May 25, 2005

As the pages turn, my eyes are glued

John Gutmann, The Artist Lives Dangerously, San Francisco, 1938

* Next month, as curator of the Meltdown festival Patty Smith Patty Smith will play it in its entirety on stage for the first time. She talks with Reynolds. excerpt:

"Patti Smith's an icon, alright, but she started out as an iconographer, developing her presence through close study of her heroes - Dylan, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and, implausible as it may seem, TV host Johnny Carson. From this seemingly middle-of-the-road figure, Smith learnt techniques of grace under pressure that helped her deal with the hostile audiences she faced early on. 'If I was making my stew, there's a big chunk of Johnny in there,' she chuckles.

"In some ways, the closest parallel for Patti Smith is David Bowie. Both emerged in the early Seventies, the point at which rock had built up enough history for it to be possible for artists to play games with the genre's own myths and archetypes. As much as it was Smith announcing herself to the world, Horses also served as homage to her godstar pantheon. 'What I wanted to do in rock'n'roll was merge poetry with sonic scapes, and the two people who had contributed so much to that were Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.'
"The highlight of Meltdown, though, is the 25 June performance of Horses in its entirety and original sequence (something Smith has never done before), with a band that includes Television guitarist Tom Verlaine and the album's producer John Cale. She tells me she has just learnt that the night sold out immediately. 'I was overwhelmed. To tell the truth, it brought tears to my eyes. Horses pretty much broke as a record in England. I always think of us as a semi-English band because we were so maverick in America and then we went to London and played that first date at the Roundhouse in May 1976, and the response gave me my first sense that "wow, we're really doing something.'"

* Three poems by James Tate:

Tickle Me Pink

Coco was an excellent manicurist, but
she tells me so much gossip it makes my head
wobble. Her boyfriend Benny comes too soon.
Her sister Sophie is sleeping with a married
man twice her age and has been set up with an
apartment that you wouldn't believe. Her
mother is spending all her time with another
women of questionable orientation. Her best
friend Rhonda is torn between three different
men and is falling to pieces as a result.
Her other friend June has been a vegetable
since Larry did what he did to her. She
stopped filing for a second. "How's your new
puppy? Cute as ever." "Run over by a
recycling truck. Flat as a pancake," I said.
"Oh my God, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she said.
Now the ball was in my court and it felt good,
dirty, but good.

Toads Talking by a River

A book can move from room to room
without anyone touching it. It can climb
the staircase and hide under the bed. It
can crawl into bed with you because it knows
you need company. And it can read to you
in your sleep and you wake a smarter person
or a sadder person. It is good to live
surrounded by books because you never know
what can happen next: lost in the inter-
steller space between teacups in the cupboard,
found in the beak of a downy woodpecker,
the lovers staring into the void and then
jumping over it, flying into their beautiful
tomorrows like the heroes of a storm.

Head of a White Women Winking

She has one good bumblebee
which she leads about town
on a leash of clover.
It's as big as a Saint Bernard
but also extremely fragile.
People want to pet its long, shaggy coat.
These would be mostly whirling dervishes
out shopping for accessories.
When Lily winks they understand everything,
right down to the particle
of a butterfly's wing lodged
in her last good eye,
so the situation is avoided,
the potential for a cataclysm
is narrowly averted,
and the bumblebee lugs
its little bundle of shaved nerves
forward, on a mission
from some sick, young godhead.


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