Sunday, 10 January 2016

M Train by Patti Smith

M Train

On the dust cover, depicted in sepia, sits a disgruntled looking Patti Smith. She is seated at a table. I believe it to be her favourite coffee house, Ino. She is wearing her match cap, a long jacket, what looks like a pair of jeans. Upon her feet are what look like sturdy boots. On the table her left hand rests before a cup of coffee. In front of both her constant companion, her polaroid. Her other hand cups her chin. She seems to be gazing disapprovingly out the widow. I think it is because she has just learnt that her beloved Ino is about to close. This is the last photo taken of her drinking at her favourite table hence the sense of sadness emanating from the photograph.
 
I have always admired Patti Smith even though I know little about her. Oh, I own the obligatory 'Horses' album; loved its follow-up 'Easter' and have been promising myself I will buy it for the past thirty years. but still haven't. I do have somewhere a a seven inch single copy of 'Because the Night' the single taken from the album. Beyond that, having read the odd interview, heard one or two songs on the radio, seen her speaking on TV, I have only a limited knowledge of her. Good enough to hold a decent conversation but no more than that.
 
Seeing her now, her dark hair iron grey, her sculptured features proud and distinctly grown noble with age; her eyes still hawk sharp, defiant yet observing all life that passes by. I convince myself she has the appearance of a warrior as much as a poet, a native American puzzled by the 21st century or an American Boudica fearless in her pursuit of art.
 
'Home is a desk The amalgamation of a dream. Home is my cats, my books, and my work never done. All the last things that may one day call to me, the faces of my children who will one day call to me. Maybe we can't draw flesh from reverie nor retrieve a dusty spur, but we can gather the dream itself and bring it back uniquely whole.'
 
That makes a great deal of sense to me.
 
Captured here in this wistful, wayward, yearning memoir is the very essence of what it is to be Patti Smith. Her sense of loss, still deeply felt, for the passing of her husband. The inevitable passing of time warped in among a thousand bright memories along with its multitude of changes seen and experienced. But rising through it all is her constant seeking new things, new frontiers, new experiences.
 
It is a bold memoir because she is of course bold. It is honest and forthright as the woman herself. It shows us her strengths and her weaknesses, her resilience and her frailties. It is a combination of these factors coupled with her childlike curiosity that defines the woman.
 
Some of the memoir reminds me of W. G. Sebald of whom she is a fan. She too manages to tangle historical fact with her dreams, wrap descriptive prose around delectable poetry yet it is her use of polaroid's more than anything that draws that comparison. They are stark mementoes of moments captured. Their black and white images convey a timeless sense of place.

It isn't a linear journey. We do not start at one point in time and finish at another. Time, emotions, movement and memory, including dreams, all get swept into the mix. This makes for a mesmerising read, a journey of sorts that is surprisingly smooth even if events are fractured.
 
There are also some surprises. She likes detective TV shows. Once when in London she spent the weekend watching 'Morse,' 'Lewis,' 'Cracker.' She was both disbelieving her luck yet overjoyed when she accidentally bumped into Robbie Coltrane in the hotel foyer. Thrilled like a kid meeting a hero.
 
Her love of her deceased husband is moving, she has never really lost him as he is with her, one way or another, every day. Patti Smith is a dreamer, a poet, a three year old at Christmas, a believer, an artist, a lecturer, a singer, an author but above all else still Patti Smith.
 
 
 I found this a mesmerising read notably because it doesn't follow the usual A to Z type historical event process but wanders about recalling events on a whim or when triggered by a memory.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Cara H said...

As a woman living in a society which values a woman's physical appearance far more than her abilities or character, I have always appreciated Patti Smith. She never fell into the trap of thinking she had to present herself as "beautiful" or "sexy." She let her powerful work speak volumes. I can't say enough good things about Patti's creativity or herself as a person, so I'll just leave it here.