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Just Kids

Last update - Tuesday, March 1, 2011, 22:03 By Metro Éireann

By Patti Smith (Bloomsbury)

Do you remember Patti Smith? The American punk-rock goddess of the ’70s and ’80s? I suppose she belonged to the acolytes of a particular scene and few outside that group would be too familiar with her music or poetry. Nevertheless, if you grew up in Europe or the States in those times it would’ve been hard to not have heard of her at least.
This writer was a devotee – even though I was too young to know her at the time. Yet once I had found her she had a radical influence on my life. From the walls of my teenage bedroom she peered out beaming strength and independence.
To me Patti Smith was an amalgamation of many of my aspirations and hopes for the future. She could do it all. Not only was she a she, but she sang, she drew, she wrote poetry and was the personification of ‘f-you’ energy, which just fit my teenage search for an alternative identity perfectly.
Even today, far from my teenage years, Patti Smith still holds a very special place in my personal mythology, even if that early blind reverence is no longer there. Even after reading this book – in which she reveals herself as being far from the rebel that I and many others envisioned of her, and which remade, and perhaps humanised, her for me – she remains a steady comrade-in-arms.
Just Kids tells the story of the relationship that Patti Smith had with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In the late 1960s they both ended up in New York City in search of a future in art. Soon their paths crossed and the support that they could offer each other turned out to be lifeblood of their destined careers. They fumbled their way forward, searching for an exact calling, without really knowing how or when, just that it would eventually lead them to great heights.
Patti was always mostly focused on writing and Robert on the making of things. Robert was always more adventurous and questioning whereas Patti steered a fairly balanced way through the excesses on offer at that time. They complimented and had so much love for each other it seems that even when their romantic relationship ended it had little direct effect on their symbiotic entwinement.
Art is where it was at, and that is where they together went, completely convinced.

Jeanette Rehnstrom is a writer and freelance journalist. More information about her work and the Irish Writers’ Exchange can be found at

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