It’s unsettling reading Patti Smith’s poetry on the Internet. Written longhand or by typewriter, her words feel out-of-place against the empty white background of a computer screen, and the ease of copying or printing or saving her words even more so.
‘jag-arr of the jungle’, to choose one of a dozen of brilliant, impressionistic prose poems where the past feels better than the present, follows Smith’s obsession with the Rolling Stones from childhood to Brian Jones’ death. It’s long, but each sentence couldn’t exist without the one before it. It’s a poem about coming into being that develops as you read it. “I went home to America and threw up on my fathers bed. / I was antique. He had returned to light and I was holding baby hair.” It’s her voice that does it. Not her voice per se, but the voices that she draws up unawares from the depths of rock’n’roll speak (repetition and simple language), pop culture (“a morbid foto-recall of the past”), and every fictive swaggering hero or villain, it doesn’t matter which, who makes up things on the spot and therefore believes in them above everything else, in things “shaped like an eleven-year-old girl with colorless eyes”.