Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Vanessa Grigoriadis on Patti Smith

"As a female rock-and-roll star, she was predated only by the more feminine Grace Slick and blues-oriented Janis Joplin — an anti-feminist feminist icon who dressed androgynously, used dirty slang like William Burroughs, and argued that words like Ms. were 'really bullshit,' as she said in 1976. 'Vowels are the most illuminated letters in the alphabet, and these assholes take the only fucking vowel out of the word miss. It sounds like a sick bumblebee, it sounds frigid.' She’s willing to repent for some of the dicier declarations now. 'If I’ve learned one thing in life,' she says, in a low, slow monotone, a little bit dazed, 'it’s not to be so judgmental of other people.' These days, Smith is interested in the earlier part of her life, the years spent aching for greatness in New York until she became famous with the release of Horses in 1975. She arrived from South Jersey nearly a decade earlier with $32 and a copy of Rimbaud’s Illuminations in her plaid suitcase, sleeping on subways and in parks until she met the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, a Floral Park altar boy and Pratt student who became her first boyfriend" ("Remembrances of the Punk Prose Poetess," New York, 1/18-25/10).


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