New York's Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith, has revealed a surprising affinity for the poetry of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde author Robert Louis Stevenson, announcing plans to perform his work "in the place of his birth," Edinburgh.
Smith has longed incorporated elements of spoken-word poetry into the confines of rock music, dating back to her 1975 debut, Horses. But Stevenson, much of whose poetry is aimed at children, is a far cry from the beat writers and performance artists Smith hung out with in her earliest years in New York. In late 1969, she famously befriended Allen Ginsberg, who mistook her for a boy—and whose poetry she was performing at the Edinburgh International Festival when she described her interest in Stevenson. The Guardian reports:
"I can't imagine my childhood without him. His poems were my companions, my friends," she said. The singer, songwriter, poet and artist recalled her early days as a "very sickly child."
"I had pneumonia, I contracted TB, scarlet fever, every childhood disease. And my two favourite books were [William Blake's] Songs of Innocence and Experience, and Stevenson's poems .
Smith is not the first massively respected rock or folk musician to embrace poetry. Leonard Cohen, Billy Corgan, Jewel, and Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, to name a few, have all published volumes of their own.
But she's among the first to step aside from her own work in favor of her idols—and quite possibly the only member of Manhattan's 1970s punk scene to openly embrace the author of "Bed in Summer," "The Land of Nod," and Treasure Island.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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