New Directions recently re-issued Patti Smith’s book of poems Woolgathering, which has been out-of-print for almost 20 years. The new edition contains a previously unpublished autobiographical short story called “Two Worlds.”
Woolgathering is an evocation of Smith’s childhood and early days in New York City delivered in sensuous prose that flutters at the edge of consciousness like the iridescent wings of a Luna moth. The writing is vivid, intoxicating and haunted.
“I had a ruby. Imperfect, beautiful like faceted blood. It came from India where they wash up on the shore. Thousands of them—the beads of sorrow. Little droplets that somehow became gems gathered by beggars who trade them for rice. Whenever I stared into its depths I felt overcome, for caught within my little gem was more misery and hope than one could fathom.”
In the video below, Patti reads from Woolgathering and shares memories of growing up in Jersey and New York. She is, as usual, totally charming.
This was shot at my favorite bookstore on the planet, the Strand. For 25 years I lived just a few blocks from the Strand and would spend at least 10 hours a week there hunting and gathering. I have the books to prove it. Thousands of them.