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Auguries of Innocence: Poems Paperback – June 10, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith's fans remain legion; her 1975 album Horses, a masterpiece, continues to influence and inspire. Her writings, appearing over the years following the band's '80s dormancy, have garnered a cult following not unlike that of Charles Bukowski. The press chat quotes the following from a poem called "The Long Road": "We broke our mother's heart and became ourselves./ We proceeded to breathe and therefore to leave,/ drunken startled beings, each of us a god." It's hard to imagine those lines in a book published by Ecco without Smith to back them up. Yet they do convey what can only be called Smith's mystique, and the book as whole effectively transmits the affect and aura, as well as the innocence, that make her a rock star: one believes in her. There are better lines and poems among the 24 short lyrics (along with the long, diffuse "Birds of Iraq"); the book certainly eclipses, say, Billy Corgan's recent Blinking with Fists. There are more polished books of poems by bandleaders (David Berman's Actual Air and Jeff Tweedy's Adult Head come to mind), but these poems allow access to a major artist's thoughts and preoccupations. (Oct. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Poetry is the foundation and soul of Smith's music, from her first revolutionary album, Horses (1975), on to Trampin' (2004). A mystic and a provocateur, a mendicant and a shaman, Smith has always celebrated her love of literature, including that of Blake and Rimbaud. In her first collection of new poems in many years, she presents lithe works unsettling in their spiritual inquiry, archetypal imagery, and dissonant juxtapositions. Smith tells strange tales of pilgrims' quests across landscapes of loss and wonder. The auguries of innocence are not rosy as Smith considers a world forever at war in which children are abused and hungry, themes explored most dramatically in the hauntingly beautiful "Birds of Iraq" and the hard-driving prose poem "Our Jargon Muffles the Drum." Romantic and renegade, Smith moves from anger to empathy, reminding us that there is healing in outcry, solace in language, catharsis in expression. As always, Smith leads us to the sorrowing depths, then dances us back into the light. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060832673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060832674
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,088,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on November 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like the other reviewer, we went to see Patti Smith read from her new book on Sunday here in San Francisco, at the Victoria Theater where she went on as a benefit for the fabled Poetry Center at San Francisco State. She introduced AUGURIES OF INNOCENCE in a context very much about William Blake, who wrote a poem two hundred years ago with the same title:

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

Her book is all about the perils of childhood. One of the poems, "Fourteen," takes the facts and images of the recent Elizabeth Smart case (the Mormon girl kidnapped out of her home in Utah by a "family" of nuts) and recasts it in Blakean terms. Reading "Fourteen" Smith brought us right into a strange, familiar world of danger, even terror. We may not force our children to work until midnight in mills and factories here in the US, but indeed we do force children overseas to do exactly that. As she points out, in private life not much has improved for our children who continue to be exploited sexually and damaged while young.

The new book isn't all about tragedy however, and her reading of "The Long Road" brought smiles and innumerable, involuntary nmods of recognition. Dedicated to her brother and sister, "The Long Road" surveys the whole enchanted world of childhood, the pleasures as well as the tears. Childhood is an anarchic, contested site of adventure, it's the "Never-Never Land" of PETER PAN, and something happens when children bond together against the adult world, they discover an agency that bonds them together as a host of angels. It isn't always pretty, but it's vibrant, even when it's scary.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By sivyaleah on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a huge Patti Smith fan from the late 70's forward. She was inspirational to me from the moment I heard her, late one night on the Vin Scelsa radio show, pouring forth her musical poetry with an intensity I'd never heard from any artist before. When I went off to college in 1977, I had the pleasure of witnessing a performance that was an event like nothing I'd encountered to that point.

SHE is responsible for everything that I began to listen to from that point forward musically - it opened me up to artists I probably would have missed otherwise.

And it stuck with me. I was hooked. I have the most worn copy of "Babel" you've ever seen - and even had her sign this dog-earred version a few years back during another book tour of hers. I have a signed (now framed) poster from a concert I was unable to go to because my mom was dying - a good friend brought it back for me - the short poem on it reflecting that time in my life in a way that still makes me sad, and hopeful each time I read it.

So, I was looking forward to this new collection. For me, I'm just not feeling it. I couldn't get into any of it - try as I might. It seems to be lacking the driving rhythms of earlier poems - the ones that just slipped off the tongue, with a life of their own. I got the references in nearly everything but in this book, I feel lost somewhere. And it isn't like I haven't kept up with her, I know about her losses, her loves, her life, etc.

Now, maybe I'm just not ready for it. This has happened to me before with other music and poetry which did not strike a chord with me until a year or so later. Maybe I'm just out of touch or too old now, or something else I can't put my finger on?

It really pains me to even write that I'm not enjoying this. Maybe, I'll be enlightened down the road but for now, I'd rather be reading her older works.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kim Roberson on November 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book to anyone in love with words. I'll share a first hand experience with you, because I'm fortunate to live in a city where I could meet the beautiful poet in a small church off of Haight Street and listen to the splendor of her heart, which is what happened last night. When I awoke this morning the world was a better place for me because of it. Her words are here for us all. Birds of Iraq entranced everyone in that small church, as well as The Lovecrafter and The Oracle (inspired by the cherubs pictured on the cover). Then Mummer Love: "Once I awoke and I heard your voice. I caught bits of nature in truth, our whole natural world. I heard the dead. They were calling to me. I felt my powers. Yet I did not go out into the night. I did not go out into the world. I did not use my powers but I wrote what I wrote. My heart cries but my eyes are dry as a salt bed." Ah, my smithian year.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Barry M. Wightman on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Poetry is something that is too hard, too strange, too weird. Who buys poetry books anymore? Patti Smith's weird, strange, sometimes baffling but ultimately satisfying collection of poems, prose and auguries (omens and portents) is a book that poetry needs; it is gentle, soothing, challenging and mysterious.

A generation ago, New York went through one of its recurring radioactively artistic periods, the mid to late 1970s, the flowering of the punk rock scene, the de-flowering of the mega-arena rock of the day. Patti Smith became one of the shining stars of the New York punk world by reciting her wildly ecstatic poems with friend Lenny Kaye's guitar accompaniment. With loud guitars, her poetry became punk. Poetry for the masses. Well, maybe not. With the release of what became a landmark in American music, Horses, (1975, recently re-issued and expanded on Arista Records) Ms Smith began a career in arts and letters that saw a peak last year with her being decorated by the French Minister of Culture as a Commandeur of the Order of Arts and Letters. Not bad for a scraggly, skinny androgynous girl from New Jersey who looked like Keith Richards if you squinted.

But her influences are not the usual suspects. Not Dylan, not Burroughs, not even Ginsberg. This is not just another boomer nostalgia thing. Ms Smith finds heroes and models in the visionary, romantic, hallucinatory 19th century words of William Blake, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. Ms. Smith's title itself is homage to Blake's own Auguries of Innocence, written two hundred years ago in another age, perhaps wormhole connected to ours, one with empires ebbing and flowing across the earth, cruelty abounding, leaving innocents as victims.
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