For my birthday, my mother pitched in for me to finally get to see my personal Hero, Patti Smith.
I never knew who she was until I saw her speak at my cousin’s graduation two years ago, In the speeches before she took the podium, I spent a good half hour studying her portrait in the ceremony brochure. "Her uniform is similar to the look I’m going for, kinda like a neo-puritan- just wish I had that hat, that’s such a good hat."
"Photographed by Robert Mappelthrope," read the caption. We had studied a shot of his in my critical reading class with Anne Chen. "Wow, she must be some kinda big deal then.”
She stood up after being introduced by President Macy "…and with the looks, of a model, she is a greek goddess reincarnated as Poe’s raven"
She took the podium, gripping the sides like a southern preacher, spoke first about the importance of dental care, and how her generation didn’t quite realize its significant impact on one’s quality of life. She talked a bit about her life, how if she was born a day later her mother would have won a "free refrigerator!" but she was ready to be born and knew that now was the time-
I was so immediately entranced; "who is this lady with a poddy mouth worse than mine, and sings like Lou Reed?" I thought to my self as she performed Grateful. She started talking to us about the struggles of being an artist "and man, you guys are gonna get shit on…and believe me, cause I’ve been shit on…" She continued to say how it is in the times that we are struggling that we should be happiest, because it is then that we constitute what it is we desire in our lives. She went on to talk about the artist William Blake, his strife, and his constant drive to work, she then performed In My Blakean Year.
As she was up, I kept making sure not to take my eyes off her, and to not to look at the super screen recording the stage. I wanted to remember her not a video of her.
When she finished, I shot up and clapped. Since that summer in 2011 she has been the greatest consistent artistic impact on my life. There’s virtually not a move I make without being in some way influenced by her. I wrote poetry like there was fire shooting out of my pen, I practiced guitar, I made work, and now I can truly identify myself as the maker I am.