From: We Could Be So Good Together. Jim Morrison
It is Sunday morning in late December of 1969, I am riding shotgun in the Blue Lady and it is raining cats and dogs. Jim was at the zenith of his rock-idol period. His celestial sphere sat directly above at High Noon.
He was also days-drunk but also acting like he was not. He was on automatic pilot stopping only to pass a bottle in a brown bag or to ask me for another cold beer sitting at my feet. He switched between radio stations playing only driving rock, his own music, and the rest of the top songs of the day.
It would be a year before his Swan Dive in Miami, and as his own eerie lyrics so fatally predicted, this rock rebel, mischievous angel would tumble from the heavens. He would become mortal, never to fly again.
We cruised through downtown Los Angeles which at the time was still a colossal slum. A few years earlier, Bunker Hill sat in ruins peopled by the dregs of society, once a fabulous district of old victorian mansions was now rapidly dissembling in gruesome symbiosis.
The beginnings of new Los Angeles skyline had now replaced a shameful “Bowery slum” with new high rises and a swanky convention center. In the surrounding streets, it was still “those dark satanic mills”. The appalling living conditions were on par with any third world country.
I asked Jim if we could go see Angels Flight. We pulled over to the curb and sat at the top of Bunker Hill watching the deluge. He looked at me for what seemed like an eternity. Then he turned off the radio and said, “What did you say?”
I repeated, Angels Flight. It’s around here somewhere, right?
I was puzzled that he seemed so surprised. Then he said ,”How could you possibly know about Angels Flight?” Now it was my turn to be surprised. Surely he had seen it in most gangster movies or detective shows in early Los Angeles film noir. It was seen in TV shows — Dragnet, Perry Mason, and movies like Kiss Me Deadly, and even very silly movies such as The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies.
He listened intently as I rattled off the names of the very same films and TV series he also cherished as much as any historian. We talked back and forth about gangsters,villains, and heroes, movies about cowboy legends, war heroes, bad guys, and naughty girls.
“So where is Angels Flight?” I asked again.
We headed downtown where the rain was now hitting the streets like rapid gunfire with swift flowing gutters. Touch Me was blasting on the radio. The torrential gatling-gun-rain was louder.
We sat looking at Angels Flight or I should say, the site where it once rested. Jim looked over at me and said “Tt’s gone. They tore it down this summer.” We sat in silence, or to sharpen the point, “in rapt funeral amazement” .
We were both startled by the the absolute polar opposite mood we were dragged into. Scarborough Fair was playing in all its far too pleasant, feel good lyrics, “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”. We both contemplated visceral suicide. Jim changed the station, and soon we were released from the dreadful happiness and back to Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride’. We drove off singing at the top of our lungs in a desperate attempt to shake off the sickeningly sweet lyrics “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?”
Two years later Jim would be dead, but this memories are as vivid as they were on that day. Whenever I visit Los Angeles if I do not visit the new site it matters not for just being in proximity is as good as being there and those indelible remembrances prevail.
Twenty-seven years later in 1969, the funicular railway was lovingly restored, then reopened to my delight. Just to see it running again is to take a trip back in time to the sweet never-to-be-seen-again era of silver and celluloid.
Out of the vastness of the Los Angeles Forum, its 18,000 seats filled on a December Saturday night with the cream of LA’s teenybopper set, came the insolent cry. The Doors didn’t want to do their 1967 hit; not only had they just finished their first number, but onstage with them and their 32 amplifiers were a string sextet and a brass section ready to perform new Doors music.
They got through a few more numbers, but then, with the yelling getting louder, they acquiesced. A roar of cheers and instantly the arena was aglow with sparklers lit in literal tribute. The song over, and the kids shouting for more, lead singer Jim Morrison, in a loose black shirt and clinging black leather pants, came to the edge of the stage.
“Hey, man,” he said, his voice booming from the speakers on the ceiling. “Cut out that shit.” The crowd giggled.
“What are you all doing here?” he went on. No response.
“You want music?” A rousing yeah.
“Well, man, we can play music all night, but that’s not what you really want, you want something more, something greater than you’ve ever seen, right?”
“We want Mick Jagger,” someone shouted.
“Light My Fire,” said someone else, to laughter.
It was a direct affront, but the Doors hadn’t seen it coming. That afternoon, before the concert, Morrison had said: “We’re into what these kids are into.” Driving home from rehearsal in his Mustang Shelby Cobra GT 500, he swept his arm wide to take in the low houses that stretched miles from the freeway to the Hollywood Hills. “We’re into LA. Here, kids live more freely and more powerfully than anywhere else, but it’s also where old people come to die. Kids know both and we express both.”
The teens had belonged to the Doors; their amalgam of sensuality and asceticism, mysticism and machine-like power had won these lushly beautifully children heart and soul, and the kids had made them the biggest American group in rock music. Now, at one of their biggest concerts, prelude to the biggest ever at New York’s Madison Square Garden in January, the kids dared laugh, even at Morrison. Not much, but they had begun.
The Doors started out in LA’s early hip scene in 1965. Morrison, then 22, son of a high-ranking navy official, met organist-pianist Ray Manzarek on the beach at Santa Monica while both were making experimental films at UCLA. Drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger became friends of Manzarek at one of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s first meditation centres in southern California. Named from a line of Morrison’s poetry – “There are things that are known and things that are unknown; in between are doors” – by early 1966 they had their first date, playing for $35 a week at a tiny and now defunct club on Sunset Strip.
While on their second job as the house band at Whisky a Go Go, working behind dozens of groups they have now eclipsed, they began to build a following, playing blues and classic rock songs with a harsh and eerie stringency.
“We were creating our music, ourselves, every night,” Morrison said, “starting with a few outlines, maybe a few words for a song that gradually accrued particles of meaning and movement. Sometimes we worked out in Venice, looking at the surf. We were together and it was good times.”
Their best songs, Crystal Ship, the diabolical The End and Light My Fire took shape in those early days while Morrison was developing the erotic style that has made him the group’s star and rock’s biggest sex symbol. He doesn’t fall off stages any more, but he writhes against the microphone stand, leaps from eyes-closed passivity into shrieking aggression, and moans sweet pain like a modern St Sebastian pierced by the arrows of angst and revelation.
Just about everybody takes him seriously: the New Haven police who last year arrested him for “giving an indecent or immoral exhibition”; the girls who rush the stage, sometimes only to get ashes flicked from his cigarette; and critics who rave in detail about “rock as ritual”. But no one takes Morrison as seriously as Morrison takes Morrison.
His stage manner, he said, unlike the acts of Elvis, Otis Redding, and Mick Jagger, with whom he is often compared, has a conscious purpose. Shyly, almost sleepily soft-spoken in private, he sees his public self as a new kind of poet-politician. “I’m not a new Elvis, though he’s my second favourite singer – Frank Sinatra is first. I just think I’m lucky I’ve found a perfect medium to express myself in,” he said during a rehearsal break, slouched tiredly in one of the Forum’s violently orange seats. Though handsome, with his pale green eyes and Renaissance prince hair, he has none of the decadent power captured in the spotligh
“Music, writing, theatre, action – I’m doing all those things. I like to write, I’m even publishing a book of my poems pretty soon, stuff I had that I realised wasn’t for music. But songs are special. I find that music liberates my imagination. When I sing my songs in public, that’s a dramatic act, not just acting as in theatre, but a social act, real action.
“Maybe you could call us erotic politicians. We’re a rock’n’roll band, a blues band, just a band, but that’s not all. A Doors concert is a public meeting called by us for a special kind of dramatic discussion and entertainment. When we perform, we’re participating in the creation of a world, and we celebrate that creation with the audience. It becomes the sculpture of bodies in action.
“That’s politics, but our power is sexual. We make concerts sexual politics. The sex starts out with just me, then moves out to include the charmed circle of musicians on stage. The music we make goes out to the audience and interacts with them, they go home and interact with the rest of reality, then I get it back by interacting with that reality, so the whole sex thing works out to be one big ball of fire.”
That analytical abandon was just right for the serious rock of the post Sgt Pepper era. After the album version of Light My Fire got heavy airplay on FM rock stations, Elektra released a shorter single that became a top 40 No 1. The Doors have followed it with a series of singles and two more albums. They have a quickly identifiable instrumental sound based on blues topped with Morrison’s strong voice and lyrics. Manzarek plays a rather dry organ, but Krieger is an aggressive guitarist and Densmore a solid and inventive drummer.
Yet as the kids in the Forum knew, they’ve never topped Light My Fire. The abandon has gotten more and more cerebral, the demonic pose more strained. The new music they wanted the crowd to like at the concert was abstract noise crashing behind a Morrison poem of meandering verbosity.
After the show, Morrison said it had been “great fun”, but the backstage party had a funereal air. And at times that afternoon, he showed that he knew their first rush of energy was running out. Success, he said, looking beat in the orange chair, had been nice. “When we had to carry our own equipment everywhere, we had no time to be creative. Now we can focus our energies more intensely.”
He squirmed a bit. “The trouble is that now we don’t see much of each other. We’re big time, we go on tours, record, and, in our free time, everybody splits off into their own scenes. When we record, we have to get all our ideas then, we can’t build them night after night like the club days. In the studio, creation is not so natural.
“I don’t know what will happen. I guess we’ll continue like this for a while. Then to get our vitality back, maybe we’ll have to get out of the whole business. Maybe we’ll all go off to an island by ourselves and start creating again.”
Even when rock stars create more-or-less conventional families, the lines of dynastic inheritance can still break down within a generation or two.
In theory, Jim Morrison, made the smart moves to ensure that his wealth – a “massive” $400,000 when he died in 1971 – transferred in an orderly fashion to his common-law wife Pamela Courson.
But because he and Courson died childless and she didn’t bother writing a will, control of his 25% stake in the Doors’ record sales and copyrights became contentious.
And now that the last of the first generation of caretakers is in her early 90s, the rights seem likely to accelerate their slide away from the people who knew and understood Morrison when he was alive.
The lesson for estate planners focused on the long term is clear: the first transfer is relatively easy to lock down, but the real work is in keeping things on track when the property shifts again decades down the road.
The truly long tail
Morrison’s lawyer is only accountable for part of the problem here.
Back in 1971, nobody predicted that the copyrights on the Doors song catalog would even still be an issue 43 years after the rock star himself was dead.
Under then-extant intellectual property law, Morrison’s lyrics would have stopped accruing royalties in 1996 and the challenge of assigning that income stream beyond that point would be academic.
However, unexpected extensions of the copyright period now mean that his literary estate remains active until at least 2041, which means putting plans in place to cover almost 40 years of further contingencies.
The legal landscape keeps changing, so the best an executor can really do is remain engaged and flexible enough to roll with unexpected developments.
A similar case can be made for the dynastic family as a moving target, and this is where Morrison should have gotten better advice.
His will left everything to Coulson, who only survived him by three years before a fatal overdose.
When her name showed up in Morrison’s will, his lawyer should have asked the follow-up questions: what happens if she dies, and does she have a will as well?
Evidently the conversation only got far enough to establish that if Coulson failed to outlive Morrison by longer than a few months, the songs and royalties they represent would revert to his brother and sister.
She survived long enough, so she inherited. But if anyone ever asked her about her own plans, nobody seems to have acted on the answers – the chain of succession died with her.
In the absence of a will, her parents inherited. His parents sued and received an ongoing stake in his legacy to ensure “parity.”
It’s clear from Morrison’s conscious decision to bypass his parents that he he didn’t want them to oversee his artistic posterity, while the Coulsons were practically strangers.
But because nobody sat down with Pamela before she died, those people ended up in control of his posthumous rights all the same.
Poetic justice or just random drift?
Doors devotees characterize Pamela’s father, who originally became artistic executor of the estate after she died, as the most eager to develop the Morrison mystique.
The Morrisons themselves seem to have been content to take a back seat and let the checks come in.
Either way, the only one of the original four parents left alive at this point is Coulson’s mother, Pearl.
She turns 91 in September, so the time left for her to weigh in on the estate is getting short. What happens when she dies?
Jim’s mom and dad have been gone since 2005 and 2008, respectively. Odds are good they bequeathed their share in the Doors to their surviving kids, which would mean the brother and sister are finally back in the loop.
On Pamela’s side, sister Judith is still alive and is likely to inherit when her mother dies.
However the beneficiaries weigh out, they’ll collectively be entitled to a 25% split of the Doors’ residual income streams alongside Robby Krieger, John Densmore and the late Ray Manzarek’s wife.
Based on a reported $3 million in annual record and download sales plus incidental publicity and memorabilia licensing, each quarter of the band may be worth $1 million a year at this point.
That’s not a tragedy, but as the slices get thinner, it becomes harder to align all the interests.
Krieger and Manzarek already alienated Densmore and the Morrison heirs by trying to cash in with a touring reunion act without consent from the other partners.
They were also eager to break Morrison’s long-standing edict against licensing the catalog to advertisers, even though the right commercial could easily quadruple or quintuple reported record sales revenue.
Apple and Mercedes were both interested in paying seven to eight figures for an ad, but both times the other partners shot the deal down as contrary to the band’s principles.
Does Jim Morrison’s sweetheart’s sister take his bohemian credo more seriously than cold hard cash? What about her kids, or his own nephews or nieces?
Sooner or later, the artistic vision that creates the music gets so diluted that entertainment becomes a business. When that happens here, you’ll hear “Riders on the Storm” and other songs used to sell cars and iPods.
And eventually, one or more interests will want to cash out for a lump sum. The more pieces the pie gets cut into, the harder it will be to negotiate a group deal – but it will get easier for an outsider to accumulate the rights piece by piece.
Unless members of the Morrison and Courson families make an effort to teach the heirs what the Lizard King wanted, he’s not going to get what he wanted.
Beyond the grave
Needless to say, Morrison could have exercised much stronger “dead hand” powers by putting his intellectual property into a trust.
That vehicle could have paid Pamela all of its income for as long as she was alive, but she wouldn’t have been able to direct its long-term strategy one way or another.
If Jim said his trust would always veto the rest of the band on licensing the songs, that’s what the trust would do.
And upon Pamela’s death, successor beneficiaries would be determined according to Jim’s dictates. Although we can’t know for sure, this would probably leave the income with his siblings today, bypassing both sets of parents and ultimately all of the Coursons.
The beneficiaries would be free to do as much or as little estate planning as they like in order to assign their own assets. The Doors lyrics would enjoy the closest thing to immortality the law allows.
And as the law changes, a well-constructed trust would be able to change with it while leaving its core mandate untouched.
If intellectual property protection stretches out even further, a Morrison trust would have the power to plan to be around in 2050 and beyond.
With the right trustees, the vehicle could also adapt to shifts in the marketing environment, sidestepping the land grab over “peripheral” merchandising that has troubled the Jimi Hendrix estate, for example.
There will probably be scenarios we don’t even know how to forecast yet, let alone manage. Jim Morrison couldn’t even see his wife’s death coming. A trust can evolve with the times.
Pearl “Penny” Courson
Passed away peacefully Friday July 11, 2014 at her home in Santa Barbara, CA after a long battle with cancer at the age of 90.
Born September 14, 1923 in Chicago, IL, Penny was the daughter of the late Paul Schmidt of Vienna, Austria and the late Margaret Jarvis Schmidt of Illinois.
She is survived by her daughter Judith Courson Burton, granddaughter Emily Burton and husband Chris McGillin, grandson James Burton and wife Deja Rabb Burton, and her great grandchildren Everett, Simone, and Colette. She was preceded in death by her daughter Pamela Courson Morrison and husband Columbus “Corky” Courson.
A child of the depression Penny overcame tough circumstances. After she married Corky they traveled the world. She was a connoisseur of the arts and worked as an interior designer. She was a homemaker and great cook who loved to entertain for family and friends. Penny was a staunch liberal with a feisty personality.
She loved her Bichon Frisé Lola and her dearest friend Jaime Camargo, who cared for her and her husband when they took ill.
