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Home > Research > Academic Studies > Analysis of Jim Carroll's "Nightclubbing"

"Nightclubbing" by Jim Carroll

This is an informal, line-by-line analysis of "Nightclubbing," a poem by Jim Carroll. The "I" on this page is J. A. Carpenter. At the end are poems about Jim Carroll by Carpenter.

For this generation,
infected with too many antidotes,
there must be a balcony, a height
where one may be lifted up
beyond the timorous grip of glamour,
of glory without rage,

I think this is an analysis of Jim's generation, but really, it is timeless...all generations. This is the problem: infected with too many antidotes means that people are infected, made sick, by so many ways to make things better that is makes life worse. We need to lift someone up, put them on a pedestal, have a hero for a real reason and not because they are glamorous. There is no meaning in how we are behaving now...we have lost the fuel behind our intentions and it turns into glory without rage...it's empty. We stopped caring about art and beauty. We stare at the glamour which has a grip on us that is scary to Jim.

to initiate and incite the shaded dancers
who are eager and anorexic, wearing
monkey teeth on their wrists,
lips or fingers painted black,
passing out affinity with the howling dog
And their trousseau of darts
As the letters of their tatoos dissolve,
Leaving mermaids and flowers, the banded hearts
Stranded without vows or names...

The dancers are the followers who are stirred up with eagerness to fit in. They see what the fashion is--like being skinny, wearing weird jewelry, black lipstick and fingernails--and they mock it because they want the touch of the famous who have the glamorous fame. Yet they are all the same--and he thinks they need to try to be different, shed the pretend hate and weird clothes, because when the tatoos and clothes and everything are gone, there is no real meaning, no vows or names because they were too busy being trendy and hip. The importance of the symbolism of a tatoo becomes nothing when we don't make the meanings matter!

I challenge you to restore a reckless elegance in place of the vapors you breathe of hubris and boring saturations of such civilized distraction... to commit to sleep in a painless chamber the tedious pets of your cradled syringes.

The challenge is to take a dignified stand against the arrogance from pride and boring ideas of distracting yourself with heroin because it's trendy and cool. This poem stopped being an analysis for a generation...it became personal and a challenge for each SEPARATE person as if he made the poem and person transcend--from a spectator, to a person actually mocking the famous, to an individual making the change for meaning. He challenges them to quit heroin because it is as old and trendy as wearing black, weird jewelry and tatoos- it has lost its meaning too.

I can license you
the malnourished but willing
innocence of a cloudless destiny
and petition you to summon the mysteries,
with joy not envy, dissevering the crooked
Braces you insist on wearing, without blinding
You with too much at once, the forgotten elements...
I'm talking about a very slow first move, and carefully,

Because he has been there, seen this, maybe even been one of the dancers, he knows that all a person will get in their meaningless life is malnourishment and a cloudless destiny because doing heroin is so easy. It is easy being shallow and superficial, escaping in drugs and trends. He wants the people to fight back--that individual to look into the possiblity of letting go of the addiction which is nothing more than a worthless, crooked brace. He wants someone to see the pains in life with the joy of being able to accept the bad instead of trying to live in the shallow world that heroin breeds, the dreamworld that is so easy to exist in. He knows admitting the bad is hard, so it must take the WANT to change as the first step...

as you reach, as I reach too,
Through a wheel of thorns
To pump new air into the stray rose.

The most important thing is reaching into the evils and pains of life, and the pains and withdrawals of heroin, and change life by creating something more. You have to make beauty live because you give it life when you acknowledge it. When you let go of the famous trendy hate and live in the eyes of beauty, you have made a difference.

This poem is about transcending an average kid who goes with the trends- the kids he sees that are all alike in Nightclubs with their fake rage and trendy punk looks and heroin addictions, to find worth in life, the strength in beauty, the importance of doing something--of reaching for something more...because Jim is doing it too--he is reaching for beauty...he gives the rose beauty because it is his energy and air that is acknowledging it at all.


 

Tough Love (for Jim Carroll)
by J. A. Carpenter

Just because he broke his veins
like aspargus,
it does not mean he is not a hopeless
romantic.

He is the blind waiting in the corner
for some damsel
to stroke his cheek as slight
as cloudy breath on a mirror.

He needs her
pale liquid face to flow
near the paper and his ink--
to pen in all of the holes in his sky.

Who else would band-aid
his punctures and pin pricks
on rainy days when the mood hits him wrong
and the words are licking?


An Ode To Jim Carroll's Rebirth
by J. A. Carpenter

He is rebuilding
the crumbled walls of his veins,
      strengthening the flimsy wire of his muscles,
            adding to the mesh and mire
                of his retiring ventricles. I can hear the uneasy voice wavering
in ebbing words of similar truths
as his teeth rattle from raspy reverbs
and spine-shaking passions.
He has begun like the birth of a child,
cold and needing to find the life
in a singular page and poetic policy.
He is forcing the birds to fly
      from the guilty walls he has built so high
      from the ground of his conscience.

Jim’s rebirth
      has the fiery intensity
like the licks of the salamander
      that crawls in the holes out of his mind.
The scarred references and past
      empty bags of tricks and gimmicks
that left him so thin,
      he has become the line
he used to walk on.
He is renewed like the sun
      and the belief of the god
that waits on his tongue.

   

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