un­til the very end”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

ac­cepted, de­sired or praised. When I was mar­ried I lived in Detroit in al­most to­tal ob­scu­rity, and I worked just as hard.”

Weav­ing in and out of pub­lic con­scious­ness through the years has meant that, while revered by many heavy hit­ters (the list in­cludes Michael Stipe, Bono, Johnny Depp, Lou Reed, Mor­ris­sey, Shirley Man­son), there are thou­sands more who aren’t fully aware of what Smith does or who she is. This changed some­what last year with the US Na­tional Book Award-win­ning Just Kids, a grace­ful fu­sion of love story and el­egy, a salute to New York and a cel­e­bra­tion of her time with Map­plethorpe in ropy, pre-fame days when food and books were stolen to pay for var­i­ous types of sus­te­nance. Was it a ther­a­peu­tic book to write?

“No, it wasn’t,” comes the straight­for­ward re­ply. “It was a dif­fi­cult book to write be­cause I had to write it in­ter­mit­tently. I kept putting it away for very long pe­ri­ods of time. If I hadn’t promised Robert I’d write it, I’m not so sure I would have writ­ten it at all. So ther­a­peu­tic, no, but what it did do was ac­com­plish a mis­sion, and when we do that we have a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing kept a prom­ise, and honouring it. The greater sat­is­fac­tion, how­ever, is that peo­ple seemed to have, through the book, a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of Robert. That was my pri­mary fo­cus – that knowl­edge of him is not just fil­tered through other de­tails that are ei­ther neg­a­tive, ex­ag­ger­ated or imag­ined. The book gives the reader a more holis­tic pic­ture of him, and that makes me happy.”

Speak­ing of happy, this week­end Smith re­turns to Liss Ard Es­tate, Sk­ib­bereen, Co Cork, as part of Cork X South­west Mu­sic & Arts Fes­ti­val 2011. She was there in the late 1990s, when the es­tate hosted what were Ire­land’s first ever bou­tique mu­sic events. She wanted – needed, she says – to re­turn. The es­tate’s owner had pre­sented her with a stone, which was a marker for nearby grounded ships. A mas­ter carver then carved the stone, and it sub­se­quently be­came her hus­band’s head­stone.

“My hus­band loved the sea,” she says with a hint of re­gret, “and I knew he would love that. His grave ini­tially had no head­stone, be­cause I couldn’t find some­thing that I knew would be mean­ing­ful to him. And so I ar­ranged to have this stone shipped by boat to Detroit – it’s now in a very old ceme­tery and it’s now the marker of a very good man.

“So I have a strong feel for Liss Ard. What am I go­ing to do when I’m there? Well, my band will be there so we’ll def­i­nitely do a rock con­cert. But I’m also go­ing to do what­ever I can. Maybe I’ll just sit in the mid­dle of a field and play songs; some things will be an­nounced and some things won’t. I’ll be par­tic­i­pat­ing, you know, in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple.

“One of my hopes is to walk the grounds and meet peo­ple who will be there. I’m al­ways happy to come to Ire­land. I have Ir­ish roots, and I’m al­ways happy to be on Ir­ish soil. It’s re­ally one of the most beau­ti­ful places in the world.”

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