I just finished reading Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, about her ever-changing, ever-present friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and about supporting each other as they became artists. I’ve been pretty much obsessed with it and I cried through the entire last chapter, describing the end of Robert’s life. My thoughts about it are still tumbling over one another, but I thought I would share some of what made me love it so much. These are quotes from pages I turned the corner down on, almost always because they struck some chord, or simply overcame me with their beauty and insight.
“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed.
It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”
“You could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up.”
“Remember, we are mortal, but poetry is not.”
“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 Bremser. He really got me going. Ray had that human saxophone thing. You could feel his improvisational ease the way language spilled out like linear notes. 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.”
“We needed time to figure out what all of this meant, how we were going to come to terms and redefine what our love was called. I learned from him that often contradiction is the clearest way to truth.”
“We imagined ourselves as the Sons of Liberty with a mission to preserve, protect and project the revolutionary spirit of rock and roll. We feared that the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation. We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands, we feared it floundering in a mire of spectacle, finance, and vapid technical complexity. We would call forth in our minds the image of Paul Revere, riding through the American night, petitioning the people to wake up, to take up arms. We would take up arms, the arms of our generation, the electric guitar and the microphone.”
“The night, as the saying goes, was a jewel in our crown. We played as one, and the pulse and pitch of the band spiraled around me, I could feel another presence as surely as the rabbit senses the hound. He was there. I suddenly understood the nature of the electric air. Bob Dylan had entered the club. This knowledge had a strange effect on me. Instead of humbled, I felt a power, perhaps his; but I also felt my own worth and the worth of my band. It seemed for me a night of initiation, where I had to become fully myself in the presence of the one I had modeled myself after.”
“The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in his seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.”