Patti Smith

Start Free Trial

Tony Glover

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 691

[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 Saturday night hustler laying down a hype, and "amelia earheart" is both word play and soaring: ing…. "Linda" is for Patti's sister, all air and light—"death by water" is a tribute to Brian Jones and Jim Morrison.

"dog dream" is many people's single favorite poem—it's in the form of a little chant, which came to Patti and friend Sam Shepard in a simultaneous dream—Patti says the poem was told to … her by a "Fellini-like communion child" who wouldn't go away till she wrote it down….

"Female" is pure self-knowing and growing, a record of the way she grew to womanhood—and "Longing" is the fulfillment of all that being a woman is. The last words in the book are from the few lines that Anita Pallenberg had in "Barbarella":

                     come to me my
                     pretty pretty

So we fade out, and the needle's scratching as the book ends. What's Patti up to and who is she? This book will give you some clues—she stands more naked than most artists—but even in revealing, the secrets are like the mirror.

Patti is one of the best poets writing—but think of this book as just a sampler, damn good but only a part of her flow. A look inside the head and body of a fascinating, sensitive, complex and very creative person…. (p. 53)

Tony Glover, in Creem (© copyright 1972 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), October, 1972.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Tony Glover


Stephen Holden