Caryn Rose, "Why Patti Smith Matters" (U of Texas Press, 2022)

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Patti Smith arrived in New York City at the end of the Age of Aquarius in search of work and purpose. What she found—what she fostered—was a cultural revolution. Through her poetry, her songs, her unapologetic vocal power, and her very presence as a woman fronting a rock band, she kicked open a door that countless others walked through. No other musician has better embodied the “nothing-to-hide” rawness of punk, nor has any other done more to nurture a place in society for misfits of every stripe.

Why Patti Smith Matters (University of Texas Press, 2022) is the first book about the iconic artist written by a woman. The veteran music journalist Caryn Rose contextualizes Smith’s creative work, her influence, and her wide-ranging and still-evolving impact on rock and roll, visual art, and the written word. Rose goes deep into Smith’s oeuvre, from her first album, Horses, to acclaimed memoirs operating at a surprising remove from her music. The portrait of a ceaseless inventor, Why Patti Smith Matters rescues punk’s poet laureate from “strong woman” clichés. Of course Smith is strong. She is also a nuanced thinker. A maker of beautiful and challenging things. A transformative artist who has not simply entertained but also empowered millions.

Caryn Rose can be found on Twitter and you can read her work in her newsletter.

Rebekah Buchanan is a Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.

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