Musician, poet and visual artist Smith (Trois, 2008, etc.) chronicles her intense life with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the 1960s and ’70s, when both artists came of age in downtown New York.
Both born in 1946, Smith and Mapplethorpe would become widely celebrated—she for merging poetry with rock ’n’ roll in her punk-rock performances, he as the photographer who brought pornography into the realm of art. Upon meeting in the summer of 1967, they were hungry, lonely and gifted youths struggling to find their way and their art. Smith, a gangly loser and college dropout, had attended Bible school in New Jersey where she took solace in the poetry of Rimbaud. Mapplethorpe, a former altar boy turned LSD user, had grown up in middle-class Long Island. Writing with wonderful immediacy, Smith tells the affecting story of their entwined young lives as lovers, friends and muses to one another. Eating day-old bread and stew in dumpy East Village apartments, they forged fierce bonds as soul mates who were at their happiest when working together. To make money Smith clerked in bookstores, and Mapplethorpe hustled on 42nd Street. The author colorfully evokes their days at the shabbily elegant Hotel Chelsea, late nights at Max’s Kansas City and their growth and early celebrity as artists, with Smith winning initial serious attention at a St. Mark’s Poetry Project reading and Mapplethorpe attracting lovers and patrons who catapulted him into the arms of high society. The book abounds with stories about friends, including Allen Ginsberg, Janis Joplin, William Burroughs, Sam Shepard, Gregory Corso and other luminaries, and it reveals Smith’s affection for the city—the “gritty innocence” of the couple’s beloved Coney Island, the “open atmosphere” and “simple freedom” of Washington Square. Despite separations, the duo remained friends until Mapplethorpe’s death in 1989. “Nobody sees as we do, Patti,” he once told her.
Riveting and exquisitely crafted.