Patti Smith Just Kids (London: Bloomsbury, 2010)

Just Kids

Patti Smith punk icon + author extradionaire The Patti Smith autobiography is written with the most incredible craft. The words are used with care and skill and convey a startling depth and intensity.

Naturally I am interested in any Irish angle and it appears early on. While describing her childhood in Pennsylvania she conjures up this image of playing with her young brother and sister:

“In the winter, we built snow forts and I led our campaign, serving as general, making maps and drawing out strategies as we attracked and retreated. We fought the wars of our Irish grandfathers, the orange and the green. We wore the orange yet knew nothing of its meaning.” pp 6-7

The book is a celebration of the life of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and the mutual muses of two artists blossoming in New York. Patti Smith is one of the key figures in punk and her appeal to the early London bands to work hard was a sublime piece of guidance.

She was one of the first of the ‘new wave’ of artists to visit Ireland. This was at a time when few international acts came to Dublin. She did a reading of her poetry in the Project Arts Centre. According to a report at the time by Ireland’s best rock critic, Bill Graham, she was heckled onstage. Apparently some sensitive soul decided to question Smith before a live audience about her personal views on reproduction.

I wonder if Smith’s “Irish grandfathers” whose wars she re-enacted as a child in the New World would have been surprised at the reception she recieved from the Irish audience in 1977.

I’m recommending this book to people who are interested in punk, women in punk, the ‘art world’ of New York and people who will be as spellbound by the story and language as I am.

 

The Wild Hearted Outsider

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