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Patti Smith

‘I had to teach myself how to use Photo Booth on my computer and film myself reading a poem. I’m sure there are 14-year-olds who can do this in five minutes but it took me quite a while. But I got there and I’m so proud of myself.’

– Patti Smith

In January 2021, Patti Smith presented a major new CIRCA commission on the Piccadilly Lights in London. The installation combined musical performance with poetry which unfolded over 31 days, with two live recorded events: one on the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 2020, and another on the date of the US Presidential Inauguration, 20 January 2021.

Ringing in the New Year with a moving tribute to 100 NHS and healthcare workers who passed away this year from COVID-19, Patti Smith and her Band marked the beginning of 2021 with a 10-minute performance at midnight on the iconic Piccadilly Lights screen. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event was cancelled and was instead streamed online to an audience of +1Million people around the world, via the CIRCA YouTube Channel.

The commission marked the 50th anniversary of Smith’s first poetry recital at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery on 10 February 1971. Each evening, Smith recited a set of poems, filmed at home on her laptop, with words of “Thanksgiving”, said Smith, as well as a personal poem dedicated to Greta Thunberg on her 18th Birthday, 3 January 2021.

‘If we be blind, if we turn from Nature, the garden of the soul, she will turn on us.’

Curated by Josef O’Connor, this CIRCA commission conveyed a story of optimism along with calls for radical action in the face of social and environmental breakdown, coinciding with the end of Donald Trump’s presidency and the start of ‘A New Year‘ after the catastrophes witnessed in 2020.


CIRCA YouTube Channel, Patti Smith


Patti Smith (b. 1946) lives and works in New York City. She is a singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist, known for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. In 1971, her first poetry reading at St Mark’s Church would go on to influence her debut album, Horses, which has since been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone. Her books include Just Kids, winner of the National Book Award in 2010, Wītt, Babel, Woolgathering, The Coral Sea, and Auguries of Innocence. In 2005, the French Ministry of Culture awarded Smith the title of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.


The Guardian, Patti Smith: ‘As a writer, you can be a pacifist or a murdered’ 
Le Figaro, Patti Smith and Anne Imhof, two amazing artists to launch the new year in London
Rolling Stone, Patti Smith Celebrates Inauguration Day With ‘People Have The Power’
Black Book, Inauguration Celebration: Patti Smith Performance Will Stream Worldwide on the 20th – Via London
Monopol Magazine, Patti Smith and Anne Imhof ring in the new year on Piccadilly
Dazed, How to stream Patti Smith’s New year’s Eve Performance
ITV News, Patti Smith to ring in the new year with Piccadilly Circus show
France News Live, Video: Watch Patti Smith’s New Years Mini-Concert
The Art Newspaper, Patti Smith lights up London’s Piccadilly Circus with birthday wishes for Greta Thunberg
Harper’s Bazaar, Patti Smith launches a public art installation dedicated to Greta Thunberg
Dazed, Watch Patti Smith, Ai Weiwei, and more review 2020’s chaos and creativity



Anne Imhof + Patti Smith, New Years Eve
Us 3, by Kai-Isaiah Jamal & Rene Matić, Jan 2020
The Divine Image by William Blake
Patti Smith, (William) Blake Life Mask, 2003
My Blakean Year, LIVE from the NYPL, 2010

Patti Smith, A New Year
Photographs from Patti Smith's first poetry reading
Patti Smith's First Poetry Performance, St. Mark’s [...]

Patti Smith, The Cup
Patti Smith celebrates Greta Thunberg's Birthday
Patti Smith, Devotion, 2017
Chapter 1 of Devotion

Patti Smith, A New Year
Paul Valéry, The Art of Poetry, Introduction by T.S [...]
Paul Valéry, The Art of Poetry, preamble

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith, Memorial Poem to my professor
Self-portrait by Patti Smith, 1969
Patti Smith, Frida Kahlo’s Crutches, Casa Azul, Co [...]

