I never thought much about Patti Smith until I read her book Just Kids a couple of years ago. I still carry images from that book in my head. Not from her photos (which are often haunting), but from her writing. Now I’m reading her new book M Train, and each time I sit down to read it I enter a moody world where dreams, the past and the present are interchangeable. Sometimes her words create distinct images in my minds, sometimes they wash over me like poetry, leaving me with a feeling or hint of something just beyond my reach.
Since starting the book I’ve been listening to her music. I’m inspired to use images the way she uses words. Creating fissures in reality that lead to new ways of seeing and thinking. All the time aware of the mundane.
Also since reading M Train I’ve been dreaming a lot. Long continuous dreams that I remember.
In one I was visiting Patti Smith and her husband in a house that was filled with little kids. There were two bathrooms in the house and both toilets were overflowing. I didn’t really know her and was feeling uncomfortable, like I didn’t belong there. Trying to make myself useful and liked, I asked if she wanted me to help mop up the bathroom floors. She was sitting on a kitchen table, her feet touching the floor and she said to me, (like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland) ” Don’t waste my time with such questions”. All my shyness left me. I was roused from my stupor. “Ha! I shouted, what a great answer!”
I understood that she was telling me if I wanted to spend my time mopping up shit I should just go do it, she didn’t care. But she was there for me if I wanted to have a real conversation. I woke up after that. We never got to have the conversation I would have liked to have had about art and living a creative life. But the dream’s message was clear to me. Not to let the crap in life get in the way of my creativity. To use my time and gifts well.
Patti Smith has nine other books I haven’t read. So I can continue the conversation from my dream. Because I’m finding it hard to be a passive reader. Smith’s words prompt me to act, inspire me creatively and help me to believe I’ll always have another idea.