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HALL OF FAMEon November 16, 2005
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.

Another new poem she read related to her recent LP TRAMPIN. This was an elegy, written in Belfast, on the death of an Irish tramp she happened to read in the local newspapers. The poems are pretty much short ones, concentrated bursts of lyric. One poem I didn't think worked very well expanded the legend of the "Three Windows" in Rome, where Smith happened to be at St Peter's Square when the College of Cardinals was electing the new Pope in April. Jokingly she announced it was the end of her "Pope Trilogy," which began long ago (1978?) with her imaginary encounter with John Paul the First in "Wave."

We were delighted when she brought out her guitar and sang some of her songs as well, including "Beneath the Southern Cross," "Wave" of course, "Wing," "My Blakean Year," "Grateful" for Jerry Garcia, "Dancing Barefoot," "Ghost Dance," and "People have the Power" among others. Lenny was there too. In each case you could see Patti reaching back into her enormous catalogue to try to illuminate (casting a searching beam of light) the new poems of AUGURIES. It was an incredible experience, a "poetry reading" that lasted two hours and twenty minutes. When it was over we all of us pondered the mysteries of William Blake and Patti Smith. It is true of a society that it will be judged by how the weakest and smallest among us are treated:

A robin redbreast in a cage

Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons

Shudders hell through all its regions.

A dog starved at his master's gate

Predicts the ruin of the state.

A horse misused upon the road

Calls to heaven for human blood.

Each outcry of the hunted hare

A fibre from the brain does tear.
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on March 2, 2006
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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on November 14, 2005
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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on September 11, 2013
Auguries of Innocence: Poems - by Patti Smith

As soon as anything by this way out there, candid Artist is available
it is the exact gift for family member, who takes Patti Smith's work
not only to heart, but perhaps as a messenger for our times
for all to heed without reservation!
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on June 27, 2015
Some of the most enjoyable reading I've every experienced. The poems are sympathetic and direct - reads like a dream and has the most profound yet simple manner. I think the title says it all since there is a voyage of innocence - such a really gifted writer.
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on December 29, 2010
Patti's writing, both credible and competent, structured far more conventional than I expected, reading more like an homage to tradition than a confrontation towards form.
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on April 8, 2008
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. Unabashedly political, a rhythmic trance in short sharp lines as bleak and dark as a night of shock and awe, Birds of Iraq, the book's centerpiece, leaves no Iraqi innocent behind. "March twentieth/Awake spring./The birds are silent./It is happening again./I rise yet cannot rise./I take to my bed/Wind the sheet/About my head./It is coming on/A nerve storm" This is strong stuff. Perhaps Birds of Iraq is a companion piece to Ms Smith's recent song Radio Baghdad, a hypnotic meditation over dark pulsing guitars that is rock `n roll--but not poetry.

Perhaps less convincing, but still with a wordsmith resonance is The Long Road. "We tramped in our black coats,/Sweeping time,/Sleeping in abandoned chimneys,/Emerging to face the rain./Wet, bedraggled, a bit gone,/Trudging the grooves,/chewing bulbs,/We were so hungry, tulips/blazed with ragged petals...../Happily, we begin again." One cannot resist seeing cherished boomer Woodstock images that may drive those of lesser age crazy. But so what? It's her poem and she can do whatever she wants with it.

She says she is an "unfashionably unreconstructed `60s radical." That, and the music of poetry are not bad things to have around during these troubled times.
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on September 20, 2010
Auguries of Innocence: Poems is a fantastic collection of pomes by Patti Smith. I highly rcomend this book of her pomes to anyone who love great classic poetry. I have started to listen to her and her band rekindaling that great feeling I got when I listen to her works.

Branded The Queen God Mother of Punk Rock Patti never fails to give the reader or listener a great expeiance! Her songs and poetry are great paintings on a often times bleak canvas. Patti's art is a breath of fresh air. If you have never looked into her before do yourself a favor buy this book.

Rick Glenn
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on November 25, 2013
I love these poems definitively a must have. a lot to discover in these poems it takes you to different places as you read.
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on July 2, 2015
She is one of my most favorite artists of all time. Anything Patti.
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