Patti Smith Tony Glover

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Tony Glover

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[There's] a new kind of poetry being made—a poetry that exists in equal partnership with the rhythm and sound of music, poetry that needs performing to make it real.

A few poets have realized this to some extent, and there are more and more readings—but Patti Smith, New Jersey swamp child and angel-envisioning rock-and-roll street punk, says that poets are killing poetry.

"The idea of reading to a bunch of people is really self-centered … it takes a lot to get somebody off when you're reading," she told me…. [I] "figure if you're gonna put yourself publicly, any performer better be able to stand behind his performance—especially a poet. I don't wanna be no simp reading boring intellectual shit to a YMCA …"

There isn't much to worry about that on any count … as [Seventh Heaven] will show. Patti is one of the first poets of rock&roll; she has a literary background, on top of that she's placed the pulse and beat of the stereo and street—to make a modern combination with something for everybody … brain and boogie freak alike. (p. 52)

All of Patti's work is heavily autobiographical, some true, some fantasy, but all very much a part of her world….

The first poem, "seventh heaven" … talks about Eve and all the badmouthing she took after eating the apple:

      She bit. Must we blame her abuse her.
      poor sweet bitch. Perhaps theres more to the story.
      think of Satan as some stud.
      maybe her knees were open …

I won't spoil it for you by quoting more, except like most of the poems here, it would help if you read this aloud—cocky, sly, and sweet. (And don't forget the beat.) In the second poem, Eve becomes "sally" who's been "ripping it up with someone. down in the briar patch":

             torn pants
             torn pants
             and juice all down your dress

This poem could be a song—and in fact, now it is. "jeanne d'arc" is a new look at a female martyr; Patti pictures her not with mysticism, but instead sees her as an itchy virgin who wants to come before her time does. And this is absolutely the horniest poem I've ever come across….

"girl trouble," and "Judith" both deal with girl love, and have several word puns wandering thru them—they're also a release, as they lead into "fantasy", a brutal man-woman love poem with a real Mike Hammer gun in it.

Patti says she structured the order of poems the way you would a record—and this ends side one. "marilyn miller" (four interesting positions of a retired child star) is "like a commercial while you're turning the record over", according to Patti. Side Two begins with "mary jane", a...

(The entire section is 691 words.)