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Patti Smith Shares Poetry, Recalls Big Apple Roots at Brooklyn Reading

By Ben Fractenberg | August 7, 2012 7:26am

BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK — Author and punk icon Patti Smith apologized for being jet-lagged during her appearance in Brooklyn Monday night.

She had landed in New York from Detroit, where she was celebrating her son's birthday, and then went to the Brooklyn waterfront to give a free reading of poetry and prose from her recent books, "Just Kids" and "Woolgathering."

"This evening I thought it would be very nice to just enjoy what's beautiful, and one of the beautiful things I can't see is, of course, the river, Lady Liberty — and I get you," said Smith with her back turned to the Manhattan skyline, eliciting laughter and applause from the crowd of more than 100 people. "No, I'm really happy to get you. I'm sorry."

However, some fans traveled even farther than Smith to hear the "Grandmother of Punk" read on Monday.

"I came from Germany just to see her," said Marie Oster, 18, who lives in Frankfurt. "She's herself. She never says anything just to please somebody."

Micki Trager, 64, first saw Smith perform in 1975 in the Big Apple.

"She was like nothing I'd ever seen before," Trager said. "The melding of the poetry with the music — she was so dynamic."

There was one other person who could not be there, but whose presence was nonetheless felt.

"Me and Robert [Mapplethorpe] had a place on 23rd Street, right near the Chelsea Hotel," said Smith, recalling her late photographer friend and a subject of "Just Kids."

"I remember looking out the window, and it was like really dusty and dirty. I don't know, it never occurred to me that I could actually wash the window. I accepted it, you know, as sort of like the suffering poets window."