Thursday, May 10, 2012

Patti Smith: Woolgathering

Thoroughly enjoying Patti Smith's Woolgathering (New Directions, 2011; original edition published in 1992). Even read slowly and aloud it can be completed in an hour or less. All the sweeter for repeated delvings. The new edition includes a 2011 note to the reader completed in Barcelona, photographs with end credits and eleven poetry sections bookended by "A Bidding" and "A Farewell." It compliments all of Smith's work, and in some ways gives an inkling of the whole. I really like it. She summons up childhood visions better than anyone else I can think of and that's not all. I remember moments of the kind she conjures and relives: the field with the bats, a fire, praying, the ability to fly. For her it was Germantown, or Woodbury Gardens, New Jersey; for me it was East Stroudsburg, the alleyway, the Catholic Church; an apartment complex in Justice, Illinois; Monarch Hill of Mendota Heights, Minnesota; Ellerbe Creek of Durham, North Carolina. Maybe it's the coming rain, but these memories are reappearing, evoked by Woolgathering. 

In the new intoduction, Smith notes that when she began writing this in 1991, she was living with her husband (Fred Sonic Smith, who died three years later at age forty-five) and two kids "in an old stone house set by a canal that emptied into Lake Saint Clair" (page ix). It's more generally known that they lived in St. Clair Shores, a near suburb of Detroit. In Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography (Victor Bockris with Roberta Bayley, Simon and Schuster, 1999, page 234), their abode is described as a century old house situated on an acre lot "somewhat like a small castle . . . dark-brown brick and wood . . . topped by a turret." This intrigues me for a number of reasons, but for one in particular. When seeking a place to live in and around Detroit in 1997, I looked at a small bungalow on one of the canal streets near there. Even then it seemed astonishing for these little homes to be situated on the land edge of the USA, facing Canada across the lake, the same lake that had also been the terminus point for at least one tornado on July 2 of that year, the very day I started to explore the area. Like a daydream, I remember. Via Patti Smith's reveries, renewed images shimmer: the astral weeks, the mystic chords of memory.

Upcoming: Patti Smith at the Detroit Institute of Arts on June 1, 2012.

Today's Rune: Partnership.         


the walking man said...

Aww that tornado missed SCS by at least 1.5 miles---other than that you really wouldn't want to live near the St. Clair canals they do smell.

So now tell me again why Cleveland got the R&R hall of fame?

Anonymous said...

You write so well that I implore you to write your own book of memories.