Penny’s ashes will be interred next to the love of her life, her husband of 64 years. Memorial services will take place at the Santa Barbara Cemetery chapel on August 16th at 1pm.
In lieu of flowers please consider donating to the Jim Morrison Film Award at UCLA or The Santa Barbara Hospice, which was very helpful in her last days.
– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/newspress/obituary.aspx?pid=171936358#sthash.kvfsPYv7.dpuf
We ran this story back in 2010 and much to my delight. Coronado’s who have left here never to return still read about the way we lived. As you will read in the story and the post’s and comments section, friends are still trying to locate each other to renew old memories of precious times gone by.
A.R. Graham (Editor)
YOU KNOW YOU GREW UP IN CORONADO WHEN
Excerpts from the Facebook blog exclusively for those of us who grew up in Coronado:
Does anybody remember the reverend (I think it was Reverend Brown) of the Episcopal Church, when he dyed his hair blonde and bought a corvette? This was probably back in the 50s? He was the talk of the town. That was my church growing up — still a beautiful church. – Maureen Rutherford Nieland
That’s a hoot! We could have used him over at Graham Memorial. Carson was like a raven. – Suzi Lewis
Oh, I remember him driving that car around town, LOL! – Helen Nichols Murphy Battleson
|I’m looking to get a hold of Ken Brown, thanks!|
|Would you believe….for the 50th CHS reunion the ‘Centaurs’ put it together one more time. Drew Gallahar (Base & Vocals/Santee) coordinated a rehearsal studio in San Diego. Surprisingly to us, sound was good and we decided to show up for the reunion. Good thing since Cliff Lenz and myself were in the class of ’64.
We had Bill Lamden (Sax,Flute,Base & Vocals/San Diego), Danny Orlino (Lead Guitar, Base & Vocals/ Guam), Ken Brown (Drums & Weird Noises/ Westlake Village), Drew Gallahar (Base, Guitar & Vocals) and the glue that brought us together, Mr. Cliff Lenz (Piano, Organ, Guitar, Base & Vocals/Seattle). We were extremely excited when Mike Seavello (Tambourine/San Diego) agreed to coordinate Sound, Equipment and our sanity checks.
For 50+ years out…. we didn’t sound bad and we all had a great time. Just wanted to thank all that supported our musical efforts throughout the years. They were glorious times for each of us and hope we represented good times for you as well.
Original Members: Cliff Lenz: keyboards, lead guitar
Rick Thomas: lead guitar Doug Johnson: bass Pat Coleman: drums
“The Centaurs” by Cliff Lenz: Funny how a love affair with rock and roll and a seven year odyssey of performing, recording, road trips, and opening for some of the biggest names in rock can begin with just a casual meeting between two high school kids. In the fall of 1962, a classmate and friend of mine at Coronado High, Doug Johnson, said there was a new student named Rick Thomas who played electric guitar and that we should meet. I had a Les Paul Jr. and a breadbox size amp and thought that two guys could sound a lot more like the Ventures than just one guy. So I called Rick and we got together at Doug’s house with our guitars for a jam session. Miracle of miracles, we could actually play something together that didn’t sound half bad, the Venture’s tune “The McCoy”, E, A, and B7th and lots of open string melody notes, but what the hell it was a start and it was a thrill. I’m sure that it’s a thrill for all young musicians who, never having played with someone else, experience for the first time what collaborative music making can be.
We started practicing on a weekly basis putting a repertoire together. Pat Coleman became our first drummer and we enlisted Doug Johnson to play bass. Having no prior musical experience, it was a little too much for Doug and he politely resigned from the band after a few weeks. Not long thereafter the (now) trio was asked about playing for an after-football game dance. Assistant Principal, Mr. Oliver, wanted to make an announcement over the school PA that a band would be performing but we didn’t have a name. He actually suggested we call ourselves Rick and the Shaws or Cliff and the Dwellers!We had been thinking about possible names. At the time, the Air Force had rolled out its new ballistic missile, the Atlas Centaur – That’s It! Call ourselves the Centaurs and every time they fire one of those babies off, we get free publicity. It was decision time in the principal’s office, and so the group was officially launched with Mr. Oliver’s announcement that the “Centaurs” would be playing that night. I think we had maybe fifteen tunes and played everyone of them three times, but we made it through the gig without a single tomato flying toward the stage. Another thrill and we were hooked.
The new venture would include the frequent addition and deletion of personnel. (This is not necessarily in chronological order).We added a girl singer, Clair Carlson, and saxophonist, Randy Chilton. Kenny Brown became our new drummer with the prettiest pearl Ludwig drum set in San Diego. Drew Gallahar (a guitarist and trumpet player in the CHS stage band) joined us on bass. I got a Fender Strat and Bandmaster amp. Not to be outdone, Rick got a Fender Jaguar and Showman 15 amp and a Fender reverb unit! We got the gig as the house band at what would become the legendary Downwind Club – the Junior Officer’s Club on North Island where we played for six years barely keeping our heads above the oceans of beer served every Sunday. A wonderful saxophonist from La Jolla, Bill Lamden, replaced Chilton. For a time, Janie Seiner was our vocalist. There were dances, concerts, and car shows all over San Diego, and we even played for a change-of-command party at North Island with more captains and admirals than you could count. A major thrill was recording a couple of surf tunes in the United Artists Studio in Hollywood, a session that was produced by Joe Saracino, who had been the producer of the Ventures. We also played on the Sunset Strip in the summer of ’66 in the same club where the Doors became famous.
Rick left the group late in ’66 and was replaced by Danny Orlino. The rest of us were now at San Diego State and Danny was still at CHS. He was a truly gifted player. Bob Demmon, longtime CHS band director and rock guitarist with the famous surf group, the Astronauts, once told me that Danny was maybe the finest guitarist he had ever known personally. I now doubled on guitar and organ. I think we were the first rock group in San Diego to use a cut down Hammond. The keyboards were in one box and the guts in another for portability. I also invested in a Leslie speaker, which really enhanced our sound.
From ’62 to ’67, the music had morphed from Pop to Surf to R&B to Psychedelic. We now had a new chick singer, Linda Morrison (she lived in San Diego), a great talent who became a real driving force with her powerful vocals. Not bad to look at either. She later became Miss San Diego. Steve Kilajanski took over on sax for awhile. We also now had an agency booking engagements for us, Allied Artists of San Diego, and we joined the musicians’ union. Kenny Brown became our manager giving way to several new drummers, all excellent players – Kenny Pernicano, Rick Cutler, the late Paul Bleifuss (formerly with the great S.D. band, the Impalas), Carl Spiron (who played with one of San Diego’s all time great groups, Sandi and the Accents/Classics), and later Terry Thomas.
With great reluctance in 1969, I left my last band (Bright Morning) and my long-time guitar buddy Danny Orlino to head north to go to graduate school at the University of Washington. Danny left San Diego and has been a famous guitarist and singer in Guam for many years. Kenny Brown converted his band manager skills and keen business sense into a successful real estate and property management career in the Los Angeles area. Bill Lamden became a dentist. Drew Gallahar still has his hands all over guitars but now he makes them. He’s a guitar builder at the Blue Guitar in Mission Valley. I had a 20-year career as a television producer and the host of “Seattle Today” on the NBC affiliate in Seattle, but I was also composing and performing music at the same time. Along the way I received an Emmy for composing the theme music for the Phil Donahue Show. I have returned to music as a guitar and piano teacher in the Seattle area. Sadly, Rick Thomas died of cancer in 2004 after a career as an electrical systems maintenance engineer. I visited him in Chico, CA a few months before he passed away. We got out the guitars and played and reminisced. A few months after he died, his parents sent me his guitar, which I will always treasure. It’s an uncommon Fender model called the Coronado.
Thanks to all those of you who listened and danced to our music over the years. It was a great party! (Cliff Lenz, co-founder/leader- the Centaurs)
“The Centaurs” by Ken Brown: The Centaurs rock ‘n’ roll band from Coronado during the 60s meant something special because “The Centaurs” were part of the 60s Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution. I can remember an article in the Coronado Islander, our high school paper, which pictured the Centaurs success on par with the Beatles. They were riding high and so were we. When you are young, talented, and restless, the imagination becomes your reality. We were on top of the world, our world, and it was great fun for all who participated. We went from playing at Sea World to the Downwind Club to All Night High School Parties to our own Dance concerts. A highlight was the Centaurs opening for ‘The Doors’ at Balboa Stadium. The participants had their own special role for they too were part of the 60s Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolution.
I can safely say that I would not trade a moment of this musical bonanza for any other. We were living life at a fast pace with all the trimmings. Local people knew we were the Centaurs. We carried it wherever we went. We were young talented musicians (all in the local musicians’ union) who had set a new stage and pace for rock and roll. We had the 62 + 64 Chevy 327 Impalas, the Delorean, the Lotus ,and Hemi engines, and a bunch of other hot cars of the time. The Centaurs were sexy with strapping lads and foxy singers. If you were not in the ‘mood’ before our event inevitably you left in the ‘mood’. And that’s my point.
During our 25th Centaur Reunion at the Coronado Women’s Club, we had an array of people, some family, others were supporters with their special memories of what “The Centaurs” did for them. We brought the new 60s sound to Coronado and all its surroundings. We opened the musical doors for our generation. We may have never competed with the Beatles, but we sure promoted their music, along with the Rolling Stones, and a whole lot more Legendary Rock Bands of our time. Can’t have much more fun than that because “We lived the Dream”. (Ken Brown, Drummer and Business Manager of “The Centaurs” and “Framework” from Coronado)
After publishing we received this great comment from Cliff Lenz, original member of The Centaurs:
Thanks for putting the Centaurs in the Rock ‘n’ Roll issue of the Coronado Clarion. (And first up no less!) A side note to the article I thought you’d be interested in- my father was a navy officer- graduated in the same class as Admiral Stephen Morrison from the Naval Academy (class of ’41). They were life long friends and ended up retiring together in Coronado. When I found out that he was the father of Jim….I was excited about the opportunity to ask him about his superstar son. However, my mother warned me to never bring the subject up with his parents as he was persona non grata within the family. The picture of the Admiral in the Academy ’41 Yearbook looks like Jim with a flat-top!
Another sidebar- We opened for the Doors in the old Balboa Stadium in July ’68. Amazing concert- 25,000 stoned/screaming fans. Years later Oliver Stone comes out with “The Doors” with Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. My stock went up with my two sons when I told them that their dad’s band opened for a Doors concert in San Diego. A few years later my son, at the University of Oregon, told me that he was walking to class with a girl friend and the movie came up in the conversation.
Trying to impress her he reported that his dad had a band that opened for the Doors at a big stadium concert. She said: “Cool, My dad was actually in the Doors!” Turns out she (believe her first name was Kelly) was the daughter of drummer John Densmore!
As they say- small world.
Thanks again for the inclusion of my old band in your magazine- I dearly miss those days……… Coronado and the music of the ’60’s.
The Night Of The Lizard King
A Ghost Rock Opera in three acts
Written By: Alan Graham
Enter Admiral Morrison singing.
Grandma love a sailor
who sailed the frozen sea.
Grandpa was a whaler
And he took me on his knee.
He said, “Son, I’m going crazy
From livin’ on the land.
Got to find my shipmates
And walk on foreign sands.”
This old man was graceful
With silver in his smile.
He smoked a briar pipe and
He walked four country miles.
Singing songs of shady sisters
And old time liberty.
Songs of love and songs of death
And songs to set men free.
I’ve got three ships and sixteen men,
A course for ports unread.
I’ll stand at mast, let north winds blow
Till half of us are dead.
Well, if I get my hands on a dollar bill,
Gonna buy a bottle and drink my fill.
If I get my hands on a number five,
Gonna skin that little girl alive.
If I get my hand on a number two,
Come back home and marry you, marry you, marry you.
Work In Progress
Florence Foster Jenkins, born Nascina Florence Foster (July 19, 1868 – November 26, 1944), was an American socialite and amateur soprano who was known and mocked for her flamboyant performance costumes and notably poor singing ability.
Despite (or perhaps due to) her technical incompetence, she became a prominent musical cult figure in New York City during the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Cole Porter, Enrico Caruso, and other celebrities were loyal fans. The poet William Meredith wrote that what Jenkins provided ” … was never exactly an aesthetic experience, or only to the degree that an early Christian among the lions provided aesthetic experience; it was chiefly immolatory, and Madame Jenkins was always eaten, in the end.”
Nascina Florence Foster was born July 19, 1868, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Charles Dorrance Foster (1836–1909), an attorney and scion of a wealthy land-owning Pennsylvania family. Her mother was Mary Jane Hoagland (1851–1930). Her one sibling, a younger sister named Lillian, died at the age of 8 in 1883.
Foster said she first became aware of her lifelong passion for public performance when she was seven years old. A talented pianist, she performed in her youth at society functions as “Little Miss Foster”, and gave a recital at the White House during the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes. After graduating from high school, she expressed a desire to study music in Europe. When her father refused to grant his permission—or the necessary funds—she eloped with Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins (1852–1917) to Philadelphia, where they married in 1885. The following year, after learning that she had contracted syphilis from her husband, she terminated their relationship and reportedly never spoke of him again. Years later, Florence asserted that a divorce decree had been granted on March 24, 1902, although no documentation of that proceeding has ever surfaced. She retained the Jenkins surname for the remainder of her life.
After an arm injury ended her career aspirations as a pianist, Jenkins gave piano lessons in Philadelphia to support herself; but around 1900, she moved with her mother to New York City. In 1909, Jenkins met a British Shakespearean actor named St. Clair Bayfield, and they began a vaguely-defined cohabitation relationship that continued the rest of her life. Upon her father’s death later that year, Jenkins became the beneficiary of a sizable trust, and resolved to resume her musical career as a singer, with Bayfield as her manager. She began taking voice lessons and immersed herself in wealthy New York City society, joining dozens of social clubs. As the “chairman of music” for many of these organizations, she began producing lavish tableaux vivants—popular diversions in social circles of that era. It was said that in each of these productions, Jenkins would invariably cast herself as the main character in the final tableau, wearing an elaborate costume of her own design. In a widely republished photograph, Jenkins poses in a costume, complete with angelic wings, from her tableau inspired by Howard Chandler Christy‘s painting Stephen Foster and the Angel of Inspiration.
Jenkins began giving private vocal recitals in 1912, when she was in her early forties. In 1917, she became founder and “President Soprano Hostess” of her own social organization, the Verdi Club, dedicated to “fostering a love and patronage of Grand Opera in English”. Its membership quickly swelled to over 400; honorary members included Enrico Caruso. When Jenkins’ mother died in 1930, additional financial resources became available for the expansion and promotion of her singing career.
According to published reviews and other contemporary accounts, Jenkins’ talent at the piano did not translate well to her singing. She is described as having great difficulty with such basic vocal skills as pitch, rhythm, and sustaining notes and phrases. In recordings, her accompanist Cosmé McMoon can be heard making adjustments to compensate for her constant tempo variations and rhythmic mistakes, but there was little he could do to conceal her inaccurate intonation. She was consistently flat, and sometimes deviated from the proper pitch by as much as a semitone. Her diction was similarly substandard, particularly with foreign-language lyrics. The technically challenging songs she selected, well beyond her ability and vocal range, emphasized these deficiencies. The opera impresario Ira Siff dubbed her “the anti-Callas.” “Jenkins was exquisitely bad”, he said, “so bad that it added up to quite a good evening of theater … She would stray from the original music, and do insightful and instinctual things with her voice, but in a terribly distorted way. There was no end to the horribleness … They say Cole Porter had to bang his cane into his foot in order not to laugh out loud when she sang. She was that bad.” Nevertheless, Porter rarely missed a recital.
