Wednesday, July 8, 2015
This afternoon I've been reading Patti Smith's new memoir, M Train, due out in a few months. I will tell you right now that this book is fierce beauty if ever there was fierce beauty. This book is cloud sweep, glistened web, vast and aching, a room in which to cry. I can't say more than that for awhile now. Just. Oh, my goodness. This book.
I stopped in the midst of my reading to return to an interview Smith did with Rolling Stone magazine in 1996, a few short years after Smith's beloved husband, Fred, passed away from heart failure. The interviewer has been speaking of how Smith "literally disappeared during the 1980s." Smith has talked about the greatness of that period, how the couple traveled America, lived in cheap hotels, loved. He would study flying. She would write poems and stories the world wouldn't see for years.
Now the interviewer asks Smith about the transition from that period of rock and roll stardom to "almost complete anonymity." Smith's response, in part:
Because people don't see you or see what you're doing doesn't mean you don't exist. When Robert [Mapplethorpe] and I spent the end of the '60s in Brooklyn [NY] working on our art and poetry, no one knew who we were. Nobody knew our names. But we worked like demons. And no one really cared about Fred and I during the '80s. But our self-concept had to come from the work we were doing, from our communication, not from outside sources.
Necessary words for those of us who are still waiting for that big (or small) break, for those of us whose time seems to have come and gone, for those of us deliberately stepping off the trammeled path to think for a bit, to reconceive.