A SHORT COMMENTARY ON PATTI SMITH’S BOOK “WOOLGATHERING”
If you haven’t discovered this small treasure of a book yet, and I would doubt that there are any Patti Smith fans that haven’t, then I highly recommend it. And if you don’t know who Patti Smith is or haven’t read this Pulitzer Prize winning author’s works, then I must assume that you’ve been hibernating for the last 45 years. The original Woolgathering, a collection of sketches published 22 years ago in a small volume for Hanuman Books and distributed to a select group of people, was reissued in 2012 in a revised and slightly expanded edition. It is a poignant and exquisitely crafted series of personal insights of her childhood and her adult perspectives, in which she elevates observation to its finest point, a memoir that takes the reader behind the memory into the realms of the creative process itself.
One of the things that I have always found interesting about Patti Smith was her inspiration from rock idol sex god and poet, Jim Morrison. In her 2010 memoir “Just Kids” she briefly mentions Morrison’s influence on her writing and music. When she saw The Doors live in concert in 1967 and absorbed Morrison’s performance she thought, ‘I could do that!’ Time has certainly shown us that she could and that she has been able to take Morrison’s example to incredible new heights, both in her musical endeavours and in her finely honed prose. Woolgathering embodies the kind of writing that Morrison could only dream about through his sophomoric 1960’s poetical haze, the kind of writing he might have achieved if he had lived another 20 years and hadn’t OD’d in the grubby bathroom of a Paris nightclub and been smuggled back to his apartment to be thrown unceremoniously into that famous myth-filled bathtub. Time and experience seem to have made all the difference, as she states in the book, “How happy we are as children. How the light is dimmed by the voice of reason.” But the loss of that childhood innocence certainly hasn’t dimmed Patti Smith’s light or her ability to shine in wordcrafting. Morrison, eat your poor Parisian poet’s heart out. You left us way too soon to have reached the summit over which Patti Smith hovers today.
Below are a few more photos from last night’s concert. One of the interesting things that happened was when Patti featured her band on a number (I think it might have been the 1960’s song Psychotic Reaction) and she wandered down into the security zone in front of the stage to walk back and forth and talk a bit with the concertgoers. As she finished her stroll she came upon a mother holding a small child. I could see her exchanging words with the lady before she returned to the stage for the next song. Whereupon she told the audience in no uncertain terms that bringing a small child to such a loud performance without earplugs was unconscionable and she asked anyone with small children to “please protect their ears.” “If you don’t have any ear plugs,” she stated, “we have them here on stage.” In a concert where she infused her music with an incredible energy and improvised a number of poems, spit, cursed and pleaded for people to change their world, she also showed the care and concern of a mother. That was typical Patti Smith. And it was an unbelievable concert. Thanks Patti…
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