Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dawn's Highway

I have to do a story-telling presentation for a class of mine, and it was kind of difficult to come up with something English related that I could tell a story about. For one, I know a lot of stories, but what would interest people? What would relate to some sort of classroom material?

The most striking idea to me was to discuss Mr. Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, and his strive to become recognized as a poet. Not many people knew that he had such a passion and drive to gain recognition as a good poet. Everyone just saw him as the crazy lunatic drug-addict who caused riots on stage to gain attention. That sensitive, dark side of him came out in his lyrics, but a lot of fans weren't really listening to his words more than they were his music, his dancing, and his craziness.

The focus of my story is going to be the one moment that Jim says shaped his life: When he was a child, him and his family were driving in a desert and they came across an accident where Native Americans were sprawled across the street. Jim says that this moment is when he grew up and realized tragedy in the world. He never could shake this incident, and later believed that the souls of the Indians entered his body. He then became a Shaman, in his perspective.

This occurrence occurs in two actual Doors' songs, "Ghost Song" and "Peace Frog" where Jim repeatedly mentions "Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding / Ghosts crowd the child's fragile eggshell mind." Later on, he recorded this when he was recording his poetry (before he died) and the Doors put his poetry to music on an album called An American Prayer. "Dawn's Highway" was a result of one of these poetry readings.

The purpose of the story, connecting with English Language Arts is that many poems can be identified as an incident or occurrence. If we can identify the situation, the poem is easier to understand. Also, if we can understand the poet, it is easier to understand what the central message is. And, certain points (or point) in our lives shape us forever. Through art is how we express these incidences. Jim had many outlets--poetry, lyrics, and music--but he found his way to express himself, get out his emotions, and express them to an audience.

We all have occurrences happen to us, good and bad, and we all have different desires to express them in different ways. Some need to shout it for all to hear! Some keep them inside. Some use different ways to express this (paintings, poetry, music, slam poetry, etc.), and some don't know the means to do so yet. We won't know until we try.

Select one incident in your life that has shaped you, as it has Jim Morrison. First start writing out a line, a chorus perhaps, that describe the incident, as Jim's is located below. Then develop the poem around that. That would be the follow-up assignment after we go through reading Morrison's "Dawn's Highway."

For those uninterested in English but who are interested in Jim Morrison, the Doors, and/or poetry, here is the poem in full. You can download Jim's reading of it as well.

Dawn's Highway

Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind.

Me and my -ah- mother and father - and a
Grandmother and a grandfather - were driving through
The desert, at dawn, and a truck load of Indian
Workers had either hit another car, or just - I don't
Know what happened - but there were Indians scattered
All over the highway, bleeding to death.

So the car pulls up and stops. That was the first time
I tasted fear. I musta' been about four - like a child is
Like a flower, his head is just floating in the
Breeze, man.
The reaction I get now thinking about it, looking
Back - is that the souls of the ghosts of those dead
Indians...maybe one or two of 'em...were just
Running around freaking out, and just leaped into my
Soul. And they're still in there.

Indians scattered on dawn's highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile eggshell mind.

Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven
Blood stains the roofs and the palm trees of Venice
Blood in my love in the terrible summer
Bloody red sun of Phantastic L.A.

Blood screams her brain as they chop off her fingers
Blood will be born in the birth if a nation
Blood is the rose of mysterious union
Blood on the rise, it's following me.

Indian, Indian what did you die for?
Indian says, nothing at all.

The repetition of blood is significant by far. It demonstrates the effect on him as a child. The choppiness and dashes show his fear as a child, trying to make sense of such a traumatic incident.

The fifth stanza makes sense if you understand Jim's life. He mentions three locations that are significant to his life as an artist:

New Haven: Where Jim was arrested on stage for public obsenities. The Doors career changed after this since a) club owners were afraid to book them due to these disasters and b) fans then expected a crazy show like this from now on and were displeased when they did not see it.

Venice: In California, where Jim met the Doors' members and started up the band. He met Densmore on the beach where he sang to him the first lyrics he created "Let's swim to the moon / Let's climb through the tide / Penetrate the evenin' that the / City sleeps to hide" which was the start of "Moonlight Drive."

The summer: At this time in Venice, Jim stayed on top of a building in the summertime, tripping on drugs, and wrote 5-6 of the Doors songs in a two-day span without food and water.

LA: Towards the end of the Doors' career. Their last album is a commentary on LA and what impact it has on people, especially in Jim's case.

I think it's interesting that Jim addresses the Indian at the end, asking him questions. What do you make of these last lines?

So, what do you think of "Dawn's Highway?"


Viola said...

Nice work!!!
Thanks for sharing this information

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Brad Durham said...

Nice work on the story. One minor correction....JDM met Manzarek on the beach, not Densmore.