The Story Behind the Photograph I'm Posting Today

Patti Smith is a great writer & performer, one of our living American treasures. On 8 Nov 1998 I drove to San Francisco to attend her appearance at the SF Book Festival and to buy her newly published lyrics book, Patti Smith, Complete. She read five pieces, then sang six songs, backed by Oliver Ray. Just like when I had seen her perform at the Fillmore the previous August 15th, she was totally open, without guile and warmly welcoming, as though we had come to visit her in the parlor of her home. I always feel very grateful to have the privilege of being in her presence.

Of course she talked about the process of creating her book, explaining that she doesn’t use a computer, having typed it all on her manual Royal typewriter. Comparing this to her performance art, she described the machine as her “acoustic typewriter,” which brought laughter from the crowd and made me appreciate that this was truly a handcrafted work by Patti. I thought the image was quite wonderful. 🎸

The very first page of the book is a short quote from “Footnote to Howl,” by her friend Allen Ginsberg. The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!

The second page in the book is a black and white photo of her typewriter, sitting on a dark cloth backdrop, like in a museum. My guess is that she took the picture herself. 📚

After her generous performance, it was time for us to line up to get our books signed. She greeted me like her sister (she is just under 1 1/2 years younger than me) and I told her how much I had enjoyed her Fillmore concert. She beamed and agreed that was a “fantastic show!” Then I told her how much I enjoyed the acoustic typewriter in her talk and suggested she include it in future book signings. She liked that and then signed my book in bold black pen, with a personal touch that blew me away.

I photographed the page she signed this morning, so you could all see it.