Interestingly, Awake has been one of the hardest poems I’ve had the pleasure of commenting on. In Morrison’s poetry he uses surrealism and it makes it hard to really ascertain the meaning of the poem. It feels more like a collection of thoughts rather than having a truly cohesive meaning. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I actually do. But I just don’t find as relatable as I do my favourite poems. Perhaps this is because the poem is very much of its era. My interpretation of the poem is that it’s about sexual liberation and asking someone to choose to have fun.
Form and Tone
Awake is presented in a single stanza and can be read in full here. It consists of twenty-one lines. There is no discernible rhyme pattern. Although there is an end rhyme used near the close of the poem. In terms of the tone, it is an interesting poem to describe. What I will say is that it is very much of its time. Morrison is renowned for his drug use. In fact that notoriety carries over to his fans as well! Case in point there is a coffee shop in Amsterdam named after The Doors and it sells marijuana! This poem is atypically “trippy” and the metaphors seem very 70’s!
Shake dreams from your hair
See what I mean about being trippy? I think the technical term is surrealism! I think this line is inviting the reader to relax and almost dares them to dream. The idea of shaking your hair is an act that one might do when they are getting comfortable. Perhaps the suggestion here is that the reader should allow themselves to relax and indulge their desires.
My pretty child, my sweet one.
Being as Morrison was only a teenage when he wrote this I think it’s pretty clear he wasn’t talking to his actual child. In fact “officially” he never had any children although there were several paternity suits filed against him! I imagine this line is meant to be taken in a spiritual way. Once again this is a phrase you would associate with the seventies.
Choose the day and
This is quite a strange saying. You cannot choose what day it is. I don’t think that is the meaning. I think this is trying to be profound. Perhaps the meaning here is that the person the narrator is addressing is being encouraged to embrace the day. If so this is quite a pretentious way of saying that.
choose the sign of your day
I would suggest that the sign that is being referenced here may well be the signs of the zodiac but I couldn’t say that with any real certainty! Perhaps it’s just a way of saying that the reader should choose what they want to do with their day. Deep man!
The day’s divinity
Again I think this is supposed to be really profound. I think the suggestion here is that any given day is an opportunity. Around that time period the concept of divinity was imbued in the culture of the period. Eastern religions were starting to be embraced and many espoused the ideas of love and harmony.
First thing you see.
If this poem does have some kind of underlying story then I believe this line is suggesting that when you wake up and begin the day that the content of next line is the first thing that you see. It’s interesting because this part of the poem is almost written in second person. Effectively telling you as a reader what is happening. Telling the story through your eyes. This is a really uncommon literary technique and normally only really seen in choose your own adventure books.
A vast radiant beach
It may seem like I have been negative about this poem! Believe it or not that’s not my intention. I actually quite liked Jim Morrison’s music! To that end I have to say that I quite like this description of a beach! It is clear that this is the first thing the “reader” sees when they get out of bed.
in a cool jewelled moon
This description adds a nice duality to the proceeding. The beach in the morning is an image you’d associate with brightness and a yellow hue due to the sand. The word radiant helps to create this image. This is contrasted by the moon. One would assume that this is a waning moon if it is actually in the morning time. It’s worth bearing in mind that the moon is often associated with femininity, especially in pagan religions. Morrison would be familiar with this, he even had a Wiccan wedding!
Couples naked race down by it’s quiet side
I think this line, whilst quite possibly could be taken literally could be interpreted as a metaphor for being free. What better symbolism for freedom then running naked along a beach? Once again though Morrison uses a nice comparison. He describes these people as racing but they are doing so on the quiet side. It’s a lovely juxtaposition of imagery.
And we laugh like soft, mad children
The term “we” is interesting here. Who is this? Is it the narrator and the reader? This makes it seem like the poem is addressing a particular person. I like the imagery here.
Smug in the woolly cotton brains of infancy
This line further describes the characters. It really helps to talk up their childlike side. Childhood is associated with innocence. I think this is deliberately put into our minds here.
The music and voices are all around us.
This makes it sound like lots of fun is being had. In fact that could be said of all the activity up until now.
Choose, they croon, the Ancient Ones
The word choice almost become like a refrain in this poem. The word croon isn’t used commonly these days but it usually refers to singing, normally in a sentimental way. So this raises the question who are the ancient ones and why are they crooning? Could the ancient ones be a nod to religion? Is the term used kindly or in a derogatory fashion? After all being called ancient isn’t usually a compliment.
The time has come again
Once again this seems like a pretty nebulous concept. What time is it that the narrator is talking of? Clearly it has something to do with making a choice. But what that choice is seems unclear. Is this referencing the choices mentioned in the poems beginning?
Choose now, they croon,
Once again the concept of choice is presented to us. But the manner in which the “ancient ones” present this seems almost forceful.
Beneath the moon
It would appear that it is no longer morning. Perhaps in this poem there is a passage of time. I suspect all the frolicking naked on the beach does have a way of killing the time, so that stands to reason!
Beside an ancient lake
Here we see a change of location as well. Are they really by a lake now, rather than at the beach or are these places symbolic. It’s hard to say.
Enter again the sweet forest
If this isn’t a metaphor for sex then I don’t know what is! It is a pretty highly held belief that Morrison had sex often, or at least had a slew of reported partners so it wouldn’t be a surprise if his sexual appetite permeated into his poetry.
Enter the hot dream
This brings it back to the start of the poem when dreams where mentioned. I think the insinuation is that sex is like a dream and it’s something people should be choosing to do.
Come with us
This adds a new twist to proceedings as the phrase comes with us, whilst having in itself sexual connotations, denotes that there is already more than one person and that “they” are inviting the reader to join them. If this poem is indeed sexual in nature it would suggest that the narrator is proposing a threesome.
Everything is broken up and dances.
This, I think describes the happiness felt from the experiences after the choices that have been made.
About Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison is quite a famous name, although not necessarily renowned for his poetry. Morrison (if you didn’t know) was also a very famous rock star. He was the frontman for the band The Doors. His life ended at just 27 after a drug overdose in Paris. He wasn’t a prolific poet having only released two poetry volumes during his life and then having two more released posthumously.