January 09, 2007

The Patti Smith lines quoted in


Turn out to have been an early version of a work
published in "Auguries of Innocence" (2005).

The published title is "The Long Road":

  We broke our mother's hearts and became ourselves.
  We proceeded to breath, and therefore to leave,
  drunken, astonished, each of us a god.

Reading this version was a great dissapointment.

It's become more self-consciously
"poetic", and suffered in the process.

  In the original reading, there were
  lines that may have seemed a little
  obvious, but at least they were authentic,
  and seemed true to herself:

     "Boys twisted the necks of
     their guitars/But then they    She's thinking of her
     died of cancer"                late husband, Fred
                                    "Sonic" Smith of the MC5.

In place of references to
guitarists, to people she knows,
we have name-dropping of Ravel:

   We saw the eyes of Ravel, ringed in blue, and blinking
   twice.  We sang arias of our own, bummers chanting
   dead blues of hallowed ground and mortal shoes.

This version has become encumbered with
archaic references that just obscure
what I take to be the original thought:

  We adorned ourselves in pennywort,
  slogged 'til spent the elected front,
  the whisper of a trail we somehow knew
  rain that was not rain, tears not yet tears.

Myself, I would need to mess around with wikipedia
to relearn what "pennywort" is, and I have my doubts
it will cast any light on what she's trying to say.

I remember having this experience once
before... I happened to catch the end
of something on the radio, a poetry          WBAI
workshop where Patti Smith appeared.
She was saying something like "it's a
good idea to be conscious of rhythm".
And then she went into a simple,
monotonous chant, in something
like a native American style:

  I've got seven ways of knowing
  Seven ways to go
  Seven sweet desires
  Seven ways of being me

This *just worked*, completely
and totally, and the audience
broke out into applause.

Later I realized she'd recorded these
words as part of a song, on the album
"Wave" (1979), but the simplicity is       A very weak, excessively
long gone, and the track has nothing       slick release for Patti
going for it.                              Smith, to my ear.

   Despite her reputation as
   "Queen of Punk" or some such,
   Patti Smith does occasionally
   overindulge in polish.