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Famous Poet Friday ~ Jim Carroll

Posted by Cutter on January 24, 2013 at 11:10 PM

Welcome back to Cutter's Famous Poet Friday, I am Cutter and I am glad to be returning this feature to the great stage of Wordmachinist.com. Each friday I will attempt to bring you a poet that you either may or may not have heard of and attempt to shed a little light on who they were, what they wrote and maybe why. I hope you enjoy and so you know I will look in to requests and I love questions. But without any further ado, let's talk about

Jim Carroll

August 1, 1949 ~ September 11, 2009

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The late Jim Carroll is likely remembered best for the film based on his semi-autobiographical work of poetry called The Basketball Diaries. The film starred a young Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll.

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Carroll was born to a working-class family of Irish descent, and grew up on New York's Lower East Side, and when he was about eleven (in the sixth grade) his family moved north to Inwood in Upper Manhattan where he attended Good Shepherd School. He was taught by the LaSalle Christian Brothers, and his brother in the sixth grade noted that he could write and encouraged him to do so. In fall 1963, he entered public school, but was soon awarded a scholarship to the elite Trinity School. He attended Trinity from 1964-1968.

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Apart from being interested in writing, Carroll was an all-star basketball player throughout his grade school and high school career. He entered the "Biddy League" at age 13 and participated in the National High School All Star Game in 1966. During this time, Carroll was living a double life as a heroin addict who prostituted himself to afford his habit but he was also writing poems and attending poetry workshops at St. Mark's Poetry Project.

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He briefly attended Wagner College and Columbia University.

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Literary career

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While still in high school, Carroll published his first collection of poems, Organic Trains. Already attracting the attention of the local literati, his work began appearing in the Poetry Project's magazine The World in 1967. Soon his work was being published in elite literary magazines like Paris Review in 1968, and Poetry the following year. In 1970, his second collection of poems, 4 Ups and 1 Down was published, and he started working for Andy Warhol. At first, he was writing film dialogue and inventing character names; later on, Carroll worked as the co-manager of Warhol's Theater. Carroll's first publication by a mainstream publisher (Grossman Publishers), the poetry collection Living At The Movies, was published in 1973.

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In 1978, Carroll published The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical book concerning his life as a teenager in New York City's hard drug culture. Diaries is an edited collection of the diaries he kept between the ages of twelve and sixteen, detailing his sexual experiences, high school basketball career, and his addiction to heroin, which began when he was 13.

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In 1987, Carroll wrote a second memoir entitled Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973, continuing his autobiography into his early adulthood in the New York City music and art scene as well as his struggle to kick his drug habit.

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After working as a musician, Carroll returned to writing full time in the mid-1980s and began to appear regularly on the spoken word circuit. Starting in 1991, Carroll performed readings from his then-in-progress first novel, The Petting Zoo.

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Music career

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In 1978, after he moved to California to get a fresh start since kicking his heroin addiction, Carroll formed The Jim Carroll Band, a New Wave/punk rock group, with encouragement from Patti Smith, with whom he once shared an apartment in New York City along with Robert Mapplethorpe. The band was formerly called Amsterdam, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The musicians were Steve Linsley (bass), Wayne Woods (drums), Brian Linsley and Terrell Winn (guitars). They released a single "People Who Died", from their 1980 debut album, Catholic Boy. The album featured contributions from Allen Lanier and Bobby Keys. The song appeared in the 1985 Kim Richards vehicle Tuff Turf starring James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. (which also featured a cameo appearance by the band), as well as 2004's Dawn of the Dead. It was also featured in the 1995 film

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The Basketball Diaries (based on Jim Carroll's autobiography), and was covered by John Cale on his Antártida soundtrack. A condensed, 2-minute, version of the song was made into an animated music video by Daniel D. Cooper, an independent filmmaker/animator, in 2010. The song's title was based on a poem by Ted Berrigan. Later albums were Dry Dreams (1982) and I Write Your Name (1983), both with contributions from Lenny Kaye and Paul Sanchez. Carroll also collaborated with musicians Lou Reed, Blue Öyster Cult, Boz Scaggs, Ray Manzarek of The Doors, Pearl Jam, Electric Light Orchestra and Rancid.

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Death

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Carroll, 60, died of a heart attack at his Manhattan home on September 11, 2009. He was reportedly working at his desk when he died.

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His funeral Mass was held at Our Lady of Pompeii Roman Catholic Church on Carmine St. in Greenwich Village.