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith, Poetry Reading, 1975
Patti Smith, Horses, 1974
Patti Smith, Horses

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith, The Coral Sea, 2012
Photographs of handwritten original poems from The C [...]
Audio of Patti Smith reading The Coral Sea

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe at The Chelsea H [...]
Chelsea Hotel, 1970, by Albert Scopin
Patti Smith in West Side Stories , 1972

Patti Smith, A New Year
WE MOVE CLOSER, Greta Bellamacina, Jan 9th, 2021
Ben Lerner, The Hatred of Poetry, 2016
Ben Lerner: No Art | Poetry, fiction, criticism, fic [...]

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith, Pissing in a river, original manuscript [...]
Patti Smith, Pissing in a river, 1994
Patti Smith, Zug Island

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith, dylans dog, 1971
Bob Dylan & Patti Smith - Dark Eyes (1995) Live N.Y.

Patti Smith, A New Year
Anne Carson: On Corners, NYPL, 2018

Patti Smith, James Joyce Recital
James Joyce 80th anniversary
Progress Is Not Future: It Is Keeping Up w/ the Pres [...]
Bone of Wood (billboard poem), Robert Montgomery, 20 [...]

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith Reading List
Patti Smith on Authors She Loves

Patti Smith, A New Year
Oscar Wilde x Patti Smith

Patti Smith, A New Year
Y (for Robert Mapplethorpe), 1979 by Patti Smith
Mirror stage, Will Harris, 16th Jan, 2021

Patti Smith, A New Year
100% PLASTIC PEOPLE, Patti Smith and Ivan Král, Amn [...]
Plastic People Of The Universe

Patti Smith, A New Year
Ars Poetica, Horace, c.19 BC
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, The Art of Poetry images

Patti Smith, Just Kids Recital
Just Kids, Patti Smith, 11th anniversary
Pissing in a river, Patti Smith, 1976
Poem by Patti Smith, photography by Frank Stefanko
Star Fever, Patti Smith

Patti Smith, People Have The Power
Antonin Artaud, 1896 - 1948
Antonin Artaud: works on paper, Edited by Margit Row [...]

Patti Smith, A New Year
Eternity, Arthur Rimbaud, May 1872
Patti Smith: Poem about Arthur Rimbaud
Charlie Colville - Patti Smith Launches Us into a Ne [...]

Patti Smith, A New Year
Dolor Desvelado, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe [...]
A Small Entreaty, Patti Smith
The Mast is Down, Patti Smith

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith reading the forward from The One Inside.

Patti Smith, A New Year
Early Morning Dream, Patti Smith, 24 March 1972
A Useless Death, Patti Smith, 1972

Patti Smith, A New Year
Patti Smith reads 'The Tyger' by William Blake, 2011
CIRCA Poem, Wilson Oryema

Patti Smith, A New Year
Gregory Corso, 1930–2001, The Poetry Foundation
Foreword to An Accidental Autobiography: The Selecte [...]

Patti Smith, A New Year
Keith Richards and Patti Smith, Rock Scene, 1978
Wreath, Patti Smith, 1978
Patti Smith, Blues for Keith Richards, 1978

Patti Smith, A New Year
Lono, Patti Smith, unknown date
Baby Ice Dog, Patti Smith, unknown date
Cry me a river, Patti Smith, unknown date
CIRCA Poem, Rachael Allen, 2021

Patti Smith, A New Year
Untitled, Patti Smith

Patti Smith, A New Year
Perfect Moon, Patti Smith, 1995
Patti Smith, John Cale & Ivan Kral - Perfect Moon

Every day throughout the month, you can watch, read and discover more from our CIRCA artists and contributors. Select any day on the calendar to learn more or go back in time and explore the archive.
Patti Smith, A New Year, 2021, Piccadilly Screen, London

Written by Kai-Isaiah Jamal & Rene Matić
1st January, 2021

The two South London-raised artists, spoken word poets and ‘chosen’ siblings Rene Matić and Kai-Isaiah Jamal came together before the end of 2020 to write four letters to each other entitled ‘Us 3’. These poetic correspondences were written in response to Patti Smith’s poetry and her ‘A New Year’ with CIRCA for January 2021. In light of the many social, political and environmental concerns that have taken place over the past twelve months, ‘Us 3’ and ‘A New Year’ together convey stories of optimism and kinship for a disparate world, and make a call for radical action in the face of so much imbalance.