The question of whether “Lady Florence”—as she liked to be called, and often signed her autographs—was in on the joke, or honestly believed she had vocal talent, remains a matter of debate. On the one hand, she compared herself favorably to the renowned sopranos Frieda Hempel and Luisa Tetrazzini, and seemed oblivious to the abundant audience laughter during her performances. Her loyal friends endeavored to disguise the laughter with cheers and applause; and they often described her technique to curious inquirers in “intentionally ambiguous” terms—for example, “her singing at its finest suggests the untrammeled swoop of some great bird”—which served only to intensify public curiosity. On the other, Jenkins refused to share her talents with the general public, and was clearly aware of her detractors. “People may say I can’t sing,” she once remarked to a friend, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” She went to great lengths to control access to her rare recitals, which took place at her apartment, in small clubs, and once each October in the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Attendance, by personal invitation only, was restricted to her loyal clubwomen and a select few others. Jenkins handled distribution of the coveted tickets herself, carefully excluding strangers, particularly music critics. Favorable articles and bland reviews, published in specialty music publications such as The Musical Courier, were most likely written by her friends, or herself. Despite her careful efforts to insulate her singing from public exposure, a preponderance of contemporary opinion favored the view that Jenkins’ self-delusion was genuine. “Florence didn’t think she was pulling anyone’s leg,” said opera historian Albert Innaurato. “She was compos mentis, not a lunatic. She was a very proper, complex individual.”
Her recitals featured arias from the standard operatic repertoire by Mozart, Verdi, and Johann Strauss (all well beyond her technical ability); lieder by Brahms; Valverde‘s “Clavelitos” (“Little Carnations”, a favorite encore); and songs composed by herself and McMoon. As in her tableaux, she designed her own elaborate costumes, often involving wings, tinsel, and flowers, to complement her performances. During “Clavelitos”, she would throw flowers into the audience from a basket (on one occasion, she hurled the basket as well) while fluttering a fan. After one “Clavelitos” performance, the audience cheered so loudly that Jenkins asked the audience to return the flowers; she replaced them in her basket and performed the song again.
Once, when a taxi in which she was riding collided with another car, Jenkins let out a high-pitched scream. Upon arriving home, she went immediately to her piano and confirmed (at least to herself) that the note she had screamed was the fabled “F above high C”—a pitch she had never before been able to reach. Overjoyed, she refused to press charges against either involved party, and even sent the taxi driver a box of expensive cigars. McMoon said neither he “nor anyone else” ever heard her actually sing a high F, however.
At the age of 76, Jenkins finally yielded to public demand and booked Carnegie Hall for a general-admission performance on October 25, 1944. Tickets for the event sold out weeks in advance; the demand was such that an estimated 2,000 people were turned away at the door. Numerous celebrities attended, including Porter, Marge Champion, Gian Carlo Menotti, Kitty Carlisle and Lily Pons with her husband, Andre Kostelanetz, who composed a song for the recital. McMoon later recalled an “especially noteworthy” moment: “[When she sang] ‘If my silhouette does not convince you yet/My figure surely will’ [from Adele’s aria in Die Fledermaus], she put her hands righteously to her hips and went into a circular dance that was the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen. And created a pandemonium in the place. One famous actress had to be carried out of her box because she became so hysterical.”
Since ticket distribution was out of Jenkins’ control for the first time, mockers, scoffers, and critics could no longer be kept at bay. The following morning’s newspapers were filled with scathing, sarcastic reviews that devastated Jenkins, according to Bayfield. “[Mrs. Jenkins] has a great voice,” wrote the New York Sun critic. “In fact, she can sing everything except notes … Much of her singing was hopelessly lacking in a semblance of pitch, but the further a note was from its proper elevation the more the audience laughed and applauded.” The New York Post was even less charitable: “Lady Florence … indulged last night in one of the weirdest mass jokes New York has ever seen.”
Five days after the concert, Jenkins suffered a heart attack while shopping at G. Schirmer‘s music store, and died a month later on November 26, 1944, at her Manhattan residence, the Hotel Seymour. She was buried next to her father in the family crypt in Pennsylvania.
One of the most poignant lines from the old country song “Old dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine” by Tom T. Hall song “Friends are hard to find, when they discover that your down”, is quite often so, especially in times of crisis. It is only the fully faithful who can, and do, hang in there with you in your time of need. Others have their own problems and certainly do not want to take on another burden, so, they move away or ignore it so it will go away on it’s own.
The old saying “He is a man to go to the well with” is someone originally meant to literally accompany someone outside the safety of a stockade or safe perimeter in a time of siege during the days of Indian warfare. So a man you could or would GO TO THE WELL WITH was someone you had the utmost confidence in, admiration and highest regard for – often a highly trusted longtime friend.
I am blessed to have several friends of such noble pedigree, and one in particular is actually “A Woman To Go To The Well With”.
Three times she has saved my life, literally, and continues to watch over me often preventing me from going in the wrong direction and steering me away from potential missteps.
If you are lucky enough to have even one such loving loyal friend, treasure them and always remember, that this precious soul is “true like ice, like fire” as solid as ice and like an eternal flame that can never be extinguished.
Old Dogs And Children And Watermelon Wine Written By: Tom T. Hall
Showing regret for making the wrong decision is no longer a behavioral trait exclusive to humans, as rats too feel sorry for not making the right choice, a new study suggests.
As part of the study, researchers conducted a task named “Restaurant Row,” in which they allowed rats to enter chambers containing different food options. And, as the rats were given only a limited amount of time to make a choice, they would sometimes pick a bad meal over a good one, and then look back at the chamber with the food they liked and be prepared to wait longer for another chance to sample their desired food.
According to the study, published in Nature Neuroscience on Sunday, the rats’ willingness to wait for their ideal choice implied that they had individual preferences. In addition, the researchers also examined the rats’ brain activity, which helped them conclude that the animals indeed experienced regret over the decisions they made while choosing their food.
“In humans, a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex is active during regret. We found in rats that recognized they had made a mistake, indicators in the orbitofrontal cortex represented the missed opportunity,” Redish said. “Interestingly, the rat’s orbitofrontal cortex represented what the rat should have done, not the missed reward. This makes sense because you don’t regret the thing you didn’t get, you regret the thing you didn’t do.”
The researchers believe that the study’s findings will help them better understand why humans act a certain way and how the feeling of regret affects their decision making. The researchers also said that other mammals may also have the ability to feel regret because they have brain structures similar to those of rats and humans, LiveScience reported.
“Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you would have been better off,” Redish said. “The difficult part of this study was separating regret from disappointment, which is when things aren’t as good as you would have hoped. The key to distinguishing between the two was letting the rats choose what to do.”
An Editorial By: Alan Graham
Recently I bought some sweat pants and I chose NIKE only because they were on sale, a great deal I thought until that is, a friend said “You bought NIKE ?”.
And why not? said I.
My friend looked at me quizzically, haven’t you heard, anyone who loves dogs will never by NIKE ever again because of Michael Vic?.
I had forgotten that in one of the most craven maneuvers in modern times NIKE had made a deal with the DEVIL, namely one Michael Vic. Nike re-signed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback to an endorsement deal, nearly four years after dropping him amid his legal troubles.
Being a dog lover I was deeply angered to see such a low life being rewarded after a slap on the wrist.
I have vowed never to by NIKE products, and urge all those who love animals to BOYCOT and to spread the word, and even though it has been forgotten by many, these monstrous acts are still being perpetrated.
I will never forgive Vick for his callous treatment of defenseless animals and I urge everyone to do the same.
Boycott Nike. Just do it. Here are some ways to take action:
1. Let Nike know you disapprove of their decision to endorse Michael Vick. There is a Facebook page dedicated to the cause with over 14,000 supporters.
Call Nike: 800-344-6453. Choose option 5, then option 9.
2. Let the New York Jets hear your voice. Make your opinion matter. Contact a NY Jets representative at 800-469-5387 or at their Florham Park training facility at 973-549-4800.
3. Buy elsewhere. The sportswear, sportsgear, and athletic shoe trade is a billion dollar industry with stiff competitors. There is a plethora of impressive, quality gear that can be purchased without the weight of ethical guilt. There are many deserving companies engaging in hard work that deserve our support. Support companies that endorse fair market practices and decent role models. Do your research. Stand behind positive energy and good vibes.
4. Explain your consumer choices to your children. Teach them consumer power young. Arm them with the information to understand the dangers in putting your money behind poor leadership. Be your child’s own role model of leadership and intelligence.
5. End animal abuse. Donate your time or money to your local animal shelter. Eleventh Hour Rescue is an admirable local organization. Buy the organization’s shirts that benefit charity rather than Nike shirts. Consider fostering a pet, donating pet food, or rescuing an abused animal.
My own medical report By. Alan Graham.
If you had a heart attack in the 1950s, the average doctor was ill equipped treat it. Back then, doctors knew very little about how to treat heart attacks and as a consequence, could do very little to save patients lives.
My Coronado practitioner Dr. James Mushovic, (Merlin) once told me ” All we did back then was make them as comfortable as possible by leaving them in a darkened room surrounded by ice packs, short of that, it was pretty much wait and see if they recovered, or not
Today we are lucky to live in a time where futuristic advances in heart surgery and treatment are beyond amazing.
It is 10 am on Saturday morning and a group of San Diego’s finest heart specialist are in video conference. What follows is a discussion/lecture concerning the newest advances in surgery such as atrial fibrillation (AFib) from cardiovascular surgeons and other heart specialists. AFib symptoms, diagnosis and advanced treatment options, including minimally invasive procedures designed to reduce the high risk of stroke associated with the condition. The old school heart surgeons are now a thing of the past, light years away in fact.
I had a heart attack in 2006 and was lucky enough to be in the care of Dr. Bruce Kimura a Coronado heart specialist. At that time my old country doctor, James Mushovic, told me that Dr. Kimura was the best he had ever seen and that I could not be in better hands. He was part of the respected Dr. Paul Phillips’ team, and as Dr. Mushovic had predicted, he would become on of the top heart specialists in the country.
Fast forward to today, and I find myself in need of a serious tune up to my 1944 model ailing heart. When I told Dr William B. Davis my country doctor for seen years, without a word he wrote a referral for Dr Ali Salmi, and the San diego Heart and Vascular Associates saying “This team is Nuli Secondi” (second to none.)
Enter Dr. Ali Salami, another brilliant heart surgeon, who is now part of the same team. The procedure was flawless, with a top team of professionals preparing me, I felt like a VIP.
After my having an angiogram, Dr Salami found that the main artery had a 90% blockage; and when he tried to implant a stent, the blockage was impossible to penerate without “heavy equipment”. (I had awful visions of being assaulted by a forty-foot drill operated by the angry visage of my dead mother-in-law.)
Dr. (Mr. Cool) Salami assured me matter of factly that it would be “a piece of cake.” He has cause to be so confident because of a sterling track record of successful procedures with advanced breakthrough technologies.
With my fears now assuaged, I am comfortable knowing I am in the hands of the very best healthcare team anywhere in the world.
The reality is, however, potentially rather grim especially at my age, 72 years old. The chances of cardiac arrest under anesthetic is very possible. In the face of this, I have requested that a DNR (do not resuscitate) be in place before surgery. I jokingly say “I do not want to come out of surgery talking like Rain Man”
I have visited with my priest and received three oils: the Oil of Catechumens (“Oleum Catechumenorum” or “Oleum Sanctorum“), the Oil of the Infirm (“Oleum Infirmorum“), and Holy Chrism (“Sacrum Chrisma“). So I am now in state of peaceful bliss and have made peace within myself through my faith in God and the support of some very special people who love me as much as I do them. May God bless us all.
Today I received a phone call from a dear sweet friend Alvaro. He had called to tell me he was praying for me and wished me “God speed.” After whining on in the most fatalistic tone about not wanting to be resuscitated should things go wrong during surgery, Alvaro simply said, ” Well, you should think about living until you are 90 or 100 years old.”
His tone was matter of fact. No nonsense, good, old-fashioned FAITH was his message, and it hit me like a ton of bricks how I was rather pessimistic about life when I should be celebrating every waking hour.
When I hung up, I felt wonderfully happy and absolutely renewed, and now I see things in a very different way thanks to some wise words from a very wise young man. Thank you, Alvaro.
The main right ventricle to my heart is so calcified that it cannot be penetrated by the normal use of a wire, so you all know the drill (another silly joke). Sometime in the next week or so, I will undergo a complex procedure with a special device for drilling at at angle using a razorback diamond drill hence, A Diamond In The Heart. and to make it even more interesting the operation will be done at a brand new facility UCSD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center in La Jolla, CA.
When things could not look more rosy, enter Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud, an Irishman (obvious Irish joke) who is Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine, Director of Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center-Medicine, and Director of Interventional Cardiology. He is board-certified in cardiovascular medicine and interventional cardiology, and has extensive experience in complex coronary, renal, lower extremity and carotid interventions.
Under Dr. Mahmud’s leadership, the Interventional Cardiology program is among the largest academic interventional programs in the western United States. Dr. Mahmud directs the interventional clinical trials center; his research interests include investigational pharmacotherapies and devices used in cardiovascular interventions.
Dr. Mahmud completed fellowships in coronary and peripheral vascular interventions at Emory University in Atlanta and cardiovascular medicine at UC San Diego. He completed his internal medicine residency at UC San Diego and earned his medical degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
Dr. Mahmud is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, Society of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions. He has been voted one of the top physicians in San Diego by the San Diego county medical society and among the top 1 percent of interventional cardiologists in the nation by US News and World Report.
Dr. Mahmud is a Professor of Medicine at UCSD and Director, Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratory and Interventional Cardiology at UCSD Medical Center. He has been honored with the Laennec Society Young Clinician Award from the American Heart Association and chosen as one of America’s Top Physicians each year from 2003 through 2009 by the Consumer Research Council. He is a Fellow of the Society of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, a Fellow of the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions, and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud
Dr. William B. Davis
Dr. Paul Philips
Dr Ali Salami
Dr Bruce Kimura
Freevill (to Franceschina): Go; y’are grown a punk rampant.
If your only exposure to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film version, then you have been deceived! The language in the film is not 100% Shakespearean. In the case of the “punk rampant.” The phrase is actually from The Dutch Courtesan by John Marston, 1605: So it is authentically of Shakespeare’s era (or a tad later) and not Zeffirelli’s. But how modern is it! “Punk Rampant!” could describe any number of contemporary scurvy knaves.
John Marston married Mary Wilkes, daughter of one of the royal chaplains, and Ben Jonson said that ” Marston wrote his father-in-law’s preachings, and his father-in-law his sermons.” His first work was The Metamorphosis of Pigmalions Image, and certaine Satyres (1598). “Pigmalion” is an erotic poem in the metre of Venus and Adonis, and Joseph Hall attached a rather clumsy epigram to every copy that was exposed for sale in Cambridge. In the same year Marston published, under the pseudonym of W. Kinsayder, already employed in the earlier volume, his Scourge of Villanie, eleven satires, in the sixth of which he asserted that Pigmalion was intended to parody the amorous poetry of the time. Both this volume and its predecessor were burnt by order of the archbishop of Canterbury. The satires, in which Marston avowedly took Persius as his model, are coarse and vigorous. In addition to a general attack on the vices of his age he avenges himself on Joseph Hall who had assailed him in Virgidemiae.
He had a great reputation among his contemporaries. John Weever couples his name with Ben Jonson’s in an epigram; Francis Meres in Palladis tamia (1598) mentions him among the satirists; a long passage is devoted to “Monsieur Kinsayder” in the Return from Parnassus (1606), and Dr Brinsley Nicholson has suggested that Furor poeticus in that piece may be a satirical portrait of him. But his invective by its general tone, goes far to justify Mr W. J. Courthope’s1 judgment that “it is likely enough that in seeming to satirize the world without him, he is usually holding up the mirror to his own prurient mind.”
