[“Babel” by Patti Smith was originally published in 1974 and is a collection of poetry, photographs, drawings and short written pieces.  It is “dedicated to the future.”  Below the dedication is a picture, presumably of Patti and her sister as children?  The book is separated into 7 parts as follows:  1. radio ethiopia 2. alien to alien 3. sister morphine 4. pipe dreams 5. mohammedia 6.corps de plane and 7. babel.  Each part contains several poems and short written pieces.

The writing is impressionistic and the photographs and drawings compliment the writing, sometimes in highly symbolic ways that leaves much to interpretation. There is no introduction, forward or afterword to provide guidance or perspective. This is absolutely appropriate for a book that is a whole made up of smaller pieces. The result is an art piece portraying, one can assume, the author’s thoughts, dreams, impressions, hopes, fears up to this particular time in her life.  (A very happening time in her life by all accounts).  I’ve had the book for a few years (a lucky find in the used book store).  I take it out from time to time and read a piece or two, still attempting to decipher it, trying to make out the whole.  Here’s one of my favorite poems from “Babel.”   jbm 2/9/2017]

georgia o’keefe
by patti smith

great lady painter
what she do now
she goes out with a stick
and kills snakes

georgia o’keefe
all life still
cow skull
bull skull
no bull shit
pyrite pyrite
shes no fool
started out pretty
pretty pretty girl

georgia o’keefe
until she had her fill
painted desert
flower cactus
hawk and head mule
choral water color
red coral reef
been around forever
georgia o’keefe

great lady painter
what she do now
go and beat the desert
stir dust bowl
go and beat the desert
snake skin skull
go and beat the desert
all life still

Babel by Patti Smith
copyright 1974-1978 by Patti Smith

Photo: Edward Mapplethorpe

 

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