Tag Archives: Patti Smith

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.

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Filed under Literature, Non-fiction

“Footnote to Howl” by Allen Ginsberg

In my last post I talked about “Howl.” At the end of that post, I promised that I would read and write about the “Footnote to Howl” next, so here we are. As a bonus, I’ve included a video of a Patti Smith performance where she reads the poem onstage with musical accompaniment. It’s excellent. Take the six minutes or so to watch it. This poem was meant to be heard, not just read.

This poem reads like a chant or an invocation, with repetition is used to reinforce the poem’s main tenet—that everything which exists in this world is holy. Everything in existence is an emanation from the divine godhead. If you hold this belief to be true, then everything that exists must be part of the divine being and therefore must also be divine. Ginsberg brilliantly juxtaposes images to force us to look at our preconceived notions of what is holy and what is not. Is the soul more holy than the genitals or asshole? Are the educated and the middle class more holy than the beggars in the street? Are the residents of one place more holy than the residents of another? Ginsberg’s answer is “no… everything is holy.” I’m inclined to agree.

There really isn’t much more to say about this poem. For me, it’s a celebration of life. It is the acceptance of people and diversity. We are all part of the divine creation, and that is a beautiful thing.

Now watch Patti Smith and be inspired! And for those of you who celebrate, have a blessed Solstice.

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Filed under Literature, Spiritual

“Sensation” by Arthur Rimbaud

RimbaudI woke this morning and thought about what I should read and write about today. I decided I would pick something from Rimbaud. I purchased a copy of his complete works some years back and read it all, so I figured I would select a short poem to read again. The second poem in the book is “Sensation” and it seemed the perfect choice. Since it is a short poem and online translations vary from site to site, I figured I would include the version I read here.

Sensation

Through blue summer nights I will pass along paths,
Pricked by wheat, trampling short grass:
Dreaming, I will feel coolness underfoot,
Will let breezes bathe my bare head.

Not a word, not a thought:
Boundless love will surge through my soul,
And I will wander far away, a vagabond
In Nature–as happily as with a woman.

This poem is a celebration of sensory experience. It is about the joy and pleasure of physical sensation. Rimbaud seeks to lose himself and escape his thoughts through immersion in the sensory. When he reaches that state of physical bliss, when “Not a word, not a thought” is running through his mind, he becomes one with his soul, an experience he compares with the state of sexual orgasm attained with a woman.

There is a nice double entendre near the end of the poem, where Rimbaud describes himself as “a vagabond in Nature.” This could be interpreted as either Rimbaud being a wanderer exploring the natural and physical world around him, or it could mean that it is the nature of his being to wander the world, experiencing the sensations that life has to offer.

I think Rimbaud is a very cool poet. His works heavily influenced the writings of rock poets like Patti Smith and Jim Morrison, individuals who influenced me when I was younger. If you are unfamiliar with Rimbaud’s works, I recommend investing in a copy of his writings.

Read on!

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Filed under Literature