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- Patti Smith »
We’re in a beautifully ornate church called St Giles in the Fields, somewhere in the centre of London town. There is a proper mixture of people here; some straight, some gay; some pierced and coloured in with pink felt tips; some guardian readers.There are bands here (The Kills and Roddy from Idlewild).I think I am one of the youngest. I know that my boy probably is the youngest here.
Then a priest comes to the front and thanks us for coming. He tells us that part of the cost of the tickets will go to the repair of the church organ, and he thanks our host for her generosity. We smile and applaud. Then we all spy _her making her way along the side of the church, past the pews full of expectant people. Then she is on the stage, on the alter looking back at us. For some reason I think I might cry, and she hasn't even said a word.
Patti Smith decided some years ago to do a poetry reading in one of her favourite churches in England. She wanted to come here and use the church for a purpose other than for Sunday sermon. She doesn’t want to preach at us, or convert us, she just wants us to sit and listen. Which we all do. We sit and listen and try our hardest to take in every single word, because it’s unlikely that this is going to happen to any of us again.
There are no histrionics here. No falling to her knees and yelling to God. Just Patti, her band (including _The Lenny Kaye), and her poetry book. She reads us Milton, Shelley and Walt Whitman. Some songs are played. Patti cries and wishes her mother happy birthday.
She tells us that Keats, Shelley and Milton all baptised their children in this very Church. Everyone stares in wonder, and I wish that Patti had been my teacher at school. If she had been, maybe I would have gone more. But then I got to thinking that in some way she has been my teacher. Sitting at home worried about the world when I was 14,15 or 16, reading books about Patti, reading books by Patti. And now I am here in the same breathing space as her, and I have to watch myself so I don’t get too overwhelmed by it all and run screaming from the room.
I don’t know every word to all her songs. I couldn’t even tell you the titles of most of them. But I know that she is special and fantastic and beautiful and I know that I had a good teacher, even though she took some years to find. Thank You.
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