The Jim Carroll Website Home > Works > Music & Spoken Word > Spoken Word/Lecture > Praying Mantis (1991)

Rimbaud Lectures

See also: 1974 Video

This set of four 90-minute cassette tapes is quite possibly the most important resource a Carroll scholar can have. I found it quite by accident, while doing one of my random web searches for new Jim stuff. What I found was an American Poetry Archive catalogue description of a 30-minute tape from 1974. When I contacted the American Poetry Archive about ordering this, I found out the 1974 tape was a video, and that they also had a set of four cassettes. Without really even knowing what they were, I ordered them, and I can't begin to describe how surprised I was at what I got. Even Jim didn't know these tapes existed!

Unfortunately, I later found out that these tapes are available for on-site viewing, and not for sale.

In March and April of 1978, gave a series of lectures on Rimbaud and modern poetry at the New College of California. At this point, remember, Living at the Movies was the only major work he had published (the first edition of The Basketball Diaries may have been just issued). The Jim Carroll Band did not yet exist.

Following the first lecture, Carroll's presentations are seminars rather than straight lectures. Carroll's lecturing style begins with him reading a poem, commenting on it for a while, then opening up the floor for discussion. Often students' questions direct what poems are discussed.

What is incredible about these lectures--six hours in all--is that, in talking about his subjects, he is teaching his own poetics. In so many interviews over the years he has referred to Henry Miller's Time of the Assassins, the idea of the "inner register" and "heart quality," subjective vs. objective imagery, his opinion of "concrete poetry," the importance of phrasing in a song and line length in a poem, and much more. Here, he develops all of these concepts in detail, with examples from Rimbaud, Rilke, O'Hara, Whitman, Blake, Hopkins, Patti Smith, and other writers, plus a variety of painters, including Jackson Pollock among others. He talks about symbolism, surrealism, concrete poetry, non-referential poetry, and rock music. The range of references is astounding.

Additionally, listening to him talk about his favorite poets and poems, it is fascinating to recognize the sources for many of his own works, at this time yet unwritten. An hour-long lecture on Rilke's first Elegy reveals the literary roots of most of the Jim Carroll Band's lyrics as well as a variety of poems as late as The Book of Nods (1986).

These tapes are a must for any Jim Carroll scholar!

The Poetry Center's complete catalogue is here:



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