Rocker, Poet Jim Carroll Dies at Age 60

BY Arts Desk  September 14, 2009 at 12:56 PM EDT

Jim Carroll, the poet and punk rocker who wrote “The Basketball Diaries,” passed away Friday at the age of 60. He died from a heart attack at his home in Manhattan, his ex-wife Rosemary Carroll told the New York Times.

Carroll published several poetry collections, and his 1980 rock album, “Catholic Boy,” has been hailed as a landmark punk record. He became well-known for its breakout songs, “People Who Died.”

But it was “The Basketball Diaries,” his autobiographical tale of life as a sports star at Trinity, an elite private high school in Manhattan, that brought him his widest audience.

The book, which began as a journal, was first published in 1978 and chronicled Carroll’s a chaotic life that combined sports, drugs and poetry. It became popular, particularly on college campuses, when it was issued as a mass-market paperback two years later. A 1995 movie version starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

New York Times critic Stephen Holden described Carroll in 1982 as “not so much a singer as an incantatory rock-and-roll poet.”

Later today, Jeffrey Brown talks to singer and poet Patti Smith about the life of her friend, Jim Carroll. Our weekly poem is Carroll’s “Heroin,” which originally appeared in the Paris Review, Issue 48, Fall 1969. The audio was recorded in 2001 and made available by Salon.com.

Heroin

Sat for three days in a white room
a tiny truck of flowers
was driving through the empty window
to warn off your neighbors
and their miniature flashlights.

By afternoon
across the lake
a blind sportsman had lost his canoe.
He swam
by evening
toward the paper cup in my hand.

At dawn,
clever housewives tow my Dutch kitchen
across the lawn.
And in the mail a tiny circus
filled with ponies
has arrived.

You,
a woman with feathers
have come so often lately
under my rubber veranda
that I’m tearing apart all those tactless warnings
embroidered across your forehead.

Marc,
I’m beginning to see those sounds
that I never even thought
I would hear.

Over there is a door knocking
for example
with someone you hate.

And here I beg to another to possess somehow
the warmth of these wooden eyes

so beside me
a light bulb is revolving
wall to wall,
a reminder of the great sun
which had otherwise completely collapsed
down to the sore toe of the white universe.

Its chalky light
rings
like a garden of tiny vegetables
to gather the quiet of these wet feelings
together

once again

like the sound of a watch
on your cold white wrist
which is reaching for a particular moment
to reoccur…

which is here…now.