The Literary Works of Patti Smith

by Fingal Libraries
by Fingal Libraries on October 18, 2016 in Libraries

When you hear the name Patti Smith what most likely comes to mind is her edgy 1970s New York punk music, her beat poetry style, the originality of her debut album Horses or those stunning black and white portraits taken by Robert Mapplethorpe. Further down the list we come to her books, and there are […]

When you hear the name Patti Smith what most likely comes to mind is her edgy 1970s New York punk music, her beat poetry style, the originality of her debut album Horses or those stunning black and white portraits taken by Robert Mapplethorpe. Further down the list we come to her books, and there are many! Not only is she a skilled poet with several poetry and lyric collections, she’s also written some autobiographies in the most beautiful prose style, namely Just Kids, M Train and Woolgathering.

Just Kids is a journey through 1960-70s New York, an exciting era for art and music where Smith recalls her humble beginnings as a musician and poet, and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The pair form a close bond as they develop their art, find humble dwellings at the Hotel Chelsea and mix with the very finest and very worst of New York’s artistic elite. From dining with Andy Warhol and his posse to scraping by with no food, the love the two share throughout these ups and downs is what makes Just Kids a page-turner.

M Train is Smith’s most recent book and one that will have you reaching for the coffee pot as you delve in. It chronicles her life now at age 68 in a dreamlike flurry of visits to coffee shops, recollections from her past, favourite books and notes from her travels, while recurring dreams weave seamlessly throughout. It’s like taking a journey through the mind of Patti Smith and getting an insight into who she is today. It’s also a tribute to her late husband Fred Sonic Smith, whom she lost too young, and shows how she copes with that loss in a very unique way.

Where Just Kids tackles her rise to fame and M Train explores who Patti Smith is today, Woolgathering is about Smith’s childhood. This short read falls somewhere between poem and memoir, and what a delicate and whimsical read it is. Recollecting her childhood with an artful eye she delivers her story in a way that’s both surprising in her choice of language and comforting in the imagery she chooses. The dominant image is that of a young Patti Smith as she gazes out to the fields behind her family home, craving escape, watching the wool gatherers, destined for greatness.

All the books mentioned are non-fiction and currently available at Fingal Libraries – check the catalogue here.

By Nadene Ryan, Malahide Library