I have a good feeling about 2017. It has a lot of promise. Last week I got to see Shania Choir
– a choir that sings and dresses as Shania Twain (fuck my life’s brilliant sometimes! I lost my shit when they started singing ‘If you’re Not in it For Love’*), and this April I get to see Patti Smith – one of the coolest people, as well as the artist and poet that I admire most.
So let’s talk about Patti Smith – a woman whose round about my grandma’s age, but who I’d still gladly try to flirt with if we ever actually met.
There’s this beautiful clip from an old BBC documentary, Chelsea Hotel, where the young ‘odd little waif like figure’** reads her little prayer for New York.
Now, whenever Patti talks/writes about something she cares about, it’s done with a fragile, poetic eloquence. But the reason I love this poem and this piece of footage in particular is for three reasons
1. It sums up that feeling of moving to a new city and suddenly growing as an individual,
‘I had lived such a sheltered childhood, so family orientated, and all of a sudden I was on my own. And that’s when I learned anything is possible’
2. That Jersey accent, and
3. Because she was so young and shy at this point.
She was only in the midst of developing into the artist she’d later become, and I love thinking about that nervous 24 year old who would later create works which exude such strength.
And I know it’s stating the obvious, but I love her poetry and autobiographies (Just Kids and M Train) for a similar reason – because of the way she describes life, her struggles and the people she loves, with a vulnerability and rawness we can all somewhat relate to.
Her poems for example, after her husband and brother had died within two months of each other, ‘myself destined to live, listening closely to a silence that would take a lifetime to express’.
She’s led a full, fascinating life entwined with her creativity: my personal favourite story is how her lifelong friendship with poet Allen Ginsberg began with him trying to chat her up because he thought she was a boy.
Reading all her unique little moments is a reminder to try and live through as many adventures as possible – as the wise one once said ‘Jesus died for somebody sins but not mine’.
[Side-note: I think I was the only person at the Robert Mapplethorpe documentary who really wasn’t expecting to see THAT many penises.]
*I was a complete disappoint though cause I promised everyone I’d take my top off if they sang that song, and I didn’t in the end.
**That’s a quote from British journalist Charles Shaar Murray