When poet, musician and author Patti Smith comes to Philadelphia Free Library’s Parkway Central space this week, the intimate event will surely come with “Songs and Stories” from her extensive catalog.
Even more so, Smith will share tales from her 2010 National Book awarded ‘Just Kids’ — about coming up through NYC’s late 60s and 70s with her famed photographer friend, the late Robert Mapplethorpe—and other books of essays and poetry including ‘The Coral Sea’, ‘Year of the Monkey’, and ‘M Train’. The price of the event with Smith comes with a new book — her recently-published visual memoir ‘A Book of Days’. And she will surely discuss her snapshots of obscure places and beloved objects and her Instagram account through which she posts often to her 1 million+ followers.
“My daughter (Jesse Paris) suggested Instagram because people had taken my name online, and pretended they were me,” Smith explains. “It looked like something I could do because I’m a visual artist. I’m someone who reads new books and could say something about it. I like Instagram. Its immediacy is like taking Polaroids. You can have an effect where I can talk about a book from a small publishing house and bring it to a wider audience. I can share something interesting, humorous, or political. My cat could appear with me.”
Along with Smith’s cat, everything from a stack of Sylvia Plath books and drinking mugs presented to her by Johnny Depp to her weed-filled garden all become part of the world that the author-photographer wishes to share, a look into her daily existence with an eye toward explaining her inspirations and aspirations.
Along with Smith’s entrée into the world of Substack— the now-five-year-old online platform that has writers getting paid via a subscription model – the mix of text and written memoir that is ‘A Book of Days’ allows her to maintain the intimacy of communality crucial to her existence since the start.
“You literally are walking into my bedroom; it’s where I live and write,” Smith said of her Substack and surely how that could lead into ‘Book of Days’. “I have many secret things. Secret writings that will never be read, and precious objects that are so private. These things can be shareable. Making things as intimate and possible is what I do, though, even on stage. Like we’re all in this together.”
A large part of Smith’s roots occurred in the Philadelphia area, as her family moved from Chicago to Germantown when she was four-years-old, and later moved to Deptford Township, New Jersey, where Smith attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University).
“I grew up in disorder — a chaotic household as a kid,” she said. “That exciting mess is in my DNA.”
That is what ‘A Book of Days’ and Smith’s Instagram is all about—sharing artistic passions, intimate daily reflections, and photos that mean the world to her, and explain her world to others.
“I’m slowly getting the hang of the 21st Century,” Smith says. “The fact that I have a Substack that I’ve learned to do myself, technically, as well as an Instagram… I embrace what I can. I’m 75 years old. All of these people like Robert Louis Stevenson, Sylvia Plath, Hendrix, Coltrane, the Bible, all of whom informed and continue to inspire me, I want to share with future generations… Every generation does new things, and translates that generation on its own. But it’s part of my job to bring my references into the forefront. And I get a lot of messages on Substack and Instagram when I do. That makes me happy.”
Patti Smith’s Songs and Stories will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street. For information and tickets, visit libwww.freelibrary.org