Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Patti Smith: Auguries Ben Doggeries

There is a kind article at Slate about Patti Smith's latest book of poetry, "Auguries of Innocence." Here's a glimpse:

Auguries of Innocence is a testament to her ongoing devotion to poetry—and not the poetry of her contemporaries. She adheres to poetic inversion and archaic language, and the poems are studded by her trademark French symbolist abstractions: "I saw the book upon the shelf,/ I saw you who was myself" (a la Rimbaud) and "I will sit here till dawn tripping/ the spine of the stars." The influence of poets like Baudelaire and Blake (whose "The Chimney Sweeper" she reprises here) is obvious, and her wide reading has resulted in a sense of how structure and sentiment intertwine in poetry. She relies on short lines and tercets for a hammering effect in "Birds of Iraq," a political poem that effectively intertwines Virginia Woolf's biography with events in Iraq. If there are a few too many invocations of moons, she also writes touchingly about loss, avoiding the usual clich├ęs. She builds solid, blocky stanzas in poems like "To His Daughter," which is addressed to her niece, after her father (Smith's brother) died: "He is the gust that lifts a bit of sail/ To press your cheek, wipe the tears./ A bit of sail without moral/ turning like an apron on the cloud"—a nice little twist, since we associate aprons with mothers. She says that these poems are highly "personal," but the reader would be hard-pressed to find the therapeutic disclosure and earnest cris de coeur that animate the work of plenty of confessional poets (including Jewel).
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I'm glad I'm not the only one who associates cris de coeur with Jewel.

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