On the 28th of September 1599 Henslowe notices in his diary that he lent “unto Mr Maxton, the new poete, the sum of forty shillings,” as an advance on a play which is not named. Another hand has amended “Maxton” to” Mastone.” The earliest plays to which Marston’s name is attached are The History of Antonio and Mellida. The First Part; and Antonio’s Revenge. The Second Part (both entered at Stationers’ Hall in 1601 and printed 1602). The second part is preceded by a prologue which, in its gloomy forecast of the play, moved the admiration of Charles Lamb, who also compares the situation of Andrugio and Lucia to Lear and Kent, but the scene which he quotes gives a misleading idea of the play and of the general tenor of Marston’s work.
The melodrama and the exaggerated expression of these two plays offered an opportunity to Ben Jonson, who had already twice ridiculed Marston, and now pilloried him as Crispinus in The Poetaster (1600). The quarrel was patched up, for Marston dedicated his Malcontent (1604) to Jonson, and in the next year he prefixed commendatory verses to Sejanus. Far greater restraint is shown in The Malcontent than in the earlier plays. It was printed twice in 1604, the second time with additions by John Webster. The Dutch Courtezan (1605) and Parasitaster, or the Fawne (1606) followed. In 1605 Eastward Hoe, a gay comedy of London life, which gave offence to the king’s Scottish friends, caused the playwrights concerned in its production — Marston, Chapman and Jonson — to be imprisoned at the instance of Sir James Murray.
The Wonder of Women, or the Tragedie of Sophonisba (1606), seems to have been put forward by Marston as a model of what could be accomplished in tragedy. In the preface he mocks at those authors who make a parade of their authorities and their learning, and the next play, What you Will(printed 1607; but probably written much earlier), contains a further attack on Jonson. The tragedy of The Insatiate Countesse was printed in 1613, and again, this time anonymously, in 1616. It was not included in the collected edition of Marston’s plays in 1633, and in the Duke of Devonshire’s library there is a copy bearing the name of William Barksteed, the author of the poems, Myrrha, the Mother of Adonis (1607), and Hiren and the Fair Greek (1611). The piece contains many passages superior to anything to be found in Marston’s well-authenticated plays, and Mr A. H. Bullen suggests that it may be Barksteed’s version of an earlier one drafted by Marston.
The character and history of Isabella are taken chiefly from “The Disordered Lyfe of the Countess of Celant” in William Paynter’s Palace of Pleasure, derived eventually from Bandello. There is no certain evidence of Marston’s authorship in Histriomastix (printed 1610, but probably produced before 1599), or in Jacke Drums Entertainement, or the Comedie of Pasquil and Katherine (1616), though he probably had a hand in both. Mr R. Boyle (Englische Studien, vol. xxx., 1901), in a critical study of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, assigns to Marston’s hand the whole of the action dealing with Hector, with the prologue and epilogue, and attributes to him the bombast and coarseness in the last scenes of the play.
It will be seen that his undoubted dramatic work was completed in 1607. It is uncertain at what time he exchanged professions, but in 1616 he was presented to the living of Christchurch, Hampshire. He formally resigned his charge in 1631, and when his works were collected in 1633 the publisher, William Sheares, stated that the author “in his autumn and declining age” was living “far distant from this place.” Nevertheless he died in London, in the parish of Aldermanbury, on the 25th of June 1634. He was buried in the Temple Church.
Marston’s works were first published in 1633, once anonymously as Tragedies and Comedies, and then in the same year as Workes of Mr John Marston. The Works of John Marston (3 vols.) were reprinted by Mr J. O. Halliwell (Phillipps) in 1856, and again by Mr. A. H. Bullen (3 vols.) in 1887. His Poems (2 vols.) were edited by Dr A. B. Grosart in 1879.
JOHN MARSTON, English dramatist and satirist, eldest son of John Marston of Coventry, at one time lecturer of the Middle Temple, was born in 1575, or early in 1576. Swinburne notes his affinities with Italian literature, which may be partially explained by his parentage, for his mother was the daughter of an Italian physician, Andrew Guarsi. He entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1592, taking his B.A. degree in 1594. The elder Marston in his will expresses regret that his son, to whom he left his law-books and the furniture of his rooms in the Temple, had not been willing to follow his profession..
John Donne’s standing as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose, is now assured. However, it has been confirmed only in the early 20th century. The history of Donne’s reputation is the most remarkable of any major writer in English; no other body of great poetry has fallen so far from favor for so long and been generally condemned as inept and crude. In Donne’s own day his poetry was highly prized among the small circle of his admirers, who read it as it was circulated in manuscript, and in his later years he gained wide fame as a preacher. For some 30 years after his death successive editions of his verse stamped his powerful influence upon English poets. During the Restoration his writing went out of fashion and remained so for several centuries. Throughout the 18th century, and for much of the 19th century, he was little read and scarcely appreciated. Commentators followed Samuel Johnson in dismissing his work as no more than frigidly ingenious and metrically uncouth. Some scribbled notes by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Charles Lamb‘s copy of Donne’s poems make a testimony of admiration rare in the early 19th century. Robert Browning became a known (and wondered-at) enthusiast of Donne, but it was not until the end of the 1800s that Donne’s poetry was eagerly taken up by a growing band of avant-garde readers and writers. His prose remained largely unnoticed until 1919.
In the first two decades of the 20th century Donne’s poetry was decisively rehabilitated. Its extraordinary appeal to modern readers throws light on the Modernist movement, as well as on our intuitive response to our own times. Donne may no longer be the cult figure he became in the 1920s and 1930s, when T. S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats, among others, discovered in his poetry the peculiar fusion of intellect and passion and the alert contemporariness which they aspired to in their own art. He is not a poet for all tastes and times; yet for many readers Donne remains what Ben Jonson judged him: “the first poet in the world in some things.” His poems continue to engage the attention and challenge the experience of readers who come to him afresh. His high place in the pantheon of the English poets now seems secure.
Donne’s love poetry was written nearly four hundred years ago; yet one reason for its appeal is that it speaks to us as directly and urgently as if we overhear a present confidence. For instance, a lover who is about to board ship for a long voyage turns back to share a last intimacy with his mistress: “Here take my picture” (Elegy 5). Two lovers who have turned their backs upon a threatening world in “The Good Morrow” celebrate their discovery of a new world in each other:
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.
In “The Flea” an importunate lover points out a flea that has been sucking his mistress’s blood and now jumps to suck his; he tries to prevent his mistress from crushing it:
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, nay more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we’ are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
This poem moves forward as a kind of dramatic argument in which the chance discovery of the flea itself becomes the means by which they work out the true end of their love. The incessant play of a skeptical intelligence gives even these love poems the style of impassioned reasoning.
The poetry inhabits an exhilaratingly unpredictable world in which wariness and quick wits are at a premium. The more perilous the encounters of clandestine lovers, the greater zest they have for their pleasures, whether they seek to outwit the disapproving world, or a jealous husband, or a forbidding and deeply suspicious father, as in Elegy 4
, “The Perfume”
Though he had wont to search with glazed eyes,
As though he came to kill a cockatrice,
Though he have oft sworn, that he would remove
Thy beauty’s beauty, and food of our love,
Hope of his goods, if I with thee were seen,
Yet close and secret, as our souls, we have been.
Exploiting and being exploited are taken as conditions of nature, which we share on equal terms with the beasts of the jungle and the ocean. In “Metempsychosis” a whale and a holder of great office behave in precisely the same way:
He hunts not fish, but as an officer,
Stays in his court, as his own net, and there
All suitors of all sorts themselves enthral;
So on his back lies this whale wantoning,
And in his gulf-like throat, sucks everything
That passeth near.
Donne characterizes our natural life in the world as a condition of flux and momentariness, which we may nonetheless turn to our advantage, as in “Woman’s Constancy“:
Now thou hast loved me one whole day,
Tomorrow when thou leav’st, what wilt thou say?
Vain lunatic, against these ‘scapes I could
Dispute, and conquer, if I would,
Which I abstain to do,
For by tomorrow, I may think so too.
In such a predicament our judgment of the world around us can have no absolute force but may at best measure people’s endeavors relative to each other, as Donne points out in “Metempsychosis”:
There’s nothing simply good, nor ill alone,
Of every quality comparison,
The only measure is, and judge, opinion.
The tension of the poetry comes from the pull of divergent impulses in the argument itself. In “A Valediction: Of my Name in the Window,” the lover’s name scratched in his mistress’s window ought to serve as a talisman to keep her chaste; but then, as he explains to her, it may instead be an unwilling witness to her infidelity:
When thy inconsiderate hand
Flings ope this casement, with my trembling name,
To look on one, whose wit or land,
New battery to thy heart may frame,
Then think this name alive, and that thou thus
In it offend’st my Genius.
So complex or downright contradictory is our state that quite opposite possibilities must be allowed for within the scope of a single assertion, as in Satire 3: “Kind pity chokes my spleen; brave scorn forbids / Those tears to issue which swell my eye-lids.”
The opening lines of Satire 3 confront us with a bizarre medley of moral questions: Should the corrupted state of religion prompt our anger or our grief? What devotion do we owe to religion, and which religion may claim our devotion? May the pagan philosophers be saved before Christian believers? What obligation of piety do children owe to their fathers in return for their religious upbringing? Then we get a quick review of issues such as the participation of Englishmen in foreign wars, colonizing expeditions, the Spanish auto-da-fé, and brawls over women or honor in the London streets. The drift of Donne’s argument holds all these concerns together and brings them to bear upon the divisions of Christendom that lead men to conclude that any worldly cause must be more worthy of their devotion than the pursuit of a true Christian life. The mode of reasoning is characteristic: Donne calls in a variety of circumstances, weighing one area of concern against another so that we may appraise the present claim in relation to a whole range of unlike possibilities: “Is not this excuse for mere contraries, / Equally strong; cannot both sides say so?” The movement of the poem amounts to a sifting of the relative claims on our devotion that commonly distract us from our absolute obligation to seek the truth.
Some of Donne’s sharpest insights into erotic experience, as his insights into social motives, follow out his sense of the bodily prompting of our most compelling urges, which are thus wholly subject to the momentary state of the physical organism itself. In “Farewell to Love” the end that lovers so passionately pursue loses its attraction at once when they have gained it:
Being had, enjoying it decays:
What before pleased them all, takes but one sense,
And that so lamely, as it leaves behind
A kind of sorrowing dullness to the mind.
Yet the poet never gives the impression of forcing a doctrine upon experience. On the contrary, his skepticism sums up his sense of the way the world works.
Donne’s love poetry expresses a variety of amorous experiences that are often startlingly unlike each other, or even contradictory in their implications. In “The Anniversary” he is not just being inconsistent when he moves from a justification of frequent changes of partners to celebrate a mutual attachment that is simply not subject to time, alteration, appetite, or the sheer pull of other worldly enticements:
All kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass,
Is elder by a year, now, than it was
When thou and I first one another saw:
All other things, to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath, nor decay;
This, no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday,
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.
The triumph the lovers proclaim here defies the state of flux it affirms.
Some of Donne’s finest love poems, such as “A Valediction: forbidding Mourning,” prescribe the condition of a mutual attachment that time and distance cannot diminish:
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.
But we by a love, so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
Donne finds some striking images to define this state in which two people remain wholly one while they are separated. Their souls are not divided but expanded by the distance between them, “Like gold to airy thinness beat”; or they move in response to each other as the legs of twin compasses, whose fixed foot keeps the moving foot steadfast in its path:
Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th’ other foot obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun.
A supple argument unfolds with lyric grace.
It must be borne in mind that the poems editors group together were not necessarily produced thus. Donne did not write for publication. No more than seven poems and a bit of another poem were published during his lifetime, and only two of these publications were authorized by him. The poems he released were passed around in manuscript and transcribed by his admirers singly or in gatherings. Some of these copies have survived. When the first printed edition of his poems was published in 1633, two years after his death, the haphazard arrangement of the poems gave no clue to the order of their composition. Many modern editions of the poetry impose categorical divisions that are unlikely to correspond to the order of writing, separating the love poetry from the satires and the religious poetry, the verse letters from the epithalamiums and funeral poems. No more than a handful of Donne’s poems can be dated with certainty. The Elegies and Satires are likely to have been written in the early 1590s. “Metempsychosis” is dated 16 August 1601. The two memorial Anniversaries for the death of Elizabeth Drury were certainly written in 1611 and 1612; and the funeral elegy on Prince Henry must have been written in 1612. The Songs and Sonnets were evidently not conceived as a single body of love verses and do not appear so in early manuscript collections. Donne may well have composed them at intervals and in unlike situations over some twenty years of his poetic career. Some of them may even have overlapped with his best-known religious poems, which are likely to have been written about 1609, before he took holy orders.
Poems so vividly individuated invite attention to the circumstances that shaped them. Yet we have no warrant to read Donne’s poetry as a record of his life or the expression of his inner disquiets. Donne’s career and personality are nonetheless arresting in themselves, and they cannot be kept wholly separate from the general thrust of his writing, for which they at least provide a living context. Donne was born in London between 24 January and 19 June 1572 into the precarious world of English recusant Catholicism, whose perils his family well knew. His father, John Donne, was an ironmonger. His mother, Elizabeth (Heywood) Donne, a lifelong Catholic, was the greatniece of the martyred Sir Thomas More. His uncle Jasper Heywood headed an underground Jesuit mission in England from 1581 to 1583 and, when he was caught, was imprisoned and then exiled; Donne’s younger brother, Henry, died from the plague in 1593 while being held in Newgate Prison for harboring a seminary priest. Yet at some time in his young manhood Donne himself converted to Anglicanism and never went back on that reasoned decision. Though he was a tradesman, Donne’s father claimed descent from the Herbert family, and his mother was the daughter of John Heywood, epigrammatist and author of interludes. Donne’s father died in January 1576, and within six months Elizabeth Donne had married John Syminges, an Oxford-educated physician with a practice in London. In October 1584 Donne entered Hart Hall, Oxford, where he remained for about three years. Though no records of his attendance at Cambridge are extant, he may have gone on to study there as well and may have accompanied his uncle Jasper Heywood on a trip to Paris and Antwerp during this time. It is known that he entered Lincoln’s Inn in May 1592, after at least a year of preliminary study at Thavies Inn, and was at least nominally a student of English law for two or more years. After sailing as a gentleman adventurer with the English expeditions to Cadiz and the Azores in 1596 and 1597, he entered the service of Sir Thomas Egerton, the lord keeper of England. As Egerton’s highly valued secretary he developed the keen interest in statecraft and foreign affairs that he retained throughout his life.
His place in the Egerton household also brought him into acquaintance with Egerton’s domestic circle. Egerton’s brother-in-law was Sir George More, parliamentary representative for Surrey, whose family seat was Loseley House near Guildford in Surrey. More came up to London for an autumn sitting of Parliament in 1601, bringing with him his daughter Ann, then seventeen. Ann More and Donne may well have met and fallen in love during some earlier visit to the Egerton household; they were clandestinely married in December 1601 in a ceremony arranged with the help of a small group of Donne’s friends. Some months elapsed before Donne dared to break the news to the girl’s father, by letter, provoking a violent response. Donne and his helpful friends were briefly imprisoned, and More set out to get the marriage annulled, demanding that Egerton dismiss his amorous secretary.
The marriage was eventually upheld; indeed, More became reconciled to it and to his son-in-law, but Donne lost his job in 1602 and did not find regular employment again until he took holy orders more than twelve years later. Throughout his middle years he and his wife brought up an ever-increasing family with the aid of relatives, friends, and patrons, and on the uncertain income he could bring in by polemical hackwork and the like. His anxious attempts to gain secular employment in the queen’s household in Ireland, or with the Virginia Company, all came to nothing, and he seized the opportunity to accompany Sir Robert Drury on a diplomatic mission in France in 1612. From these frustrated years came most of the verse letters, funeral poems, epithalamiums, and holy sonnets, as well as the prose treatises Biathanatos (1647), Pseudo-Martyr (1610), and Ignatius his Conclave (1611).
