Welcome to The Crystal Cabinet, a Vox group where you can post your thoughts on how poetry you've read connects to and illuminates topics of common interest in current events or history. In "Blake: Prophet Against Empire",
And they enrich each other tremendously: That's the reason for for this group! In my undergraduate honors thesis, "The Mass Sacrificial Spectacle: The Doors in Poetry and History", I took a page from Erdman's "Prophet Against Empire" and found that the poetry of Blake-inspired poet (and yes, rock star) Jim Morrison seemed to similarly mirror the events of the "counterculture" revolution of the 1960s. Working with Jim's UCLA film school classmate and Doors filmographer Frank Lisciandro, I found confirmation of this from Frank, an actual participant at the time.
The relationship can best be expressed by comparing Blake's "The Crystal Cabinet" with the lyrics of The Doors' "The Crystal Ship". Both have dimensions beyond historical events, but both relate to apirations for a better world. While "The Crystal Ship" is a short lyric, most of Jim Morrison's poetic opus can be found in these three works:
The late Duke University scholar Wallace Fowlie gave some more official credence to the notion that Jim Morrison might have been a real poet in his work, "The Rebel as Poet".
However, I was left with the feeling that Fowlie just never did the historical work that an Erdmanesque approach entails. Fowlie didn't seem to be very aware of the events of the 1960s, perhaps most notably, from three to six million people killed in a U.S. military bid to contain "Communism" in favor of an equally dubious puppet state in Vietnam. That causes him to miss a huge dimension of Jim's poetry, much as Northrop Frye misses much of Blake.
When Oliver Stone's movie on The Doors came out in the early 1990s, with many others I was similarly disappointed. Fowlie's later book (it followed the movie by about five years) has marked quite an improvement. Now, things are looking up even more: A new documentary on The Doors (website, trailer), reputed to be very unlike the Stone movie, has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has now garnered the narration of the movie star Johnny Depp.
At the other end of the pendulum-swing from the draw of movie stars, science itself seems to be affirming some of the more apocalyptic themes of Jim poetry. As Western lifestyles and technology continue to develop and are adopted across the globe, we face looming, catastrophic environmental and human impacts. Climate change and mass obesity are a couple of my "favorites".
Perhaps more immediately, we witness now the collapse of the great counterrevolution to the movements of the 1960s, the Reagan Revolution. As it dies in a cascade of revelations about the economic Depression-bringing filth and cheating behind Reagan's vaunted "Morning in America" of "deregulation" (policies carried in large part through the Clinton Administration (1) (2)), the world begs for new visions. The mix of poetry and history is hard to beat for that.
I'll end with an invitation to post your best here, and a quote from Morrison's "The American Night":
Now damn you, dance
or die sleek & fat in your
reeking seats, still
buckled for flight