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8 Fragments for Kurt Cobain

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1/

Genius is not a generous thing

In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover

And it resents fame

With bitter vengeance

Pills and powders only placate it awhile

Then it puts you in a place where the planet's poles reverse

Where the currents of electricity shift

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Your Body becomes a magnet and pulls to it despair and rotten teeth,

Cheese whiz and guns

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Whose triggers are shaped tenderly into a false lust

In timeless illusion

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2/

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The guitar claws kept tightening, I guess on your heart stem.

The loops of feedback and distortion, threaded right thru

Lucifer's wisdom teeth, and never stopped their reverberating

In your mind

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And from the stage

All the faces out front seemed so hungry

With an unbearably wholesome misunderstanding

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From where they sat, you seemed so far up there

High and live and diving

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And instead you were swamp crawling

Down, deeper

Until you tasted the Earth's own blood

And chatted with the Buzzing-eyed insects that heroin breeds

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3/

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You should have talked more with the monkey

He's always willing to negotiate

I'm still paying him off...

The greater the money and fame

The slower the Pendulum of fortune swings

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Your will could have sped it up...

But you left that in a plane

Because it wouldn't pass customs and immigration

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4/

Here's synchronicity for you:

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Your music's tape was inside my walkman

When my best friend from summer camp

Called with the news about you

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I listened them...

It was all there!

Your music kept cutting deeper and deeper valleys of sound

Less and less light

Until you hit solid rock

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The drill bit broke

and the valley became

A thin crevice, impassible in time,

As time itself stopped.

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And the walls became cages of brilliant notes

Pressing in...

Pressure

That's how diamonds are made

And that's WHERE it sometimes all collapses

Down in on you

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5/

Then I translated your muttered lyrics

And the phrases were curious:

Like "incognito libido"

And "Chalk Skin Bending"

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The words kept getting smaller and smaller

Until

Separated from their music

Each letter spilled out into a cartridge

Which fit only in the barrel of a gun

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6/

And you shoved the barrel in as far as possible

Because that's where the pain came from

That's where the demons were digging

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The world outside was blank

Its every cause was just a continuation

Of another unsolved effect

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7/

But Kurt...

Didn't the thought that you would never write another song

Another feverish line or riff

Make you think twice?

That's what I don't understand

Because it's kept me alive, above any wounds

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8/

If only you hadn't swallowed yourself into a coma in Roma...

You could have gone to Florence

And looked into the eyes of Bellini or Rafael's Portraits

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Perhaps inside them

You could have found a threshold back to beauty's arms

Where it all began...

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No matter that you felt betrayed by her

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That is always the cost

As Frank said,

Of a young artist's remorseless passion

Which starts out as a kiss

And follows like a curse.

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Praying Mantis

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Look at it

It's all blank

The face in the photograph

Too dark for features

But the praying mantis

Just so clear

Its forelegs fingering my hair

And it's there in focus on my shoulder

It teaches me my true name

It gives me this message:

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Do not strike the low chord,

Lest its vibration awaken the halls of Maya.

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It instructs me on the ways when need be to hide

It awakens the serpent inside to throb, to burn

It pulls the arrow from my ear

And it whispers, whispers, whispers a last word

What seems the last vapors of a long dream

Like Baraka wrote, like James Brown sings

Whispers, "please, please, please."

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The Crucible of Dreams

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What joy that arrives

fades so instantly

not only from one's frantic touch

but from mind.

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what bodies are spring

from absurdity? what breasts?

who are these men who punish me

for walking on cinder?

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those Philistines who hurl rocks

toward us until trembling

and perishing toward a beginning.

dark skulls content with their race.

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and the light of the town

pealed from the arches of silver, the horror.

the blackness of sunlight on railroad tracks

the glow inside glass. not of faces.

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I once saw you from a window

surrounded by the dance of chatoyant fingers

blonde hair flowing beside lunatic oceans.

new short and motionless. as it leaps

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toward rooms of the crucible moistened by mauve

sequins of insanity. two bibles in the grotto .

the smell of heat undulating among the bone tree

which was your companion.

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we met on the mouths of horses

high on the mountain. ( you could

not leave ) seclusion of pine wood and wolves.

wind building up and life of stone

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( that imparts a choir which weaves about your

image. we continue to feel the same among the

changes . as when the calf matures he

discovers there is not time

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for nostalgia once deep in the honeyed

fields of obliquity. she allows

an affair with a horse. and I shall

convince you of the same.)

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must I always lead you toward the pond

(or river or ocean) did we dive

from above the fence before us?

did we swim toward the mossy beat

of our organs like the shark fin

seeming so peaceful on the bloody tides

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lightning froze among jungles

of such ethereal painters. the

sheriff arrests us as we begged to strangers

( and you never returned to the city )

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for you refused to disobey

the fathers who govern your conception.

