Woolgathering is a curious little book. Patti Smith wrote it, on demand, for the publisher of Hanuman Books who was a friend. The books were as small as chapbooks so she wrote something more like runes or fragments of poems than a continuous story.
Parts of it read like a nervous breakdown set to words.
Some of it is poetry.
Most is reminiscence and reflection but some seems made up.
The language is oddly mannered, European and old-fashioned, sprinkled with jarring words like ‘kink’ and ‘hairy’ and discordant images like ‘razor blades’ and ‘walkie-talkie.’
She circles back again and again to rubies and blood. She tells a heartbreaking story of the death of her childhood dog. She moves in some mystical fog and dreams about dancing on clouds.
Reading Woolgathering, I was alternately irritated and fascinated. Is this book a spell or a self-indulgence? I couldn’t tell. But a few bits about India I recognized. And cattail punks and minnows from the creek of my own childhood I remembered.
I decided it was an artifact, a thing mind-made or handmade in a slow time out of time. It holds blurry photographs from family albums. The focus is off, just slightly, a metaphor for another way to see.
Woolgathering Patti Smith | New Directions Books 2011