Why Patti Smith is one of the most inspiring artists of her generation- in 13 quotes.

The cover of Patti Smith's new memoir- M train.

The cover of Patti Smith’s new memoir- M train.

Yesterday, Patti Smith, poet, writer, singer/songwriter known as the Godmother of punk, talked at the Guardian Live Q&A event in London about her new book, M Train. She was asked very interesting questions by the interviewer, and by the audience. She surprised everyone at the end of the interview by singing three songs with the guitarist Lenny Kaye on acoustic guitar, and with the audience clapping loudly instead of beating drums (Note the interviewer nearly messed up by giving away the surprise at the beginning of the Q&A).

Of all the questions and answers that evening, which you can probably watch again or read on the Guardian website, here are some of the most interesting/inspiring Patti Smith points that stuck in my ears. For any aspiring artist, or aspiring individual, Smith can give hope and belief. A belief in dreams. Have a read.

  • “The imagination of men is extraordinary. Einstein, physicists come up with these amazing, complicated theories that most of us can’t understand, that they believe in, they prove it and we get to believe in. Why shouldn’t an Angel be believed in?”
  • On why she prefers coffee to drugs. “I do not have the physical body/capacity to take lots of drugs or alcohol. I’m not self-destructive. Mum did her best to raise and keep her kids alive. Why would I want to throw this away? Why would I want to stop this? Life is beautiful and life is precious so…I hooked on coffee, believing it gives me a swing-an illusion like French poets in prisons.”
  • “When you travel, you’re never going to see what you expect to see.”
  • On why poets and detectives are more similar than we think. “Poetry requires obsessive concentration. All these thoughts process happening, arranging a puzzle of words to get to the punch line. Detectives are having all these thoughts process, solving a puzzle, to get to the killer. (….) Yeah. I could be watching detectives’ shows right now. I scarified my night with ITV 3.” (Laughs).
  • “When I got to 65 years old, for the first time, I got conscious of chronology. How much time do I have left? I have two kids, I’m a widow. I want to be there for them…and all these things I need to write!”
  • “Books are the most precious thing in the world. The most precious material thing.”
  • “I don’t have a particular religion. I believe everything is possible- it’s up to us where we go.”
  • What would I tell my younger self? “Be more considerate of people-specially my mum”.
  • “I like to write in the morning, when everyone is still sleeping and when everything seems possible.”
  • On the role of engaged artists in moving the crowds. “Things are more complicated today. Before, there was just the radio. Everyone would listen to the same records. Today-there is so much info. People are becoming numb to info.”
  • “Ghandi didn’t make change on his own. People make change. Today people-we have to agree on how to make change. Today I saw on the cover of the New York Times “Greenland is melting.” I don’t care who does it- we have to find a way. Everyone is important-people have to make changes themselves.”
  • “I wasn’t conscious of punk rock. Punk rock is just another word for freedom.”
  • “You don’t need another punk movement. You just need the THING…the ENERGY. It’s bubbling there. You will find it. Every generation has its thing.”

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