Patti Smith Rochelle Ratner

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Rochelle Ratner

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Babel is composed of] fast-paced, visionary poems and prose poems, but the fact that the visions seem to be drug-induced makes them frequently difficult to follow. It's hard to separate Smith the writer from Smith the cult figure (a difficulty which she herself seems all too conscious of—when she succeeds, it's almost in spite of herself). The writing includes everything a cult figure needs: drugs, sex, the wrestling with religious concepts. Most of her best poems fall into this last category: even if she sets herself up as a martyr at times, there are other poems which convey a real sense of struggle in the search for meaning…. The emphasis on orgiastic rites makes it inappropriate for many, but the book is likely to have a large, enthusiastic young audience. (p. 463)

Rochelle Ratner, in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, February 15, 1978; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1978 by Xerox Corporation), February 15, 1978.