A New Year
The new year began, as the world fell into a state of unprecedented calm. And the farmer dropped his sickle and froze, witnessing a spectacle overwhelming in its common majesty. The sky was the brightest of blues, unblemished by cloud, the fields stretching before him were as the purest gold and without shadow. The wheat was plentiful and the hive ran with a honey rivaling the gold of the fields. Beyond, the streams were bright and clear as if poured from a crystals infinite center.
The children ceased their play and stood in baffled silence as a host of luminous balloons, wider than great ships, hovered, dipped as if in greeting, then ascended deep into that same blue.
Bowls of bread and fish and fruit materialized in the hands of the hungry. The sun drew the water from raging flood, relieving the saturated earth. The rain satiated drought and the desert flourished. Rivers teamed with fish, pink and plentiful. And the lame ran, the blind spun in a new radiance, and the sick rose refreshed.
The healing worm rose from the clay of creation and the tongue of every living thing brought forth understanding. And laughter rang out and the grieving were comforted. Bells of silver chimed and all bowed their heads, giving thanks. And rainbows circled the earth like the rings of Saturn, and all dipped their fingers into its formlessness and knew that it was good.
Patti Smith, Horses, 1974
In 1974 Patti Smith made history with her first album Horses, a punk poetry album. Her lyrics and her influences from beat poetry brought intellectuality and feminism to the genre, predominantly masculine. Her androgynous, scruffy, “unfeminine” style, was challenging and revolutionary. Though born in an insular downtown milieu, Smith’s view was vast, conducting the poetry of the past—of Rimbaud, the Beats, and rock and roll—into an uncertain future, through the nascent medium of punk rock. The album is “closely associated with the beginning of something,” and yet is “so concerned with endings”: the loss of Jimi Hendrix (at whose studio Smith recorded), and of “other departed counterculture heroes like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones” writes Mac Randall.
She thought of herself as a poet who “got sidetracked” by music. “When I was young,” Smith says, “all I wanted was to write books and be an artist.” But poetry was always central to her work; Horses, she says, “evolved organically” from her first poetry reading, four years earlier, at St. Mark’s Church, alongside Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and other luminaries.