Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Jim Carroll

Jim Carroll is unlike most of the other poets in Hoover’s anthology. The “unlikely poetry prodigy“ (The Guardian) who combined a punk rock career with poetry came to early fame through his autobiographical book The Basketball Diaries (1978). The story of a New York City high school basketball star whose heroin addiction leads him to homosexual hustling, also inspired the 1995 film of the same title, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Born to a working-class family of Irish descent in New York City in 1949, Carroll began writing poetry at the age of sixteen. This first collection of poems Organic Train was published in 1967. He went on the publish five more books before his early death in 2009.

In addition to his career as a poet he also worked as a musician and songwriter. His band’s 1981 album Catholic Boy is considered a significant punk record and the group’s hit single “People Who Died” was used in the sound track of numerous films throughout the 1980 up until today.

Occupying the position as “rock-and-roll poet” (Hoover) Carroll did not accumulate the usual honours received by many of the other poets in the anthology, yet he was one of few contemporary poets to cross over into the mainstream appearing repeatedly on MTV, collaborating with stars like Patti Smith and Keith Richards. He died of a heart attack at his Manhattan home on September 11, 2009.

Links: (Guardian obituary)

My below poem has its starting point in Carroll’s “Paregoric Babies”. It combines a survey of the expressionist use of colour in the poem with text fragments from a scientific paper on the “Spectral Analysis of the Colour of some Pigments”.

~ - ~

Spectral analysis

BLUE – night begins with
the perceiving colour exhibited
by an opaque object
in space the spectrophotometric
measurements leading to precise
positions of characteristic points
of colours in chromaticity
diagrams as shown SILVER –
heavy like desire shone
BROWN – rooted / hollow BLACK –
in hiding shivering preparation
of this sample performed
by the calcination of
the white lead at
high temperature for a
long time to obtain
both its darkness explained
by the low reflectance
in the middle of
the spectrum how far
from a xy-point one has
to go to sense
a change RED – pulsating
human colour a trichromatic
phenomenon from the diffuse
reflectance spectrum one can
see that it returns
over 90% in the
visible domain so the
colour is almost perfectly
WHITE – the breath of

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