The American Night

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A successor to WILDERNESS: THE LOST WRITINGS OF JIM MORRISON, published in 1988, this volume collects poems and lyrics written by the controversial lead singer of the band the Doors. Morrison, who died in 1971, had yearned to be accepted as a poet rather than as a rebellious rock singer and sex symbol—the role that had gained him fame and notoriety.

THE AMERICAN NIGHT has ten sections, some of which have appeared previously in other forms. “Lyric Verse” reprints six songs recorded by the Doors and two other, unrecorded, lyrics. “The Soft Parade” and “The Celebration of the Lizard” are also Doors material. Segments of some poems were recorded by Morrison as spoken poetry in 1970; those readings were compiled as the 1978 album AN AMERICAN PRAYER, with occasional music added by the surviving Doors. (Some of the recorded poetry is also heard in Oliver Stone’s film THE DOORS.) The book also contains facsimile pages reproducing Morrison’s handwritten copies of some poems.

Morrison’s poetry has been compared to that of nineteenth century poet Arthur Rimbaud. Both writers sought to express the power of the unconscious; moreover, rebelling against societal conventions, both held that the artist should actively pursue states of hallucination and even madness in order to connect with that power. Perhaps endeavoring to approximate the unconscious mind, Morrison’s poetry frequently is disjointed. One image or phrase does not lead to...

(The entire section is 415 words.)