In the writing of Donne’s middle years, skepticism darkened into a foreboding of imminent ruin. Such poems as the two memorial Anniversaries and “To the Countess of Salisbury” register an accelerating decline of our nature and condition in a cosmos that is itself disintegrating. In “The First Anniversary” the poet declares,
mankind decays so soon,
We’ are scarce our fathers’ shadows cast at noon.
And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets, and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone.
Donne contends that at this late stage of creation we exhibit a pitiful falling off from the early state of humankind:
There is not now that mankind, which was then,
When as the sun, and man, did seem to strive,
(Joint tenants of the world) who should survive.
Where is this mankind now? who lives to age,
Fit to be made Methusalem his page?
Alas, we scarce live long enough to try
Whether a true made clock run right, or lie.
Our attempts to know the world by means of our natural powers are inevitably misconceived. For we seek to order a degenerating cosmos with our decaying faculties and to impose a stable pattern upon a condition of continual flux that we cannot even adequately measure, as Donne claims in “The Second Anniversary”:
And what essential joy canst thou expect
Here upon earth? what permanent effect
Of transitory causes? Dost thou love
Beauty? (and beauty worthiest is to move)
Poor cozened cozener, that she, and that thou,
Which did begin to love, are neither now;
You are both fluid, changed since yesterday;
Next day repairs, (but ill) last day’s decay.
Nor are, (although the river keep the name)
Yesterday’s waters, and today’s the same.
So flows her face, and thine eyes, neither now
That saint, nor pilgrim, which your loving vow
Concerned, remains; but whilst you think you be
Constant, you’are hourly in inconstancy.
In this condition of gathering uncertainty the very latest of our so-called discoveries are likely to be the most unsettling, as shown in these lines from “The First Anniversary”:
And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and th’earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
Yet Donne is not counseling despair here. On the contrary, the Anniversaries offer a sure way out of spiritual dilemma: “thou hast but one way, not to admit / The world’s infection, to be none of it” (“The First Anniversary”). Moreover, the poems propose that a countering force is at work that resists the world’s frantic rush toward its own ruin. Such amendment of corruption is the true purpose of our worldly being: “our business is, to rectify / Nature, to what she was” (“To Sir Edward Herbert, at Juliers”). But in the present state of the world, and ourselves, the task becomes heroic and calls for a singular resolution.
The verse letters and funeral poems celebrate those qualities of their subjects that stand against the general lapse toward chaos: “Be more than man, or thou’art less than an ant” (“The First Anniversary”). The foremost of these qualities must be innocence itself, for that is just the condition which Adam and Eve forfeited at the Fall. As an innocent person presents a pattern of our uncorrupted state, so an innocent death is an ambiguous event; for in itself it is no death at all; yet in its effects it reenacts the primal calamity. Elizabeth Drury’s departure from the world left us dying but also better aware of our true state, as depicted in “The First Anniversary”:
This world, in that great earthquake languished,
For in a common bath of tears it bled,
Which drew the strongest vital spirits out
But succoured them with a perplexed doubt,
Whether the world did lose, or gain in this.
With the loss of her preserving balm the world falls sick and dies, even putrefies, leaving the poet only the task of anatomizing it so as to demonstrate its corruption. Donne uncompromisingly carries this complex conceit of an innocent death right through the two anniversary poems for Elizabeth Drury, disregarding the practical disadvantage that he is thus led to attribute a great deal to a young girl he had not even met. Ben Jonson assured William Drummond “That Donne’s Anniversary was profane and full of blasphemies,” and said “That he told Mr. Donne, if it had been written of the Virgin Mary it had been something; to which he answered that he described The Idea of a woman and not as she was.
Donne does not seek to celebrate a uniquely miraculous nature or a transcendental virtue. He shows us how an innocent young girl effectively embodied in her own human nature the qualities that alone preserve the natural creation and why her death reenacts the withdrawal of those qualities from the world. He pointedly declines to take the girl for an emanation of the divine spirit, another Beatrice who rose above the flesh in her life and transcends the world finally in her death. On the contrary, Elizabeth Drury is celebrated for human excellences that are spiritually refined in themselves. She was a being in whom body and spirit were at one.
Most of the people Donne praised, alive or dead, were past the age of innocence. Yet the burden of the Anniversary poems is that Elizabeth Drury’s death has shown us all how to resist the corrupting force of the world. A tried election of virtue is possible, though rarely achieved, which resists the common depravity of the Fall. Donne consoles a mourning woman with the conceit that she now incorporates her dead companion’s virtues with her own, and has thus acquired the power to preserve both their beings from corruption: “You that are she and you, that’s double she” (“To the Countess of Bedford”). He claims that a woman embodies all virtue in herself and sustains the world, so that “others’ good reflects but back your light” (“To the Countess of Huntingdon”). He excoriates a blind world that unknowingly owes what little vitality it still retains to the virtue of a few moral prodigies who mediate Christ’s own virtue, having the quasi-alchemic power to turn “Leaden and iron wills to good” and make “even sinful flesh like his” (“Resurrection, Imperfect”). Such virtuous beings rectify nature to what it was in their own bodies, so interfusing sense and spirit as to make an intelligent organism of the body itself, as depicted in “The Second Anniversary”:
Her by her sight, her pure and eloquent blood
Spoke in her cheeks, and so distinctly wrought,
That one might almost say, her body thought.
These poems of Donne’s middle years are less frequently read than the rest of his work, and they have struck readers as perversely obscure and odd. There is clearly some justification for that response, as seen in these lines from “The Second Anniversary”:
Immortal Maid, who though thy would’st refuse
The name of mother, be unto my Muse
A father, since her chaste ambition is,
Yearly to bring forth such a child as this.
The poems flaunt their creator’s unconcern with decorum to the point of shocking their readers. In his funeral poems Donne harps on decay and maggots, even venturing satiric asides as he contemplates bodily corruption: “Think thee a prince, who of themselves create / Worms which insensibly devour their state” (“The Second Anniversary”). He shows by the analogy of a beheaded man how it is that our dead world still appears to have life and movement (“The Second Anniversary”); he compares the soul in the newborn infant body with a “stubborn sullen anchorite” who sits “fixed to a pillar, or a grave / … / Bedded, and bathed in all his ordures” (“The Second Anniversary”); he develops in curious detail the conceit that virtuous men are clocks and that the late John Harrington, second Lord of Exton, was a public clock (“Obsequies to the Lord Harrington”). Such unsettling idiosyncrasy is too persistent to be merely wanton or sensational. It subverts our conventional proprieties in the interest of a radical order of truth.
Donne’s reluctance to become a priest, as he was several times urged to do, does not argue a lack of faith. The religious poems he wrote years before he took orders dramatically suggest that his doubts concerned his own unworthiness, his sense that he could not possibly merit God’s grace, as seen in these lines from Divine Meditations 4
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lack;
But who shall give thee that grace to begin?
Oh make thyself with holy mourning black,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sin.
These Divine Meditations, or Holy Sonnets, make a universal drama of religious life, in which every moment may confront us with the final annulment of time: “What if this present were the world’s last night?” (Divine Meditations 13 ). In Divine Meditations 10the prospect of a present entry upon eternity also calls for a showdown with ourselves and with the exemplary events that bring time and the timeless together in one order:
Mark in my heart, O soul, where thou dost dwell,
The picture of Christ crucified, and tell
Whether that countenance can thee affright.
Christ’s double nature, as God and man at once, assures his power to transform events in time; and it also confirms our power to outbrave our last enemy: “Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so.” The ringing rhetoric sustains a mighty shout of defiance in Divine Meditations 7, proclaiming the possibility of a heroic triumph snatched from likely defeat:
At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go.
Such a magnificent declamation gives our moral life the grandeur of a universal drama that is perpetually reenacted; it sets the trumpets blowing here and now to proclaim the sudden irruption of the Day of Judgment.
The poet is always fearfully aware that we cannot command such triumphs for ourselves, and that we may have part in them at all only by submitting ourselves to a course of repentance that will open us to God’s grace at last. In Divine Meditations 1 he states,
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space,
For, if above all these, my sins abound,
‘Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace,
When we are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach me how to repent.
The present moment may define us forever. We make our predicament immediate by imagining ourselves in mortal sickness, or at the point of final judgment, brining ourselves sharply up against a reality that our daily lives obscure from us:
I run to death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday,
I dare not move my dim eyes any way,
Despair behind, and death before doth cast
These Divine Meditations make self-recognition a necessary means to grace. They dramatize the spiritual dilemma of errant creatures who need God’s grace in order that they may deserve it; for we must fall into sin and merit death even though our redemption is at hand; yet we cannot even begin to repent without grace. The poems open the sinner to God, imploring God’s forceful intervention by the sinner’s willing acknowledgment of the need for a drastic onslaught upon his present hardened state, as in Divine Meditations
Batter my heart, three-personed God; for, you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
The force of the petition measures the dire extremity of his struggle with himself and with God’s adversary. Donne pleads with God that he too has an interest in this contention for the sinner’s soul: “Lest the world, flesh, yea Devil put thee out” ( Divine Meditations 17). The drama brings home to the poet the enormity of his ingratitude to his Redeemer, confronting him bodily with the irony of Christ’s self-humiliation for us. In Divine Meditations 11 Donne wonders why the sinner should not suffer Christ’s injuries in his own person:
Spit in my face ye Jews, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me,
For I have sinned, and sinned, and only he,
Who could do no iniquity, hath died.
On the death of his wife in 1617 Donne’s poetic response in Divine Meditations 17 was movingly restrained and dignified:
Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt
To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,
And her soul early into heaven ravished,
Wholly in heavenly things my mind is set.
He turns his worldly loss to an occasion of final good in that he now finds only one sure way to be reunited with her. She becomes the means by which Christ woos his soul toward a remarriage in heaven: “But why should I beg more love, when as thou / Dost woo my soul for hers; offering all thine.”
Donne’s religious poems turn upon a paradox that is central to the hope for eternal life: Christ’s sacrificing himself to save mankind. God’s regimen is paradoxical, and in Divine Meditations 13 Donne sees no impropriety in entreating Christ with the casuistry he had used on his “profane mistreses” when he assured them that only the ugly lack compassion:
so I say to thee,
To wicked spirits are horrid shapes assigned,
This beauteous form assures a piteous mind.
In Divine Meditations 18 he resolves his search for the true Church in a still bolder sexual paradox, petitioning Christ as a “kind husband” to betray his spouse to our view so that the poet’s amorous soul may “court thy mild dove”: “Who is most true, and pleasing to thee, then / When she’is embraced and open to most men.” The apparent indecorum of making the true Church a whore and Christ her complaisant husband at least startles us into recognizing Christ’s own catholicity. The paradox brings out a truth about Christ’s Church that may well be shocking to those who uphold a sectarian exclusiveness.
Wit becomes the means by which the poet discovers the working of Providence in the casual traffic of the world. A journey westward from one friend’s house to another over Easter 1613 brings home to Donne the general aberration of nature that prompts us to put pleasure before our due devotion to Christ. We ought to be heading east at Easter so as to contemplate and share Christ’s suffering; and in summoning up that event to his mind’s eye, he recognizes the shocking paradox of the ignominious death of God upon a Cross: “Could I behold those hands, which span the poles, / And turn all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?” (“Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward“). An image of Christ’s degradation is directly imposed upon an image of God’s omnipotence. We see that the event itself has a double force, being at once the catastrophic consequence of our sin and the ultimate assurance of God’s saving love. The poet’s very journey west may be providential if it brings him to a penitent recognition of his present unworthiness to gaze directly upon Christ:
O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
I turn my back to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O think me worth thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou mayest know me, and I’ll turn my face.
A serious illness that Donne suffered in 1623 produced a still more startling poetic effect. In “Hymn to God, my God, in my Sickness” the poet presents his recumbent body as a flat map over which the doctors pore like navigators to discover some passage through present dangers to tranquil waters; and he ponders his own destination as if he himself is a vessel that may reach the desirable places of the world only by negotiating some painful straits:
Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them.
By this self-questioning he brings himself to understand that his suffering may itself be a blessing, since he shares the condition of a world in which our ultimate bliss must be won through well-endured hardship. The physical symptoms of his illness become the signs of his salvation: “So, in his purple wrapped receive me Lord, / By these his thorns give me his other crown.” The images that make him one with Christ in his suffering transform those pangs into reassurance. The flushed face of the fevered man replicates Christ’s bloodied flesh, which is also the purple robe of Christ’s saving dominion; the sufferer’s spasms of pain become the thorns of Christ’s crown, which is also a true crown of glory. By intertwining Christ’s agony and loving power with the circumstances of his own desperate illness, Donne identifies the travails of a holy death with Christ’s anguish on the Cross, making such a death a means to bliss. His witty conceit seeks to catch the working of Providence itself, which shapes our human accidents in the pattern of timeless truth.
In Donne’s poetry, language may catch the presence of God in our human dealings. The pun on the poet’s name in “A Hymn to God the Father” registers the distance that the poet’s sins have put between himself and God, with new kinds of sin pressing forward as fast as God forgives those already confessed: “When thou hast done, thou hast not done, / For, I have more.” Then the puns on “sun” and “Donne” resolve these sinful anxieties themselves:
I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by thy self, that at my death thy son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, thou hast done,
I fear no more.
For this poet such coincidences of words and ideas are not mere accidents to be juggled with in jest. They mark precisely the working of Providence within the order of nature.
The transformation of Jack Donne the rake into the Reverend Dr. Donne, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, no longer seems bizarre. To impose such clear-cut categories upon a man’s career may be to take too rigid a view of human nature. That the poet of the Elegiesand Songs and Sonnets is also the author of the Devotions and the sermons need not indicate some profound spiritual upheaval. One reason for the appeal of Donne in modern times is that he confronts us with the complexity of our own natures.
Donne took holy orders in January 1615, having been persuaded by King James himself of his fitness for a ministry “to which he was, and appeared, very unwilling, apprehending it (such was his mistaking modesty) to be too weighty for his abilities.” So writes his first biographer, Izaak Walton, who had known him well and often heard him preach. Once committed to the Church, Donne devoted himself to it totally, and his life thereafter becomes a record of incumbencies held and sermons preached.
His wife died in childbirth in 1617. He was elected dean of St. Paul’s in November 1621, and he became the most celebrated cleric of his age, preaching frequently before the king at court as well as at St. Paul’s and other churches. One hundred and sixty of his sermons have survived. The few religious poems he wrote after he became a priest show no falling off in imaginative power, yet the calling of his later years committed him to prose, and the artistry of his Devotions and sermons at least matches the artistry of his poems.
The magnificent prose of Donne’s Devotions embodies a way of thinking that gives it both its character and its power. The impassioned development of a thought through metaphor sets up links and correspondences that are caught in the structure of the sentences themselves, as witnessed in this prayer, number 20 in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
I am come by thy goodness, to the use of thine ordinary means for my body, to wash away those peccant humours, that endangered it. I have, O Lord, a Riverin my body, but a Sea in my soul, and a Sea swollen into the depth of a Deluge, above the sea. Thou hast raised up certain hills in me heretofore, by which I might have stood safe, from these inundations of sin … and to the top of all these hills, thou has brought me heretofore; but this Deluge, this inundation, is got above all my Hills; and I have sinned and sinned, and multiplied sin to sin, after all these thy assistances against sin, and where is there water enough to wash away this Deluge?
The highly dramatic counterpointing of the syntax follows out an elaborate pattern of understanding. This set of twenty-three Devotions presents a prime example of the attempt to find an eternal significance in the natural occurrences of the world, even such a down-to-earth proceeding as a forced evacuation of the bowels to relieve a physical malady.