I dreamed of freedom like Patti.

like we knew it was good


Freedom like calm like she said freedom like freedom like no fear like fist in
the air freedom

like success that comes from doing it like

freedom of space

space to work space to love like fruit like freedom to not dream it but be it freedom

like being understood like making sense like this is my dance space freedom

sweet freedom

endless materials freedom like roof tops like poets and paint like freedom

freedom like listening and being listened to

like freedom as desire as writing and thought and being alone and being with her and being with freedom

like rhythm and my hips and yours and strong hands freedom

a vase of freedom a glass of freedom a shot of freedom

like dirty like just as you want it as you feel it freedom like your bedroom with the door shut and our living room with

the window open


like before we knew it was white



deserving freedom

delicate freedom

freedom like dub like blue beat like lovers rock rock steady punk rock rock and roll freedom like obviously


like she says

and obviously running running without lungs like lungs don’t exist so we could just run freedom

and chain smoke freedom

and sit and rest and obviously birds and obviously flying and obviously balloons but also standing and stillness and


and everybody freedom and nobody freedom and no body

beyond body beyond and

breaking through to the other side and the other side and the other side and the other side and the other side and the

other side and

I’ve got other sides freedom

No capital letters no countries no flags

no gods no mothers or whatever your tattoo says

but absolutely mothers

loving mothers

and maybe even gods

gods as lovers as fingers as gods

build ups and crescendo’s and

free money freedom awake in the night freedom

no years no minutes no seconds freedom no gender freedom

steel toe capped boots and knuckle dusters and knives in pockets freedom

no meds freedom

no trauma


they can’t hurt you now can’t hurt you now can’t hurt you now can’t hurt you now freedom

no truths

no traitors


plentiful, like she says and she says it twice freedom

formless freedom

falling failing flailing freedom

feel free to stop me freedom

Kai freedom
sky freedom
my freedom
bye freedom
hi freedom
high freedom

why freedom
because is it a lie, freedom?

‘baffled silence’ freedom Patti?



Oh teeny one.

I believe I should have answers as a sibling, in the same duty I should have words as a poet.

But my whole life I’ve known the vastness of nothing. How sometimes to be nameless and numberless and motherless, thus to belong to nothing that knows your name or the scent of what it was before. Is the only way to be free.
How sometimes that does encompass all of the words
that do not belong to our tongue yet.

Freedom, do be what it be.

Anything can be synonym for it
If you believe in all of the words enough —
Especially the ones that do not belong to your tongue yet.

That are breach and trying to be birthed or waiting to be born.

And if it is the right to write the wrong words,
Then freedom is all of the things you are shouting and also the whisper of gaps between.
Freedom is whatever escapes from the gap in my teeth
In my first or final breath.
Freedom is my breath and how it does not ask to be. To be.

Freedom is us. Us just being kids, being just kids and kids forever.
Because freedom is forever which means it might not be here.
Might need to be somewhere a little more eternal.
Where a son I can be the boy the beast and the butterfly.
But that’s cool baby, that’s okay because freedom is today.
And also tomorrow and also as long as our souls keep living.

How long a soul been in a body?
How many bodies has it been in before it’s been in ours?
How many parts of souls belong to us that are not our own?

