Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Patti Smith, fully Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith

American Writer, Poet, Recording Artist, Singer-Songwriter and Visual Artist

"As all before me, I have questioned, grateful for the privilege of being able to ask: What is my task? Why do we exist? All answers produce the pain of recognition, emptiness and joy."

"Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine."

"For life is the best thing we have in this existence. And if we should desire to believe in something, it should be a beacon within. This beacon being the sun, sea, and sky, our children, our work, our companions and, most simply put, the embodiment of love."

"I believe that we, that this planet, hasn't seen its Golden Age. Everybody says its finished ... art's finished, rock and roll is dead, God is dead. Fuck that! This is my chance in the world. I didn't live back there in Mesopotamia, I wasn't there in the Garden of Eden, I wasn't there with Emperor Han, I'm right here right now and I want now to be the Golden Age ...if only each generation would realise that the time for greatness is right now when they're alive ... the time to flower is now."

"Who can know the heart of youth but youth itself?”"

"Freedom is...the right to write the wrong words."

"In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth. For nothing is more precious than the life force and may the love of that force guide you as you go."

"Make your interactions with people transformational, not just transactional."

"The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It's the artist's responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation."

"In the war of magic and religion, is magic ultimately the victor? Perhaps priest and magician were once one, but the priest, learning humility in the face of God, discarded the spell for prayer."

"These things were in my mind from the first moment I entered the vocal booth. The gratitude I had for rock and roll as it pulled me through a difficult adolescence. The joy I experienced when I danced. The moral power I gleaned in taking responsibility for one's action."

"We feared that the music which had given us sustenance was in danger of spiritual starvation. We feared it losing its sense of purpose, we feared it falling into fattened hands, we feared it floundering in a mire of spectacle, finance, and vapid technical complexity. We would call forth in our minds the image of Paul Revere, riding through the American night, petitioning the people to wake up, to take up arms. We too would take up arms, the arms of our generation, the electric guitar and the microphone."

"A day doesn't go by where I don't create something."

"A lot of children don't have a developed aesthetic. I did. I made early choices in life, even about cloth; I liked flannel and not polyester."

"A writer or any artist can?t expect to be embraced by the people. I've done records where it seemed like no one listened to them. You write poetry books that maybe 50 people read. And you just keep doing your work because you have to, because it?s your calling. But it?s beautiful to be embraced by the people. Some people have said to me, ?Well, don?t you think that kind of success spoils one as an artist? If you?re a punk rocker, you don?t want to have a hit record??? And I say to them, Fuck you! One does their work for the people. And the more people you can touch, the more wonderful it is. You don?t do your work and say, I only want the cool people to read it. You want everyone to be transported, or hopefully inspired by it. When I was really young, William Burroughs told me, Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don?t make compromises. Don?t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work. And make the right choices and protect your work. And if you can build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency."

"Acknowledge all man as fellow creation, but don't follow him."

"Actually, the only time I ever tried to cultivate being sexy was when I read Peyton Place. I was about sixteen and I read that this guy's watching this woman walk and he can tell she's a good fuck by the way she walks. It's a whole passage. He's telling Allison McKenzie, I know you're a virgin. And she says, Well, how? And he says, I can tell by the way you walk. And I thought, Uh-oh, everybody knows! I was ashamed to be a virgin, so I tried to cultivate a fucked walk. I tried to figure out what it looked like. I figured I'd watch any hot woman I could. I mean, look at Jeanne Moreau. You watch her walk across the street on the screen and you know she's had at least a hundred men. (Penthouse interview, 1976)"

"A lot of my audience are in their 50s. But they want me to pretend to continue to be pretending."

"All I've ever wanted, since I was a child, was to do something wonderful."

"Americans just don't know what being a movie star's all about."

"An artist may have burdens the ordinary citizen doesn't know, but the ordinary citizen has burdens that many artists never even touch."

"An artist is somebody who enters into competition with God. The guy who built the Tower of Babel was the first artist. If I had to check out where I was in other centuries, I was his old lady. If I wasn't the guy, I was his chick. He knew that there was more and God got jealous. Even gods get uptight. Women make gods uptight. Everyone thinks of God as a man -- you can't help it -- Santa Claus was a man, therefore God has to be a man. But a man comes once. A woman never stops coming."

"An artist wears his work in place of wounds."

"Angel looks down at him and says, Oh, pretty boy, Can't you show me nothing but surrender?"

"Artists are traditionally resistant to labels."

"As an artist, I used to think that my responsibility was to do good work. But I had to learn from the '70s on that being a public figure presents another aspect of responsibility."

"As I grew up, one of my strongest allies has been my sister."

"As far as I'm concerned, being any gender is a drag."

"Besides me wanting to be an artist, I wanted to be a movie star."

"Bringing good news is imparting hope to one's fellow man. The idea of redemption is always good news, even if it means sacrifice or some difficult times."

"Both of them were ahead of their time, but they didn't live long enough to see the time they were ahead of."

"Both of us [Patti and Robert] had given ourselves to others. We vacillated and lost everyone, but we had found each other again. We wanted, it seemed, what we already had, a lover and a friend to create with, side by side. To be loyal, yet free."

"Ask me anything."

"Christianity made us think there's one heaven."

"But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revalation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not."

"Christ was a man worthy to rebel against, for he was rebellion itself."

"C'mon, I mean who didn't listen to 'The Who' in the 60s?"

"Deep in my heart how the presence of you shines, in a light to last a whole life through."

"Even as a child, I knew what I didn't want. I didn't want to wear red lipstick."

"Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe, love is a banquet on which we feed."

"Everyone thinks of God as a man - you can't help it - Santa Claus was a man, therefore God has to be a man."

"Everyone has a creative impulse, and has the right to create, and should."

"Everything comes down so pasteurized everything comes down 16 degrees they say your amplifier is too loud turn your amplifier down are we high all alone on our knees memory is just hips that swing like a clock the past projects fantastic scenes tic/toc tic/toc tic/toc fuck the clock!"

"Finally, by the sea, where God is everywhere, I gradually calmed."

"Everything distracted me, but most of all myself."

"First of all, anybody who has lasted 30 and went through the 60's is really a survivor."

"Fred and I raised our children ourselves, and we went through the same kinds of firings other people did, including financial difficulties."

"For a time Robert protected me, then was dependent on me, and then possessive of me. His transformation was the rose of Genet, and he was pierced deeply by his blooming."

"From the dead of winter till the renewal of spring, we grappled and prevailed until we found our stride. As we played, the songs took on a life of their own, often reflecting the energy of the people. The atmosphere, our growing confidence, and events that occurred in our immediate terrain? The night, as the saying goes, was a jewel in our crown."

"From very early on in my childhood - four, five years old - I felt alien to the human race. I felt very comfortable with thinking I was from another planet, because I felt disconnected - I was very tall and skinny, and I didn't look like anybody else, I didn't even look like any member of my family."