Donne wrote his Devotions in his convalescence from a protracted bout of relapsing fever that brought him very near to death in November and December 1623. He plots in formal stages the day-to-day physical progress of the illness, discovering in it nothing less than a universal pattern of ruin and (as it turns out) recovery. By taking his own constitution for a little world that reproduces the economy of the larger world, he works out in elaborate detail the correspondence between his present predicament and the disordered state of nature. As his illness is no mere physical accident but the embodiment of a spiritual condition, so the whole of nature itself now decays in consequence of reiterated sin. At the very nadir of his being Donne contemplates the prospect of his imminent death, as well as the final ruination of the world, by occasion of the death of another human being whose funeral bell he hears tolling close at hand. The celebrated passage from number 17 in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions gains power in its context:
Perchance he for whom this Bell tolls, may be so ill, as that he knows not it tollsfor him; And perchance I may think my self so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The Church is Catholic, universal, so are all her Actions; Allthat she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me … who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No Man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends, or of thine own were; Any Man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
It is thus harrowingly brought home to him that his own predicament is not particular to himself but shared with the whole of nature. All funeral bells toll for us all, as well as for our dying world.
However, the sudden and unexpected remission of his fear also realizes a spiritual truth. A countermovement against the rush to ruin may save us and the world if we will sustain it in our lives. Christ’s blood can counteract the seas of sin that threaten to inundate the world. In one man’s extremity the universal design of Providential love discloses itself, and Donne’s formal meditation on his sickness stands as a powerfully sustained feat of thinking that discovers the coherence of God’s creation in the very fortuities that seem to deny it.
The publication in 1919 of Donne’s Sermons: Selected Passages, edited by Logan Pearsall Smith, came as a revelation to its readers, not least those who had little taste for sermons. John Bailey, writing in the Quarterly Review (April 1920), found in these extracts “the very genius of oratory … a masterpiece of English prose.” Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, in Studies in Literature (1920), judged the sermons to include “the most magnificent prose ever uttered from an English pulpit, if not the most magnificent prose ever spoken in our tongue.”
Donne’s best-known sermon, Deaths Duell (1632), is his last one, which he preached at court just a month before he expired. He was already visibly dying, and this sermon is often taken to seal his long preoccupation with death. In fact it celebrates a triumph over death that is confirmed by the Resurrection of Christ. Donne draws out three distinct senses of his text from Psalm 68, “And unto God the Lord belong the issues Of death.” God has power to bring about our deliverance from death; our deliverance in death (by his care for us in the hour and manner of our death); and our deliverance by means ofdeath (through Christ’s sacrifice of himself for us). By examining each of these senses in turn, Donne shows that they finally cohere in Christ’s life. The sermon culminates in a meditation upon Christ’s last hours and sufferings, inviting the reader to acquiesce in oneness with Christ’s own condition, just because he is the second Adam, who redeems the sin of the first:
There we leave you, in that blessed dependency, to hang upon him, that hangs upon the cross. There bathe in his tears, there suck at his wounds, and lie down in peace in his grave, till he vouchsafe you a Resurrection, and an ascension into that Kingdom which he hath purchased for you, with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood.
Over a literary career of some forty years Donne moved from skeptical naturalism to a conviction of the shaping presence of the divine spirit in the natural creation. Yet his mature understanding did not contradict his earlier vision. He simply came to anticipate a Providential disposition in the restless whirl of the world. The amorous adventurer nurtured the dean of St. Paul’s.
— A. J. Smith, University of Southampton
Henri Michaux died in Paris in 1984 at the age of 85.
Michaux is a poet of unique style, one that is particularly difficult to pinpoint. He most closely resembles the surrealists, but cannot even accurately be grouped with them. Frederic Sepher pointed out that much of his poetry reads like short stories, although most of it does rhyme. He stated that while Michaux is probably the “least lyric of all contemporary French poets,” and employs few metaphors, “he is brilliantly imaginative, inventive and rythmic. He even verges on the musical in his haunting, desperate litanies with their repetitions and developments.”
Haunting, too, is Michaux’s emphasis on “the strangeness of natural things and the naturalness of strange things,” as Andre Gide once described Michaux’s philosophy. Like Swift, Flaubert, and Lautreament, Michaux created imaginery lands inhabited by equally chimerical creatures. The royal spider, the Hacs, the Emanglons, and the Gaurs are just a few of the inhabitants in what are considered his best works, including Voyage en Grande Garbagne, Au Pays de la magie, and Ici, Poddema. These creatures are portrayed as being more real than human beings. So are their worlds seen as being far less fantastic and less absurd than the one in which Michaux himself lives. As a Times Literary Supplement critic put it, “It is surprising how true much of his poetry is even at the most superficial level.” What has really happened in the thirty-odd years since the publication of Voyage en Grande Garbagne seems more strange than what is in the book, the critic asserted.
Michaux’s world is filled with aggression and hostility. Through his writings he emphasizes fears and anxieties that are most often suppressed by others. As Sepher pointed out, Michaux’s poetry is a form of self-analysis: it exorcises the terrible demons that reside within him. And to absorb blows that life meant for him, he invented a character named Plume. Plume is a weak, pathetic, yet humorous person, resembling Charlie Chaplin, who is constantly being bullied by his more intrepid associates. He embodies the weakness Michaux sees in himself, and in all men.
Michaux’s works are imbued with a sense of alienation not only from others, but from himself as well. He warns that twentieth-century life is dangerous: one must be perpetually on guard for it is too easy to lose oneself, a frightening feeling he often describes. There is an ever-present conflict between one’s inner and outer lives. Michaux contends that by developing stringent social mores that lead to the suppression of the individual by society, it is man himself who is responsible for this conflict. But man’s condition is not hopeless. Michaux combats his own struggle between inner thoughts and the outside world by practicing strict self control, and with a sense of humor that is “one of his most salient characteristics,” as Sepher observed.
While Michaux’s writings are read worldwide and his poetry is currently popular among young people in France, the man himself remains somewhat of an enigma. Introverted and introspective, Michaux has screened much of his private life, especially his early years, from public view. It is known, however, that he felt alienated from his parents from the beginning. He voraciously read the works of mystics, and later was influenced by the writings of Lautreament, Ruysbroeck, Kafka, and Ernst Hello. He also painted, inspired by the modernist artists, most notably Paul Klee.
In his youth, Michaux had hoped to join the priesthood but was dissuaded from doing so by his father. Instead, he pursued medical studies but eventually abandoned them to sail with the merchant marines. As a sailor, Michaux traveled to the United States, South America, and England, and later, on his own, to Asia, where he accumulated material used in writing travel books, such as Ecuador and Un barbare en Asie. But the travels he described were not all physical: even then, Michaux also wrote of the journeys within himself. In New Republic, a critic commented: “Coming upon Ecuador today one cannot, except by an act of imagination, appreciate the revolutionary thing it was when it was first published, nor the risk that Michaux took in those days. But the risk and the kind of adventure in which he engaged deserves to be compared with that of other great innovative writers of our time. Like them, he is powerful, incomplete, shifting, strangely satisfying and dissatisfying.”
Like Aldous Huxley, Michaux experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, primarily mescaline, in exploration of his inner self and of further awareness. He was fifty-seven when he embarked on his first drug-induced voyage. At sixty-seven he gave up drugs at his doctor’s advice, believing he had already experienced all that he could with them anyway. Some of his experiences are mirrored in The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones, Miserable Miracle, L’Infini turbulent, Connaissance par les gouffres, and L’Espace du dedans. The latter is “not the kind of book to be read from cover to cover, but one to be dipped into, a little at a time,” a Times Literary Supplement critic noted. Michaux’s “poetry is the result of exploring and, in its most liberal sense, analysing the ‘space within’, the infinite universe of the inner self where the galaxies move and revolve according to laws whose mathematics may be forever beyond our comprehension.”
In recent years, Michaux has devoted most of his talents to painting. That, for him, is another form of exorcism. He has said that he can better express himself through this medium. Many of his books include original drawings and paintings.
In English (see also below):
Ecuador: journal de voyage, [France], 1929, revised edition, Gallimard, 1968, translation by Robin Magowan published as Ecuador: A Travel Journal, University of Washington Press, 1968.
Un barbare en Asie (travel notes), Gallimard, 1933, revised edition, Gallimard, 1967, translation by Sylvia Beach published as A Barbarian in Asia, New Directions, 1949.
L’Espace du dedans (poetry), Gallimard, 1944, revised and enlarged edition, 1966 , translation by Richard Ellmann published as Selected Writings: The Space Within, New Directions, 1951.
(Self-illustrated) Miserable miracle, Rocher, 1956, revised and enlarged edition, Gallimard, 1972, translation by Louise Varese published as Miserable Miracle: Mescaline, City Lights, 1963.
L’Infini turbulent, Mercure, 1957, revised and enlarged edition, Gallimard, 1967 , translation by Michael Fineberg published as Infinite Turbulence, Calder & Boyars, 1975.
Connaissance par les gouffres, Gallimard, 1961, revised edition, Gallimard, 1967, translation by Haakon Chevalier published as Light Through Darkness, Orion Press, 1963.
Les Grandes Epreuves de l’esprit et les innombrables petites (autobiography), Gallimard, 1966, translation by Richard Howard published as The Major Ordeals of the Mind and the Countless Minor Ones, Harcourt, 1974.
Michaux , translation from the French by Teo Savory, bilingual edition, Unicorn Press, 1967.
Peter Broome, editor, Au pays de la magie (text in French; introduction and commentaries in English), Athlone Press, 1977.
Henri Michaux, A Selection, translated by Michael Fineberg, Embers (Norwich), 1979.
Ideograms in China, translated by Gustaf Sobin, New Directions (New York, NY), 1984.
A Barbarian in Asia, translated by Sylvia Beach, New Directions, 1986.
By Surprise, translated by Randolph Hough, Hanuman (New York City), 1987.
Meidosems: Poems and Lithographs, translated by Elizabeth R. Jackson, Moving Parts Press (Santa Cruz, CA), 1992.
Spaced, Displaced, translated by David and Helen Constantine, Bloodaxe (Newcastle Upon Tyne), 1992.
David Ball, editor and translator, Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology, 1927-1984, University of California Press, 1994.
Henri Michaux: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 19 February-25 April 1999, Whitechapel Art Gallery (London, England), 1999.
Oeuvres Completes, II, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2001.
Someone Wants to Steal My Name: And Other Poems, Cleveland State University Poetry Center (Cleveland, OH), 2003.
Mes proprietes (poetry and prose), J. D. Fourcade, 1929.
La Nuit remu (poetry), Gallimard, 1935, revised edition, 1967.
Voyage en Grande Garbagne, Gallimard, 1941.
Liberte d’action (poetry), Fontane, 1945.
Ici, Poddema (excerpt from Livre du voyager; also see below), Mermod (Lausanne, Switzerland), 1946.
Epreuves, exorcismes, 1940-44 (poetry; title means “Tests, Exorcisms”), Gallimard, 1946.
Rene Bertele, editor, Henri Michaux, Seghers, 1946, revised and enlarged edition, 1957.
Peintures et dessins, Editions du point du jour, 1946.
Nous deux encore, Lanbert, 1948.
Arriver a se reveiller, L’Air du temps, 1948.
Henri Michaux, P. Drouin, 1948.
Ailleurs (poetry), Gallimard, 1948, revised edition, 1969.
La Vie dans les plis (poetry), Gallimard, 1949, new edition, 1965.
Passages, 1937-1950, Gallimard, 1950, revised and enlarged edition, NRF, 1963.
(Self-illustrated) Mouvements (poetry), Gallimard, 1951.
Nouvelles de l’etranger, Mercure, 1952.
Face aux verrous (poetry; title means “Facing the Bolts”), Gallimard, 1954 , revised edition, 1967.
Quatre cents hommes en croix, P. Bettencourt, 1956.
Plume; precede de Lointaine interieur (poetry), Gallimard, 1957, revised edition, 1967.
(Self-illustrated) Paix dans les brisements (poetry), Flinker, 1959.
Galerie Daniel Cordier, compiler, Henri Michaux, [Paris], 1959.
La Psilocybine, [Paris], 1960.
Situations-gouffres, [Paris], 1960.
Vents et poussieres, 1955-1962, Flinker, 1962.
Henri Michaux, oeuvres recentes, presented by Cordier, text by Genevieve Bonnefoi, [Paris], 1962.
Vers la completude (poetry), GLM, 1966.
L’Espace du dedans, pages choisies (1927-1959), Gallimard, 1966; Henri Michaux, [Paris], 1966.
Bertele, compiler, Parcours: Suite de douze eaux-fortes originales, Le Point cardinal, 1966.
K. Leonard, editor and compiler, Henri Michaux, [London], 1968.
Facons d’endormi, facons d’eveille, Gallimard, 1969.
Poteaux d’angle, Herne, 1971.
En revant a partir de peintures enigmatiques, Fata Morgana (Montpellier, France), 1972.
Emergence-resurgences, Skira, 1972.
Quand tombent les toits (play), GLM, 1973.
Moments; traversees du temps (poetry), Gallimard, 1973.
Bras casse, Fata morgana, 1973.
Par la voie des rythmes, Fata morgana, 1974.
Ideogrammes en Chine, Fata morgana, 1975.
Moriturus, Fata morgana, 1976.
Choix de poemes, Gallimard, 1976.
A Distance: Poemes, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1997.
Oeuvres Completes, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1998.
A la Minute que J’Eclate: Quarante-tros lettres a Herman Closson, D. Devillez (Bruxelles, Belgium), 1999.
Sitot Lus: Letters a Franz Hellens, 1922-1952, Fayrad (Paris, France), 1999.
Also author of Livre du voyager, Ailleurs, Liberte d’action (title means “Freedom of Action”), 1947, and of poetry includingQue je fus, 1927, Un Certain Plume, 1931, and Apparitions, 1946. Exhibition catalogs: Asger Oluf Jorn, editor, Henri Michaux, Silkeborg Museum (Denmark), 1962;Amsterdam. Stedelijk Museum. Henri Michaux, Staatsdrukkerij, 1964; Henri Michaux, Musee national d’art moderne (Paris), 1965; Henri Michaux: choix d’oeuvres des annees 1946-1966, Le Point cardinal, 1967; Michaux a Venezia centro internazionale delle arti e del costume, Palazzo Grassi, 1967, Rizzoli grafica (Milan), 1967; Exposition Henri Michaux: peintures, 1946-67, text by Bonnefoi, [Rouen, France], 1968; Henri Michaux, bilingual edition, W. Girardet, 1969; Henri Michaux, Kestner Gesellschaft, 1972; Henri Michaux: oeuvres nouvelles, 26 novembre 1974-fin janvier 1975, Le Point cardinal, 1974.
Bowie, Malcolm, Henri Michaux: A Study of His Literary Works, Clarendon Press, 1973.
Broome, Peter, Henri Michaux, Athlone Press, 1977.
Durrell, Lawrence, Henri Michaux: The Poet of Supreme Solipsism, Delos Press (Birmingham), 1990.
Edson, Laurie, Henri Michaux and the Poetics of Movement, ANLibri, 1985.
La Charite, Virginia A., Henri Michaux, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1977.
Leonhard, Kurt, Henri Michaux, translated by Anthony Kitzinger, Thames & Hudson, 1968.
Michaux, Henri, The Major Ordeals of the Mind and Countless Minor Ones, translated by Richard Howard, Harcourt, 1974.
Shepler, Frederic Joseph, Creatures Within: Imaginary Beings in the Work of Henri Michaux, Physsardt (Bloomington, IN), 1977.
Velinsky, L.A., From the Gloom of Today to the New Greatness of Man: Itinerary by Henri Michaux, Builder of New Poetry, Vantage Press (New York City), 1977.
L’Express, January 5-11, 1970; Times Literary Supplement, September 25, 1970, August 6, 1971, May 4, 1973, February 15, 1976; Modern Language Journal, October, 1970; Choice, November, 1970, October, 1974; Art in America, March, 1971; Books Abroad, winter, 1974; Encounter, July, 1977; World Literature Today, winter, 1977; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 8, Gale, 1978.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale, Volume 8, 1978, Volume 19, 1981; Chicago Tribune, October 23, 1984;Times (London), October 25, 1984.
