Patti Smith discusses matters of life, death, love and art with Tony Clayton-Lea ahead of her show in Skibbereen
FEW AND far between or just plain unique? We’d have to go for the latter in the case of Patti Smith, who, at 64, is whatever you wish to describe her as: poet, singer, songwriter, lover, visual artist, thinker, Godmother of Punk, writer, visionary, mother, political irritant, social activist, widow, artist, awardwinning memoirist, Grammy nominee, Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
“If one hopes to live a long life then one can look back and think that so many years have passed, but I’ve done so much in the past 40 years. I’ve produced work, produced children, I keep working, I keep trying to live in the present and stay healthy. I look to the future, actually.
“I don’t divide my life between past, future and present. I’m living, and all of these ages are within me. I don’t turn my back on my past. I think about it: my childhood, my family. Many of my people are dead, and every day I think about my brother, my husband and my friends who are gone. Not so much with nostalgia or sentimentality but as a living part of me.”
Smith is talking from New York, where she has lived for more than 15 years. She moved there from Detroit after her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, and her brother, Todd, died within a short space of time of each other, and as she speaks about most things art-related, you can sense that loss emanates from her like a vapour trail. Yet she is steely, this Patti Smith. It would be wrong to define her as a survivor merely because of her age, yet there is that element of a life lived amid turmoil, excitement, tragedy, adventure, art and fun. At 64, Smith remains a compelling figure, a rewarding artist, not least because she has been,