Thoughts on “Woolgathering” by Patti Smith

So I need to start this post by saying that, in my humble opinion, Patti Smith is as brilliant a writer as she is a musical performer. Her music has a rich literary quality, and her writing flows with musical cadence.

OK, I was recently in a local indie bookstore and happened upon this book while wandering the aisles. I didn’t even have to convince myself to buy it; I just picked it up and made my way to the counter (I also picked up Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, but that is for another day). Upon arriving home, the book took its spot at the top of the “to-be-read” stack, yet did not remain there long.

This book is a very quick read: under 100 pages which include some beautiful black-and-white photographs. Basically, I read it in a day. The book is a collection of memories from Patti’s childhood, which I can only classify as prose poetry. While the vignettes are definitely prose, they have a poetic rhythm to the language that is very evocative.

She opens the book by explaining that she had always imagined herself writing a book.

I always imagined I would write a book, if only a small one, that would carry one away, into a realm that could not be measured or even remembered.

(p. 3)

And this is exactly what Smith’s book does. Reading her words transported me back to my childhood, a magical time that now seems like a distant dream. I think the following brief excerpt is the most poignant example of how beautifully Smith captures the essence of childhood and contrasts it with the longing one feels in later years.

The air was carnival, responsive. I opened the screen door and stepped out. I could feel the grass crackle. I could feel life—a burning coal tossed on a valentine of hay. I covered my head. I would gladly have covered my arms, face. I stood and watched the children play and something in the atmosphere—the filtered light, the scent of things—carried me back…

How happy we are as children. How the light is dimmed by the voice of reason. We wander through life—a setting without a stone. Until one day we take a turn and there it lies on the ground before us, a drop of faceted blood, more real than a ghost, glowing. If we stir it may disappear. If we fail to act nothing will be reclaimed. There is a way in this little riddle. To utter one’s own prayer. In what manner it doesn’t matter. For when it is over that person shall possess the only jewel worth keeping. The only grain worth giving away.

(p. 75)

I hope you found this post inspiring, and if you did, I hope you will read Ms. Smith’s book. It is one of those literary gems that I feel offers something to every reader. Thanks for stopping by and keep reading interesting stuff.

6 Comments

Filed under Literature, Non-fiction

6 responses to “Thoughts on “Woolgathering” by Patti Smith

  1. I never read any of Patti Smith’s books but I would like to – I heard interviews with her and she is REALLY smart.

  2. Lovely. I have another book of hers in my kindle. May be time to open it.

  3. The Rimbaud is strong in that one!
    I’m another who was changed by her seas of possibilities.