It is my honor and privilege to present Alfred Corn, the great American poet and essayist.
Mr Corn was asked by J.D.M.P.S to write a poem in remembrance of Jim Morrison and we are delighted with his submission.
The true Jim Morrison fan has read every single word of Jim’s writings, so “Stranger” is nothing less than poetic scripture lovingly crafted using Morrison’s own repository then presented to delight us one and all.
A. R. Graham.
For Jim Morrison
Wilderness scout unaware a sidewinder
during the night has slipped into the tent: he rolls
over onto a two-point bite through his T-shirt.
Adam woke one morning to a missing rib.
Eva appeared. Snake eyes: a knowing apple
later, the pair denuded of their innocence
joined wounds and became one flesh again,
though it severed them forever from their garden.
Prometheus, Firebringer, chained
to the gods-ordained rock, in agonic
dialogue with a vulture, whose box-cutter
beak finds a way through the ribcage
to dig out chunks of liver. Bright sunrise
to warm sunset: the thief of heat and light
lives as carrion for his winged tormentor.
Spear-wound through which the dying Master’s
blood and water poured: in the epilogue
it served (“Put your fingers in the hole”)
as court evidence to doubting Thomas.
Who wouldn’t do it, choked up, and believed.
And Paul’s equivalent? Even during a feast
of friends, he felt a “thorn in his side,” a burr
under the saddle that pricks and gives no rest.
Jim, my frontman! We won’t find a Fender burning
at your side. You light a fire in the chest’s beating
hearth, exacerbating a stab wound nothing
will ever stanch. Both entrance and exit,
a door of perception. Go in, strut a little hour
on the stage, be their Dionysus: twice born,
ripped from a mother’s womb and housed
in Zeus’s side until gestation was done. Wasted,
you wanted not this numbed-out cage of ours
but infinite, eternal room. Death’s got that.
It stretched its arms outward to a T, the crossbar
calling you to break into an amniotic otherland
where laughter and soft lies couldn’t wake you.
The embers are with us now, electric, ravaging.
Ah but you: wandering the wilderness like Cain
on your stone highway to the end of the night.
American author Alfred Corn has published ten books of poems, including Stake: Selected Poems, 1972-1992 (1999) and, most recently, Unions (2014). He has also published a novel, Part of His Story, a study of prosody The Poem’s Heartbeat, and two collections of critical essays, The Metamorphoses of Metaphor and Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007. His second novel, Miranda’s Book, will be published in late 2014.
As a graduate student in French literature, he received a Fulbright Fellowship to study for a year in Paris. For his poetry, he has received Guggenheim, NEA, and NYFA fellowships, an Award in Literature from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and the Dillon, Blumenthal, and Levinson Prizes from Poetry magazine.
For many years he taught in the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia University and held visiting posts at UCLA, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma State, and Yale.
His book reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Nation, the New Republic, the Hudson Review, and Poetry London. He also writes art criticism for Art in America and ARTnews magazines.
In 2001 Abrams published Aaron Rose Photographs, for which he supplied the introduction. In 2003 he was a fellow of the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center at Bellagio, Lake Como, and for 2004-2005, he held the Amy Clampitt residency in Lenox, Massachusetts. From 2005 to 2011 he lived mostly in London, teaching a course for the Poetry School, and one for the Arvon Foundation. His play, Lowell’s Bedlam, premiered at Pentameters Theatre in London in 2011. In 2012, he was a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, working on a translation of the Duino Elegies, and in 2013 Clare Hall made him a Life Fellow. In 2014 he won the international Andersen Prize, awarded for a fairy tale, by the Comune di Sestri Levante in Italy.
Corn lives in Rhode Island and spends part of every year in the UK.
MORRISON HOTEL/Hard Rock Cafe by The Doors
(1970/Electra Records, NY).
The album’s front and back covers, as photographed on December 17th, 1969 in Los Angeles by Henry Diltz with art direction by Gary Burden.
Here’s the front cover of the album, the Door’s fifth album, released in 1970. The members of the band are, from left to right, Ray Manzarek (piano, organ), Robbie Krieger (guiter), Jim Morrison (vocals), and John Densmore (drums).
(photo: (c) Henry Diltz)
This is where the cover was photographed: 1246 South Hope Street, Los Angeles. At the time the building was a low-rent hotel for transients called “The Morrison Hotel.” It has been closed for several years.
Here it is PopSpotted – with the album cover placed in the exact position where the photo was taken.
And the same view, but from a wider angle; click to enlarge.
TO give you a view of how big the hotel was, here’s the former Morrison Hotel from across the street. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
Here’s an aeriel view from Bing’s bird’s eye view.
The hotel was located in downtown Los Angeles. Here’s where that is in relation to Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Pacific Ocean. Downtown LA is having a resurgence now, but for many years was overshadowed by the glamourous parts of Los Angeles nearer the ocean.
A few days before the shoot, Ray Manzarek and his wife were cruising through the neighboorhood looking for funky locations for the photoshoot, when they spotted the hotel. They recommended to the group that the cover shot be be taken there.
When the entourage arrived several days later, the desk clerk told the photographer that the group would not be allowed into the building for any photos. So the band took some photos outside while while they figured out how to take a picture incorporating the Morrison Hotel sign in the front window. Here’s one in the doorway.
And another version from a different angle.
The photographer, Henry Diltz, covered the scene from many different angles in pursuit of the perfect picture. Here’s Jim Morrison posing out front.
This is a close-up of the sign in the front window. I doubt there were mints under the pillows.
Photographer Henry Diltz is on the left side of this photo taken from a documentary featuring the shoot made years later in the Morrison Hotel lobby (see Addendum for more info). To the right is Gary Burden the art director. They worked together on many albums in the 1960’s to 1970’s. More on them later.
In between them is the front desk. Back when they were photographing the Doors, when they saw the desk clerk leave for a break, they quickly got the Doors to rush into the hotel and pose, looking out the front window under the “Morrison Hotel” sign. Diltz managed to shoot a roll, starting at the window then moving back across the street and using a telephoto. Then they left and the security guard never knew the photo shoot had taken place.
Here’s the first photo taken, as the Doors are sneaking in to take their places.
First, Ray and Jim show up.
Then Robbie and John show up.
Gary Burden, the art director, also shows up in the background. Can you see him?
Here he is in close-up.
That’s Gary Burden on the left with with Mama Cass and Henry Diltz from back in the day
Now Gary has left and Henry Diltz is close to the cover shot, going now for a straight-on shot.
Bingo! Here’s the final shot: One of the most perfect “form-and-function” rock shots ever – perfectly composed for an album cover, complete with cool typeface, not to mention the name of the lead singer built in!
I liked it so much, I’m going to show it to you again with a circle showing the reflection of the photographer, Henry Diltz.
If you go to Google Images and search for “1246 South Hope Street,” this great photo from that era pops up on several websites, but there is no mention as to its origin. It looks like it came from Henry Diltz’ photo session, except that: 1) the venetian blinds in the window are at the level from after the photoshoot, 2) there is no “rooms $2.50 sign” in the window, and 3) most vividly, the shadows from the sign in the “greenish” picture are very pronounced), so it most likely was taken on a different occasion by a different person.
Here’s a shot from Henry Diltz’s session from about the same place (taken off a computer monitor). Notice that the venetian blinds are lower.
Here’s the cover shot inserted into the older photo. The venetian blinds have ben pulled up to get a clear shot of the hotel name.
So, with the cover shot complete, then the guys decide to drive around and find a place get a beer, since it’s daytime and they are rock stars. They go a few blocks and – lo and behold – look what they wander upon …a bar called, fortuitously, the Hard Rock Cafe.
The restaurant chain named The Hard Rock Cafe would later take it’s name from this album. One can only wonder though, where the name “hard rock” came from to the owner of this low-rent cafe near skid row Los Angeles. Hard labor? Hard rock to blast to make the highway? The denizens of this bar don’t seem like Zeppelin fans…though ya never know.
The Doors show up.
Let’s backtrack a little: The corner is the southwest corner of East 5th Street and Wall Street, Los Angeles; about 8 blocks from The Morrison Hotel.
Here’s a panorama of the corner. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
And here, I’ve overlayed the back of the album cover over the scene as shot by Google Street Maps.
So if we follow the band into the bar, you see this stool…
..That’s the one the drummer John Densmore is sitting on in the double-wide inner sleeve photo.
And if we pull the camera back a little, we can see the whole center gatefold of the album. Looks like the boys have ordered some of the beverage du jour. (Well, I woke up this morning and got myself a beeeeerrr!)
It also looks like Jim even ordered a bag of chips for the guys.
Here are some more outtakes from the bar shoot…
…and another. This time, one of the guys from the bar gets in on the shot.
He clearly does not mind being in the spotlight.
The beers having been consumed, the guys walk back outside.
…followed by their new friend, who unfortunately, didn’t know how to play an instrument, and missed his opportunity for rock immortality.
Here’s where all that took place: the Hard Rock in relation to the Morrison Hotel.
Well, that’s all folks! If you want to buy any of these photos, call up The Morrison Hotel gallery, Henry Diltz’s rock photography store at 124 Prince Street in Soho, New York (pictured below), or visit the store online at MorrisonHotel.com.
Even the front window looks like the old album cover. Fun to take your photo in front of and to email your fellow Doors fans back home.
Addendum 1: The front cover of UNDER THE COVERS, a DVD by photographer Henry Diltz and art director Gary Burden featuring the behind-the-scenes stories of taking the photographs and designing the covers for many of the iconic albums covers of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s available through most online DVD stores.
The back cover to Under the Covers listing many of the albums featured in the video documentary.
Addendum 2: Some ads from the time of the album’s release.
Jim Morrison (1943-1971) was one of the most educated and well-read poets of his time. He was interested in Greek drama and Artaud theater and just the theater concept in itself. A born poet, signer and actor Morrison managed to reveal his talents while working as a frontman of The Doors. He didn`t just sing but acted trying this or that role of a shaman-poet, of a Greek god Dyonis, of a mythic Lizard King. Morrison was a real poet-performer, he created his own tragedy in his mind and through his poetry he dramatized his inner feelings and emotions.
Though Morrison preferred the epic theater of Brecht and the Theater of Cruelty of Artaud to traditional theater associated with Shakespeare for the latter lacks the possibility of involving the spectator into the action as a participant of a certain rite, Morrison respected greatly Shakespeare`s works and while reading Wilderness we can`t but find lots of Shakespeare allusions in his poetry.
In Ode to LA while thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased Morrison writes:
I’m a resident of a city
They’ve just picked me to play
the Prince of Denmark…
The poet feels himself a Hamlet – and that may seem old-fashioned and even banal but the thing is that the existential problem of to-be-or-not-to-be is actually the only one worth mentioning in poetry. Death may surely be called one of the central problems in Morrison`s poetry. Morrison as a true visionary poet forsaw lots of things and predicted his own death. He died a very young man at the age of 27. Image of death, the end, appears throughout his poetry. A poet feeling his end too close couln`t but asked himself whether the life was worth living, whether the life was worth being a sacrifice for a revealed truth:
…You’ve left your
to compete w/
Ode to LA is devoted to Brian Jones, a rock musician (The Rolling Stones) whosemysterious death in a swimming pool influenced Morrison and provoked him to writing a poem languorous with images of water, pools, trampling board and dead bodies:
All those ghosts he never saw
Floating to doom
On an iron candle
Come back, brave warrior
Do the dive
On another channel
Hot buttered pool
Under the falls
the wild storm
where savages fell out
in late afternoon
monsters of rhythm…
Shakespeare`s Ophelia may have some resemblence to Brian Jones and even to Morrison`s own death as he died in a bathroom in Paris in 1971. The official version was heart attack. Applying Morrison`s death to the poem makes the latter twice more terrifying:
The diving board, the plunge
You were a fighter
a damask musky muse
You were the bleached
for TV afternoon
maverick of a yellow spot
Look now to where it’s got
in meat heaven
The body, rampant, Floating
What is this green pale stuff
You’re made of
Poke holes in the goddess
Will he Stink
Thru the halls
Requiem for a heavy
That porky satyr’s
has leaped upward
into the loam
Another important image in Morrison`s poetry is the Far Arden. Far Arden is known to the reader from Shakespeare`s As You Like It. In Morrison`s poetry Far Arden symbolizes freedom, joy and music, it is a mystic forest where songs and dances rule:
Ladies & gentlemen:
please attend carefully to these words & events
It’s your last chance, our last hope.
In this womb or tomb, we’re free of the
The black fever which rages is safely
out those doors
My friends & I come from
Far Arden w/dances, &
Everywhere followers accure
to our procession.
Tales of Kings, gods, warriors
and lovers dangled like
jewels for your careless pleasure
(he enters stage)
The poet tries a role of a middle age minstrel, a vagabond, a wanderer, who chose his life be an ever feast of life. Tales of kings and queens attract Morrison`s imagination. He admires the illusion of harmony in Shakespeare`s world:
Under the moon
Beneath the stars
They reel & dance
The young folk
Led to the Lake
by a King & Queen
O, I want to be there
I want us to be there
Beside the lake
Beneath the moon
Cool & swollen
dripping its hot
A poet of the XXth century, when a man was left alone, when the death of the god was officially proclaimed and life was changed for existence with no aim in life, Shakespeare`s Far Arden stands for middle age utopia, a world of fiction and illusions, a beautiful forest where young folk sing and dance and the poet would gladly plump for this world of dreams.
Traditionally Shakespeare`s images are reflected intertextually in the works of the poets of the following centuries. Morrison as a poet of tradition contributed this tendency greatly. He interpreted Shakespeare`s images through his own scope of vision of a poet born in the XXth century whose poetic style was worked out on the base of existential philosophy combined with the tradition of visionary poets, Indian religion and American avant-garde of the 1950-60s.
Take a trip down memory lane with Coronado Rock-n-Roll archivist John Moore.
The San Diego Concert Archive was created through extensive research of the following newspapers, fanzines and weekly periodicals: The San Diego Door/Teaspoon, The San Diego Union, The San Diego Evening Tribune, The San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego State University Daily Aztec, The San Diego Reader, Quasi-Substitute, Snare, Kicks and SLAMM.
Before barcodes and holograms, promoters often spent as much time decorating their tickets as they did with their posters and handbills. Even with their minimal amount of information, tickets provide an important part in the documentation of the San Diego music scene.
Flyers have always been an inexpensive and effective way to promote a concert. Some are as basic as simple hand-scrawled information on a sheet of paper while others are detailed and sophisticated pieces of art.
From the colorful psychedelic hand-screened images of the 1960s and 1970s, to today’s offset press high tech printing capabilities, rock posters have always been on the cutting edge of modern graphic art, simultaneously capturing a moment of San Diego’s music scene on a piece of poster board.
In the early 20th century, the German biochemist Otto Warburg believed that tumors could be
Today Boveri is celebrated for discovering the origins of cancer, but another German scientist, Otto Warburg, was studying sea-urchin eggs around the same time as Boveri. His research, too, was hailed as a major breakthrough in our understanding of cancer. But in the following decades, Warburg’s discovery would largely disappear from the cancer narrative, his contributions considered so negligible that they were left out of textbooks altogether.
Unlike Boveri, Warburg wasn’t interested in the chromosomes of sea-urchin eggs. Rather, Warburg was focused on energy, specifically on how the eggs fueled their growth. By the time Warburg turned his attention from sea-urchin cells to the cells of a rat tumor, in 1923, he knew that sea-urchin eggs increased their oxygen consumption significantly as they grew, so he expected to see a similar need for extra oxygen in the rat tumor. Instead, the cancer cells fueled their growth by swallowing up enormous amounts of glucose (blood sugar) and breaking it down without oxygen. The result made no sense. Oxygen-fueled reactions are a much more efficient way of turning food into energy, and there was plenty of oxygen available for the cancer cells to use. But when Warburg tested additional tumors, including ones from humans, he saw the same effect every time. The cancer cells were ravenous for glucose.
