A Year of Women’s Voices: Patti Smith’s Just Kids

 

2014

I have been a Patti Smith fan since high school. I wore out my copy of Horses. I could not get enough. In college I played Patti Smith loud to annoy the preppys and the narrow-minded.
I loved her lyrics and punk sound. The gender bending album cover and lack of make-up made me want to be in her world.

Later I found her poetry and have remained as enamored of her as I was in high school.  In 2010 her memoir Just Kids won a well deserved National Book Award. I say well deserved because she is an engaging story-teller and writer. She brings a poet’s rhythm and word craft to the story of her young life, and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. She is humble and honest. I have read a number of memoirs that are maudlin, poorly written, or deify belief. Just Kids is all that a memoir should be, a true telling of events that engages your senses and soul.

What I have learned as a writer reading and listening to Patti Smith:
1. Don’t be afraid to be who you are.
2. Ugly can be beautifully written.
3. Be honest.
4. Pay attention to the rhythm of your words.
5. Not everyone will understand your work, don’t let it stop you.

Here is a link to one of my favorite Patti Smith songs. I want you to imagine it played at top volume on a turntable in a tiny dorm room with punk posters on the wall, and illegal beer stashed in the shower. Enjoy!

 

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