We poets and publishers have so little - trust is essential.

So, of course, no apologies necessary. I'm so happy that the little booklet and the original post are there for people to savor. Speaking of bygone things, conventional biography has given way to a new medium that I find virtually unreadable - interpretative biography, fictionalized biography, creative non-fiction, injection of the author, sometimes generations distant, into the story - so totally alien to someone like me who isn't naturally drawn to the "genre" to begin with.

Which is what is so vital, so truthful, and so touching about your post on Jim - in seemingly fleeting glimpses you have captured the essence of a man we otherwise know only through his words.

For this, I can't thank you enough.


TC said...


Couldn't agree more with your astute remarks on the new "transformational" biography.

Your reverent dwelling on these things of the past has inspired me to some further dwelling of my own on the physical/spiritual context of the place in which my memories of Jim are/were set.

I've put up In Bolinas (1970-1971).

This post is meant to provide an expanded look at the wider frame in which the Jim memoir is set. Hope his soul will wish to have a stroll there with all of us, once morning comes. Not forgetting to have little Jo along with us, in fact leading the way out ahead of us, naturally.

My thanks, respects again,


Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Thank you Don,

Jim Carroll is in print and available from Longhouse ~

Best wishes, Susan and Bob at Longhouse, Publishers