Warburg’s discovery, later named the Warburg effect, is estimated to occur in up to 80 percent of cancers. It is so fundamental to most cancers that a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which has emerged as an important tool in the staging and diagnosis of cancer, works simply by revealing the places in the body where cells are consuming extra glucose. In many cases, the more glucose a tumor consumes, the worse a patient’s prognosis.
In the years following his breakthrough, Warburg became convinced that the Warburg effect occurs because cells are unable to use oxygen properly and that this damaged respiration is, in effect, the starting point of cancer. Well into the 1950s, this theory — which Warburg believed in until his death in 1970 but never proved — remained an important subject of debate within the field. And then, more quickly than anyone could have anticipated, the debate ended. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick pieced together the structure of the DNA molecule and set the stage for the triumph of molecular biology’s gene-centered approach to cancer. In the following decades, scientists came to regard cancer as a disease governed by mutated genes, which drive cells into a state of relentless division and proliferation. The metabolic catalysts that Warburg spent his career analyzing began to be referred to as “housekeeping enzymes” — necessary to keep a cell going but largely irrelevant to the deeper story of cancer.
“It was a stampede,” says Thomas Seyfried, a biologist at Boston College, of the move to molecular biology. “Warburg was dropped like a hot potato.” There was every reason to think that Warburg would remain at best a footnote in the history of cancer research. (As Dominic D’Agostino, an associate professor at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, told me, “The book that my students have to use for their cancer biology course has no mention of cancer metabolism.”) But over the past decade, and the past five years in particular, something unexpected happened: Those housekeeping enzymes have again become one of the most promising areas of cancer research. Scientists now wonder if metabolism could prove to be the long-sought “Achilles’ heel” of cancer, a common weak point in a disease that manifests itself in so many different forms.
There are typically many mutations in a single cancer. But there are a limited number of ways that the body can produce energy and support rapid growth. Cancer cells rely on these fuels in a way that healthy cells don’t. The hope of scientists at the forefront of the Warburg revival is that they will be able to slow — or even stop — tumors by disrupting one or more of the many chemical reactions a cell uses to proliferate, and, in the process, starve cancer cells of the nutrients they desperately need to grow.
Even James Watson, one of the fathers of molecular biology, is convinced that targeting metabolism is a more promising avenue in current cancer research than gene-centered approaches. At his office at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, Watson, 88, sat beneath one of the original sketches of the DNA molecule and told me that locating the genes that cause cancer has been “remarkably unhelpful” — the belief that sequencing your DNA is going to extend your life “a cruel illusion.” If he were going into cancer research today, Watson said, he would study biochemistry rather than molecular biology.
“I never thought, until about two months ago, I’d ever have to learn the Krebs cycle,” he said, referring to the reactions, familiar to most high-school biology students, by which a cell powers itself. “Now I realize I have to.”
Born in 1883 into the illustrious Warburg family, Otto Warburg was raised to be a science prodigy. His father, Emil, was one of Germany’s leading physicists, and many of the world’s greatest physicists and chemists, including Albert Einstein and Max Planck, were friends of the family. (When Warburg enlisted in the military during World War I, Einstein sent him a letter urging him to come home for the sake of science.) Those men had explained the mysteries of the universe with a handful of fundamental laws, and the young Warburg came to believe he could bring that same elegant simplicity and clarity to the workings of life. Long before his death, Warburg was considered perhaps the greatest biochemist of the 20th century, a man whose research was vital to our understanding not only of cancer but also of respiration and photosynthesis. In 1931 he won the Nobel Prize for his work on respiration, and he was considered for the award on two other occasions — each time for a different discovery. Records indicate that he would have won in 1944, had the Nazis not forbidden the acceptance of the Nobel by German citizens.
That Warburg was able to live in Germany and continue his research throughout World War II, despite having Jewish ancestry and most likely being gay, speaks to the German obsession with cancer in the first half of the 20th century. At the time, cancer was more prevalent in Germany than in almost any other nation. According to the Stanford historian Robert Proctor, by the 1920s Germany’s escalating cancer rates had become a “major scandal.” A number of top Nazis, including Hitler, are believed to have harbored a particular dread of the disease; Hitler and Joseph Goebbels took the time to discuss new advances in cancer research in the hours leading up to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Whether Hitler was personally aware of Warburg’s research is unknown, but one of Warburg’s former colleagues wrote that several sources told him that “Hitler’s entourage” became convinced that “Warburg was the only scientist who offered a serious hope of producing a cure for cancer one day.”
Although many Jewish scientists fled Germany during the 1930s, Warburg chose to remain. According to his biographer, the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Hans Krebs, who worked in Warburg’s lab, “science was the dominant emotion” of Warburg’s adult life, “virtually subjugating all other emotions.” In Krebs’s telling, Warburg spent years building a small team of specially trained technicians who knew how to run his experiments, and he feared that his mission to defeat cancer would be set back significantly if he had to start over. But after the war, Warburg fired all the technicians, suspecting that they had reported his criticisms of the Third Reich to the Gestapo. Warburg’s reckless decision to stay in Nazi Germany most likely came down to his astonishing ego. (Upon learning he had won the Nobel Prize, Warburg’s response was, “It’s high time.”)
“Modesty was not a virtue of Otto Warburg,” says George Klein, a 90-year-old cancer researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. As a young man, Klein was asked to send cancer cells to Warburg’s lab. A number of years later, Klein’s boss approached Warburg for a recommendation on Klein’s behalf. “George Klein has made a very important contribution to cancer research,” Warburg wrote. “He has sent me the cells with which I have solved the cancer problem.” Klein also recalls the lecture Warburg gave in Stockholm in 1950 at the 50th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. Warburg drew four diagrams on a blackboard explaining the Warburg effect, and then told the members of the audience that they represented all that they needed to know about the biochemistry of cancer.
Warburg was so monumentally stubborn that he refused to use the word “mitochondria,” even after it had been widely accepted as the name for the tiny structures that power cells. Instead Warburg persisted in calling them “grana,” the term he came up with when he identified those structures as the site of cellular respiration. Few things would have been more upsetting to him than the thought of Nazi thugs chasing him out of the beautiful Berlin institute, modeled after a country manor and built specifically for him. After the war, the Russians approached Warburg and offered to erect a new institute in Moscow. Klein recalls that Warburg told them with great pride that both Hitler and Stalin had failed to move him. As Warburg explained to his sister: “Ich war vor Hitler da” — “I was here before Hitler.”
Imagine two engines, the one being driven by complete and the other by incomplete combustion of coal,” Warburg wrote in 1956, responding to a criticism of his hypothesis that cancer is a problem of energy. “A man who knows nothing at all about engines, their structure and their purpose may discover the difference. He may, for example, smell it.”
The “complete combustion,” in Warburg’s analogy, is respiration. The “incomplete combustion,” turning nutrients into energy without oxygen, is known as fermentation. Fermentation provides a useful backup when oxygen can’t reach cells quickly enough to keep up with demand. (Our muscle cells turn to fermentation during intense exercise.) Warburg thought that defects prevent cancer cells from being able to use respiration, but scientists now widely agree that this is wrong. A growing tumor can be thought of as a construction site, and as today’s researchers explain it, the Warburg effect opens the gates for more and more trucks to deliver building materials (in the form of glucose molecules) to make “daughter” cells.
If this theory can explain the “why” of the Warburg effect, it still leaves the more pressing question of what, exactly, sets a cell on the path to the Warburg effect and cancer. Scientists at several of the nation’s top cancer hospitals have spearheaded the Warburg revival, in hopes of finding the answer. These researchers, typically molecular biologists by training, have turned to metabolism and the Warburg effect because their own research led each of them to the same conclusion: A number of the cancer-causing genes that have long been known for their role in cell division also regulate cells’ consumption of nutrients.
Craig Thompson, the president and chief executive of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has been among the most outspoken proponents of this renewed focus on metabolism. In Thompson’s analogy, the Warburg effect can be thought of as a social failure: a breakdown of the nutrient-sharing agreement that single-celled organisms signed when they joined forces to become multicellular organisms. His research showed that cells need to receive instructions from other cells to eat, just as they require instructions from other cells to divide. Thompson hypothesized that if he could identify the mutations that lead a cell to eat more glucose than it should, it would go a long way toward explaining how the Warburg effect and cancer begin. But Thompson’s search for those mutations didn’t lead to an entirely new discovery. Instead, it led him to AKT, a gene already well known to molecular biologists for its role in promoting cell division. Thompson now believes AKT plays an even more fundamental role in metabolism.
The protein created by AKT is part of a chain of signaling proteins that is mutated in up to 80 percent of all cancers. Thompson says that once these proteins go into overdrive, a cell no longer worries about signals from other cells to eat; it instead stuffs itself with glucose. Thompson discovered he could induce the “full Warburg effect” simply by placing an activated AKT protein into a normal cell. When that happens, Thompson says, the cells begin to do what every single-celled organism will do in the presence of food: eat as much as it can and make as many copies of itself as possible. When Thompson presents his research to high-school students, he shows them a slide of mold spreading across a piece of bread. The slide’s heading — “Everyone’s first cancer experiment” — recalls Warburg’s observation that cancer cells will carry out fermentation at almost the same rate of wildly growing yeasts.
Just as Thompson has redefined the role of AKT, Chi Van Dang, director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, has helped lead the cancer world to an appreciation of how one widely studied gene can profoundly influence a tumor’s metabolism. In 1997, Dang became one of the first scientists to connect molecular biology to the science of cellular metabolism when he demonstrated that MYC — a so-called regulator gene well known for its role in cell proliferation — directly targets an enzyme that can turn on the Warburg effect. Dang recalls that other researchers were skeptical of his interest in a housekeeping enzyme, but he stuck with it because he came to appreciate something critical: Cancer cells can’t stop eating.
Unlike healthy cells, growing cancer cells are missing the internal feedback loops that are designed to conserve resources when food isn’t available. They’re “addicted to nutrients,” Dang says; when they can’t consume enough, they begin to die. The addiction to nutrients explains why changes to metabolic pathways are so common and tend to arise first as a cell progresses toward cancer: It’s not that other types of alterations can’t arise first, but rather that, when they do, the incipient tumors lack the access to the nutrients they need to grow. Dang uses the analogy of a work crew trying to put up a building. “If you don’t have enough cement, and you try to put a lot of bricks together, you’re going to collapse,” he says.
Metabolism-centered therapies have produced some tantalizing successes. Agios Pharmaceuticals, a company co-founded by Thompson, is now testing a drug that treats cases of acute myelogenous leukemia that have been resistant to other therapies by inhibiting the mutated versions of the metabolic enzyme IDH 2. In clinical trials of the Agios drug, nearly 40 percent of patients who carry these mutations are experiencing at least partial remissions.
Researchers working in a lab run by Peter Pedersen, a professor of biochemistry at Johns Hopkins, discovered that a compound known as 3-bromopyruvate can block energy production in cancer cells and, at least in rats and rabbits, wipe out advanced liver cancer. (Trials of the drug have yet to begin.) At Penn, Dang and his colleagues are now trying to block multiple metabolic pathways at the same time. In mice, this two-pronged approach has been able to shrink some tumors without debilitating side effects. Dang says the hope is not necessarily to find a cure but rather to keep cancer at bay in a “smoldering quiet state,” much as patients treat their hypertension.
Warburg, too, appreciated that a tumor’s dependence upon a steady flow of nutrients might eventually prove to be its fatal weakness. Long after his initial discovery of the Warburg effect, he continued to research the enzymes involved in fermentation and to explore the possibility of blocking the process in cancer cells. The challenge Warburg faced then is the same one that metabolism researchers face today: Cancer is an incredibly persistent foe. Blocking one metabolic pathway has been shown to slow down and even stop tumor growth in some cases, but tumors tend to find another way. “You block glucose, they use glutamine,” Dang says, in reference to another primary fuel used by cancers. “You block glucose and glutamine, they might be able to use fatty acids. We don’t know yet.”
Given Warburg’s own story of historical neglect, it’s fitting that what may turn out to be one of the most promising cancer metabolism drugs has been sitting in plain sight for decades. That drug, metformin, is already widely prescribed to decrease the glucose in the blood of diabetics (76.9 million metformin prescriptions were filled in the United States in 2014). In the years ahead, it’s likely to be used to treat — or at least to prevent — some cancers. Because metformin can influence a number of metabolic pathways, the precise mechanism by which it achieves its anticancer effects remains a source of debate. But the results of numerous epidemiological studies have been striking. Diabetics taking metformin seem to be significantly less likely to develop cancer than diabetics who don’t — and significantly less likely to die from the disease when they do.
Near the end of his life, Warburg grew obsessed with his diet. He believed that most cancer was preventable and thought that chemicals added to food and used in agriculture could cause tumors by interfering with respiration. He stopped eating bread unless it was baked in his own home. He would drink milk only if it came from a special herd of cows, and used a centrifuge at his lab to make his cream and butter.
Warburg’s personal diet is unlikely to become a path to prevention. But the Warburg revival has allowed researchers to develop a hypothesis for how the diets that are linked to our obesity and diabetes epidemics — specifically, sugar-heavy diets that can result in permanently elevated levels of the hormone insulin — may also be driving cells to the Warburg effect and cancer.
The insulin hypothesis can be traced to the research of Lewis Cantley, the director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College. In the 1980s, Cantley discovered how insulin, which is released by the pancreas and tells cells to take up glucose, influences what happens inside a cell. Cantley now refers to insulin and a closely related hormone, IGF-1 (insulinlike growth factor 1), as “the champion” activators of metabolic proteins linked to cancer. He’s beginning to see evidence, he says, that in some cases, “it really is insulin itself that’s getting the tumor started.” One way to think about the Warburg effect, says Cantley, is as the insulin, or IGF-1, signaling pathway “gone awry — it’s cells behaving as though insulin were telling it to take up glucose all the time and to grow.” Cantley, who avoids eating sugar as much as he can, is currently studying the effects of diet on mice that have the mutations that are commonly found in colorectal and other cancers. He says that the effects of a sugary diet on colorectal, breast and other cancer models “looks very impressive” and “rather scary.”
Elevated insulin is also strongly associated with obesity, which is expected soon to overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable cancer. Cancers linked to obesity and diabetes have more receptors for insulin and IGF-1, and people with defective IGF-1 receptors appear to be nearly immune to cancer. Retrospective studies, which look back at patient histories, suggest that many people who develop colorectal, pancreatic or breast cancer have elevated insulin levels before diagnosis. It’s perhaps not entirely surprising, then, that when researchers want to grow breast-cancer cells in the lab, they add insulin to the tissue culture. When they remove the insulin, the cancer cells die.
“I think there’s no doubt that insulin is pro-cancer,” Watson says, with respect to the link between obesity, diabetes and cancer. “It’s as good a hypothesis as we have now.” Watson takes metformin for cancer prevention; among its many effects, metformin works to lower insulin levels. Not every cancer researcher, however, is convinced of the role of insulin and IGF-1 in cancer. Robert Weinberg, a researcher at M.I.T.’s Whitehead Institute who pioneered the discovery of cancer-causing genes in the ’80s, has remained somewhat cool to certain aspects of the cancer-metabolism revival. Weinberg says that there isn’t yet enough evidence to know whether the levels of insulin and IGF-1 present in obese people are sufficient to trigger the Warburg effect. “It’s a hypothesis,” Weinberg says. “I don’t know if it’s right or wrong.”
During Warburg’s lifetime, insulin’s effects on metabolic pathways were even less well understood. But given his ego, it’s highly unlikely that he would have considered the possibility that anything other than damaged respiration could cause cancer. He died sure that he was right about the disease. Warburg framed a quote from Max Planck and hung it above his desk: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.”