I wonder if my soul has ever lived inside your body.
I am sure it has because freedom is comfortable. I feel comfortable least but most with you.
When we are talking about a woman that lives in both of our souls
And her own — all at the same time.
Makes you think of a holy trinity. 3 always feels more like freedom. Unless it’s 3 the mandem.
2 is just too tied and tethered and ankles make me nervous

Like freedom is the geography of your body
But only sometimes.
Remember when I was gonna move the mountains?
Freedom is the knife being in the other hand.

Freedom is the knives in pockets
Becoming flowers.
Freedom is the knives in pockets
Becoming flowers.

Freedom is everything being a poem
everything being something else.
fists becoming knives becoming flowers becoming cocks freedom is believing nothing of it at all.
But trusting you.
and trusting Patti.
and trusting that my liberation
is in your little legs
And my long little legs.

And look I’m running

And not away.
And look we are running
Look we are jumping and dancing toward’s the sound.

I’ll meet you both there. We’ll taste it I promise.

The vinyl hysterically screams.


my just kid kai,

thank you for getting back

i don’t have gaps between my teeth,
i used to though,
i gave all the gaps to my dad.
but that is for another day
another year
‘unblemished by clouds’

we write so much like her, enit?
maybe tonight i’ll dress like her, enit?
white shirt black tie


perhaps that is all a soul is is
similarity familiarity freedom

have you ever bought a record from a charity shop and found the previous owners name on the sleeve? i like that
that is a body that’s been

there is someone else’s name on my ‘easter’ album. there was someone else’s name on you for a while

likkle freedom

vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore freedom

rimbaud said something about us all once
‘a thousand dreams within me softly burn’
like chidera’s rose petal joints
like paris is burning
when silver spoons aren’t there at least knives are
or fists
or flowers
or freedom

it was edgar allen poe that said
‘and all i loved
i loved alone’
and this is patti for me
for you
when we’ve been lonely

and oh god

we are so often lonely

and when we are lonely
we look for things to love
and so we find our 3
3 always feels more like freedom

It’s funny you mention our legs because you look so much like legs to me every part of you has the ability to move

so let’s move
like we moved that day so separately so together
i think i was 17 or something
field day
2015 freedom
2021 freedom

happy new year baby


Even when your ears aren’t listening,
Your body is.
I told Maggie the other day, whilst you were in the bath
that I love being called a kid or kiddo.

Makes me feel like I belong there

[right there]

in someone’s mouth.
Even if they don’t have a gap like mine.

Being called home.

That’s all I ever write about init?

Making it or shaping it or breaking it or ruining it or reclaiming it or not having it or coming to yours and taking up some space.
I keep all my bags half-packed like i’m going somewhere
Everything in piles ready to throw in cases —


I am always packing a bag. I am always in preparation for what is to come.
I am already fist up, tenderly at times.

Isn’t freedom just unpacking your bags?
For ever.
For forever
or some time that feels a little like it.

I have. I also write notes in most records, in hope that one day someone will find it.
Maybe then I have always been writing for you, unknowingly but earnestly.

All in preparation for this.
The holy trinity standing in Victoria park

I had enough time to drop my backpack
Into Jem’s tree house that day.
And all I had was the money in my pocket,
the tobacco at the bottom of the dark green pouch
and a hand loosely in mine.

And there was even less in the backpack
nothing to unpack, really no purpose.
Which felt so fitting. I was carrying a lot of dead weight that summer.

But I went freely into it;
Owning nothing.

Owned by nothing,
with a backwards bruised heart.

Patti says
‘i don’t do nothing perfect’
‘i only fuck up perfect’
on stage
And I know what it is to be home.

Red stripe in black hand.
Surrounded by so much white.
But compromised no green below my feet. Stood my ground to see.
Because if anyone does black and white
It’s Patti right?
And Robert.
And white shirts.
And black ties.
And dark rooms.
And me and you Rene.

Im gonna write
‘Baby Rudeboy’ on my Horses cover
Blood is just permanent ink. You my blood.

Freedom is marking what’s ours.
I would have always found you. We have always been an arm stretch away. Two sides of a stage.

Le monde est à nous.

We know who said it best:

“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”