Just Kids Question #12: Steps in Another Direction

by Patti Smith

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Just Kids Question #12: Steps in Another Direction

Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:06 pm

I was in a Beat humor. The Bibles were piled in small stacks. The Holy Barbarians. The Angry Young Men. Rummaging around, I found some poems by Ray Bremer. He really got me going. Ray had that human saxophone thing. You could feel his improvisational ease the way language spilled out like linear ones. Inspired, I put on some Coltrane but nothing good happened. I was just jacking off. Truman Capote once accused Kerouac of typing, not writing. But Kerouac infused his being onto rolls of Teletype paper, banging on his machine. Me, I was typing. I leapt up frustrated.

I picked up the Beat anthology and found "The Beckoning Sea" by George Mandel. I read him softly, and then at the top of my voice, to get the sea he embedded in the words and the accelerating rhythm of the waves. I kept going, spitting out Corso and Mayakovsky and back to the sea, to be pushed off the edge by George.

Robert had entered on his cat feet and sat down nodding his head. He listened with his full being. My artist who would never read. Then he bent down and picked up a handful of poems off the floor.

“You have to take better care of your work,” he said.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing,” I shrugged, “but I can’t stop doing it. I’m like a blind sculptor hacking away.”

“You need to show people what you can do. Why don’t you do a reading?”

I was getting frustrated with writing; it wasn’t physical enough.”


Just Kids, pg. 177

An interesting observation – writing is not physical enough. What do you think of Patti’s decision to merge writing with performance?
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested." Sir Francis Bacon, Of Studies

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Re: Just Kids Question #12: Steps in Another Direction

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:33 pm

I think ofr her and for everyone else it was her best decision. Performing her work was probabaly the best way to get it out there, but also to get the rhythm of the words. Poetry often sounds better spoken aloud although not all poets feel the need to perform. I think it probably also allowed her to focus more on what she wanted to do, to get inside her words if that makes sense too.

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Re: Just Kids Question #12: Steps in Another Direction

Unread postby Liz » Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:31 pm

GG, I really like your answer. I hadn’t really thought much about this question until you pointed out that performing is the physical expression of the words. Seems pretty obvious now. But being that I am not a poet and still trying to figure out poetry, this hadn’t occurred to me. :dunce: I also don’t think that I ever considered song writing to be a form of poetry – until I started learning more about Patti. I think Patty’s songwriting is much more “poetic” than a lot of other songs. Or maybe it’s just the style. One could argue that rap is poetry also.

I want to comment on what Capote said, silly man. He ate his words later, I imagine, with the advent of the electric typewriter. But he died before he could see personal computers. Now he’s rolling over in his grave.

Hunter Thompson used to type The Great Gatsby so that he could feel the words (or something to that affect). And this brings us back to your idea, GG, of getting inside one’s words.

It all really makes sense to me now.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: Just Kids Question #12: Steps in Another Direction

Unread postby Theresa » Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:42 pm

Good point, GG.

Poetry is like singing without music and I can understand that it might need to be expressed verbally. I don't think that all writing requires more physicality than putting the words to paper. Many novelists are quite content to put their words to paper and then release them to the world without performance. But poetry is (or can be) very rhythmic and often needs the cadence of a voice to release its full impact.

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Re: Just Kids Question #12: Steps in Another Direction

Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Sun Sep 01, 2013 3:38 am

Agree with both of you there, although yes writing poetry is writing song without music and you are right some songwriters or more poetic than others, but I think most songs you can read without music and still get something from them. Also to pick up on a point about novelists not performing. I believe in years past reading aloud as a form of entertainment of an evening was very common, and I do believe people such as Dickens and Austen did actually read their work aloud to a small selected audience.


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