I was so still as you appeared

yet we wandered so often I forgot

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that you are only part of a life

I shall perhaps never touch again

( no more than the color of thighs

no more than the pain of cinder )

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that pains most when it does not fade

instantly does not reach its beginning

does not die in blood, as it invariable

haunts the crucible behind shields

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of constant daylight.

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All poetry Copyright Jim Carroll

Categories: POET'S OPEN BLOG, CUTTER'S FAMOUS POET FRIDAY, Cutter

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12 Comments

Reply Wordmachinist
11:19 PM on January 24, 2013 
I like the poems and his life was fascinating. I wasn't aware his life was portrayed in the movie but I like that film a lot. Thanks Cutter for doing such a great job on introducing this poet.
Reply Cutter
11:37 PM on January 24, 2013 
Wordmachinist says...
I like the poems and his life was fascinating. I wasn't aware his life was portrayed in the movie but I like that film a lot. Thanks Cutter for doing such a great job on introducing this poet.


You are most welcome Bossman! I love doing this and hope that I can keep in interesting. I liked Carroll's work and I think he should have a more broad fan base.
Reply Tammy Hendrix
11:45 PM on January 24, 2013 
This makes me happy! I learn so much from your sharing, I am looking forward to learning more, more, more...
Reply Tammy Hendrix
12:03 AM on January 25, 2013 
I know we're not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentence... ~ Dylan Thomas

A suggestion, as per your request.
Reply Missy (AKA MRS. Wordmachinist)
4:39 PM on January 25, 2013 
Welcome back, CUTTER!! What a way to kick it back into gear...I had no idea the background of Basketball Diaries, It makes me want to watch it again with this new knowledge in my head. I enjoyed his poetry, and his life was a poem itself. Well done!
Reply MoonCookee
5:07 PM on January 25, 2013 
Another smash hit Brother. I always learn more here than I did in 18 credit hours of college English Lit. Thank you. I treasure this. I'm going tell.
Reply Stargazer
5:53 PM on January 25, 2013 
Thank you so much for this enlightenment..I had not heard of this man but wish I'd known of his accomplishments and sufferings..he brought the agony of humanity to all of us in raw words and brilliant genius..RIP Jim Carroll.. I grieve for the world's loss of such human talent and for myself for never having known of you..thank you Cutter for bringing him to our attention~
Reply Cutter
7:08 PM on January 25, 2013 
Tammy Hendrix says...
I know we're not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentence... ~ Dylan Thomas

We are poets because it is difficult for us to manage anything else and one of the key reasons why I wish to share these poets is to relieve the feeling that we are alone, to show how the others suffered yet succeeded in their words and art.

A suggestion, as per your request.
Reply Cutter
7:09 PM on January 25, 2013 
Missy (AKA MRS. Wordmachinist) says...
Welcome back, CUTTER!! What a way to kick it back into gear...I had no idea the background of Basketball Diaries, It makes me want to watch it again with this new knowledge in my head. I enjoyed his poetry, and his life was a poem itself. Well done!


Thank you Missy! I am so happy to be at this again! It definately gives you a second way to look at the movie, doesn't it? I am glad you enjoyed it and I will be back next week.
Reply Cutter
7:11 PM on January 25, 2013 
Tammy Hendrix says...
I know we're not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentence... ~ Dylan Thomas

I think if you scroll back, before I took over doing this, Jimmy did a profile of Dylan Thomas.

A suggestion, as per your request.
Reply Cutter
7:12 PM on January 25, 2013 
MoonCookee says...
Another smash hit Brother. I always learn more here than I did in 18 credit hours of college English Lit. Thank you. I treasure this. I'm going tell.


Thank you my brother! It is all about the teaching, you know. Teach people in a way that they fall in love with and it ceases to be just learning and becomes joy.
Reply Cutter
7:13 PM on January 25, 2013 
Sonome says...
Thank you so much for this enlightenment..I had not heard of this man but wish I'd known of his accomplishments and sufferings..he brought the agony of humanity to all of us in raw words and brilliant genius..RIP Jim Carroll.. I grieve for the world's loss of such human talent and for myself for never having known of you..thank you Cutter for bringing him to our attention~


It is never too late to get turned on to a poet. My dad at 90 was still calling me a couple of times a month to share poets he had discovered and to me, and again, this is just me, knowing something about the poet make the poetry more alive! Thank you for coming by!