Milwaukee's poet laureate tells Decider about the time she jammed with Jim Morrison (sort of)
In Tell Us A Story, Decider sits at the knee of Milwaukee's most interesting people and asks them to play raconteur. This week, Milwaukee poet laureate Susan Firer recalls meeting Doors singer Jim Morrison in the '60s and getting her first poem published.
Jamming with Jim Morrison (sort of)
When I was 18, I left college because I thought it was getting in the way of my writing. I moved to California and lived in a boarding house on the ocean, for $7 a week. I was writing in notebooks everyday. I remember someone said to me--I looked really young, probably 14 even though I was 18--and they asked me, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I’m a poet, I’m writing.” They gave me Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet. This book is so important it to me. One time, I was out of paper, and I wrote a piece in the book cover and it’s one of the worst poems you’ll ever read. Jim Morrison used to come play music with the person who ran the boarding house, who lived downstairs. I would be up on the front porch of the house reading Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet and he would be playing music there. Often he’d give kids in the house tickets to where he was playing and frequently we sold them to other kids with a lot of money, and then we’d go have a great breakfast. [Laughs.] I had no idea who he would become.
How she got her first poem published
I didn’t know the hierarchies at all, which I think was a blessing because my first significant publication was in The Chicago Tribune in a column called “Today’s Masters.” I was taking my poetry survey course in college and all the people we were studying were being published in “Today’s Masters.” I thought, “I’ll send some of my poems.” I had no idea how you did it. I didn’t even know you typed your poems when you sent them out, I hand wrote them like a schoolgirl, really big on the page. The editor wrote back and said “I’m going to buy these two if you promise you’ll, one, learn how to spell and, two, start typing your work.” I was so young and the one that got published was a love poem to my mother about going in and wearing her jewelry. The editor said, “I’ve always wondered why my daughters played in my jewelry box when I went out. Mystery solved.”