Patti Smith At The Orpheum: On Lyrics Vs. Poetry, Fiction Vs. Nonfiction, Success, Aging, Work And Being Yourself

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Sarah had an extra ticket to Patti Smith discussing her new book M-Train at the Orpheum and I got to go!

It was life-changing, as it always is when you see Patti.

Here are a few quotes I managed to get (as well as a few pics):

Being A Writer Vs. Being A Musician:

"The word, for me, really came first."

"I'll improvise language. I'm not a musician [the way her husband was and kids are]."

"Lyrics, you have responsibility to the music, musician, listener to make the lyrics palatable. Poetry you have the responsibility to the poem itself. Poetry not as open and communicative as songwriting. There are a lot of different situations encoded in poetic language. Your blinders [have to be on to write]. A poet is a solitary worker, independent. A strange [set of circumstances] put me in the arena of rock and roll. It's a collaborative social emotional responsibility. I guess I'm just lucky." [The last sentence said with breezy charm.]

On "Cool":

"Any one who's afraid of looking uncool isn't cool."

On Aging:

She talked about our responsibility to accept our aging process and make room for the young. "Be yourself and let the young people do their things....Each generation has to translate their times for themselves."

On Success:

"My definition of success is doing something really good. If it's not embraced by the public, [it can still be] good. If you measure yourself by how many friends and hits you have, it's all gonna go away. All that matter is the canon of work and how it transforms other people."

On Fiction Vs. Nonfiction:

"I think that books are not necessarily the place to cause another pain and suffering. [If you have to write somethng that might be hurtful] abstract it into fiction. Books are enduring and precious. Decide how you want to portray people in this physical thing. [When writing Just Kids] I tried to think of each person as a whole person. If I couldn't find meaningful way to talk about them I didn't do it."

On Work:

"I'm 68 years old and I can't imagine not working. Work is good.  It's an important part of who we are."

On What To Do When The Show Is Over:

"Now don't forget to read the book." [Said in a motherly tone].

She then surprised us all by playing some music and singing! By the end we had risen to our feet, surrounded and embraced by her resonant, shamanic voice and the light of her spirit.

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When she dedicated a song to the victims of the Paris attacks "especially the young people" I realized how much we all need her, especially now. Her wisdom, her humor, her wit, her motherly love, her charm, her poetry, her music, her stories, her encouragment, her iconoclasm, her advice ("Floss!"), her spiritual healing. "Cross over, girls," she chanted. "Cross over, boys."

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Sarah in the Orpheum lobby.

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Sarah and me and some contrasting prints.