PATTI SMITH SPEAKS OF WRITING
as Norman Warwick ´eavesdrops´.
Punk rock legend, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, award-winning writer, photographer, activist, and all-around Renaissance woman Patti Smith (left) released her third memoir, Year of the Monkey in 2019. However, the slim, poetic book begins on New Year’s Day 2016 as she travels down the California coast following a San Francisco concert. So, come follow your art down the sidetracks & detours of the Year Of The Monkey as we take a fresh perspective from here in the Year Of The Ox
On the eventual release of her third book, Patti Smith took a break in her music tour to answer some of questions from a Good Reads reporter about Year Of The Monkey, her creative process, and the books that mean the most to her, from Howl to Little Women.
Patti was invited by Goodreads reporter, ¨Cybil´, to introduce readers to Year Of The Monkey and to explain what had inspired the new memoir.
´Year of the Monkey (left) traces my personal experience of 2016, the lunar Year of the Monkey, through the lenses of travel, dream, and imagination. I decided on New Year’s Day to write consistently as I travelled, and it expanded into a somewhat experimental narrative, merging my life concerns with waking dream and fiction. Inspiration was everywhere—in the books I was reading, within the stoic struggles of dear friends and our shifting political climate´.
Given that Patti´s own photography illustrates the new book as well, the Goodreads reporter asked how she merged those two mediums for the book?
´When I was 16, I read Nadja by André Breton, illustrated with intriguing photographs by Man Ray. It inspired me to use photographs in Babel, my first major collection of poems and prose poems. I have been taking Polaroids since 1995, and except for Just Kids, I have used my own images to illustrate my books. It works very well, as I take photographs during my travels concurrent to writing, so the images fit within the text authentically´.
Patti is, of course, a multi-discipline artists so her questioner asked for a comparison and contrast between song-writing or writing in poetry or prose.
Top of Form
´I try to write as a daily discipline. Often entries remain in my journals unread, but some take root and intertwine, providing the material for an evolving mental and physical journey that with much willing labor becomes a book. Writing poems is highly concentrative, arduous work that requires the most solitude.
Song-writing differs, as my focus shifts from being solely on the work to the potential listener. I write lyrics to sing, so I must consider the listener, or in the case where another writes the music, the vision of my collaborator.
They are the introverted and extroverted states of process´.
Patti´s first memoir, Just Kids, won the National Book Award, and she followed that up with another memoir, M Train, with this book marking her third memoir. Cybil wondered what it that Patti you to this form of storytelling?
´I promised Robert Mapplethorpe, the day before he died, that I would write our story. I had never written a memoir, and Just Kids was a great responsibility. I was honour-bound to depict our relationship, the atmosphere of the times, the evolution of his work and historical chronology as accurately as possible.
M Train and Year of the Monkey depart from this demanding format. I still wanted to write in first person, though unfettered by linear chronology. I like this freewheeling way of translating the world around me through a more imaginative lens´.
In response to prompting from Cybil, the author explained why she wrote a foreword for the 150th anniversary edition of Little Women (right) , and considered why that book is important to her.
´I have always loved books and decided very young I wanted to write them, but I wasn’t certain how to go about it until I read Little Women. Jo March was a girl not unlike myself, a somewhat socially inept bookworm who desired to be an author. She wrote every spare moment, passionately. I gleaned that if one wishes to be a writer, one must write diligently every day. I am grateful to have had her as a guide.
I am rereading the beautiful A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin, and have recently finished Anthony Alofsin’s Wright and New York and The Weil Conjectures by Karen Olsson. All three books examine their brilliant subject’s interior and exterior world in a unique and informative fashion.
I love classics like The Glass Bead Game, The Scarlet Letter, Villette, and Billy Budd, as well as modern works such as The Wild Boys, 2666, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
Sidetracks And Detours posted a piece on Allen Ginsberg uner the title of Listening To A Beat Poet on 7th July, that is still available in our easy to navigate archives of more than 400 essays.
Demonstrating why Goodreads might also be called Goodinterviews, Cybil asks this artist, who embraces music, long-form writing, poetry, and photography, what is the key to maintaining her level of creativity?
´Maintaining one’s enthusiasm, curiosity, and developing a strong work ethic. Much energy is required to commit one work, so one must also stay fit, take care of oneself. And, of course, one must love their work, even the most laborious aspects of one’s process. Which I do!
The prime source for this article was a piece published in Goodreads
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