A little mix of punk rock and literature this week with Patti Smith whose love of poetry and prose was the original reason she moved to New York City. She arrived in 1965 from New Jersey, homeless, barely $40 to her name and with big ambitions — to write a book like the ones she read a hundred times as a kid — stories like Alice in Wonderland and Pinnochio — a book that would be in the canon of literature for generations to come.
Despite living in the subways and parks she landed a job as a clerk at Brentano’s Bookstore which was located on Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th Streets — it was there she met Robert Mapplethorpe who caught her eye when he bought one of her favorite necklaces. They crossed paths again near Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, eventually started dating and moved into Mapplethorpe’s Brooklyn apartment in 1967.
Last year, 160 Hall Street in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn was put on the market for $1 million — a far cry from the $80 a month Smith and Mapplethorpe paid while living there.“We had the entire second floor, with windows facing east and west, but its aggressively seedy condition was out of range of experience,” Smith writes in her book Just Kids. “Robert cut a deal with the landlord, agreeing to clean and paint it himself provided we pay only one month’s deposit, instead of the required two. The rent was eighty dollars a month. We paid one hundred and sixty dollars to move into 160 Hall Street. We regarded the symmetry as favorable.”
While living on Hall Street, Smith briefly attended my alma mater, Pratt Institute, while working on her creative writing but still unsure of what medium to express those words. In 1969 she left Brooklyn for the Chelsea Hotel, following in the footsteps of so many literary greats before her. The mysterious medium would finally reveal itself in 1975 when she first married poetry with the punk movement at CBGB’s, inspiring future artists to come.
FUN FACT: She spoke at the Pratt commencement in 2010 which was pretty stellar. Her advice to us graduates? “Be happy, take care of your teeth…you want to be pacing the room because you want to finish that canvas, because you want to make that design, because you want to help your fellow man, not because you need a root canal.”
Who: Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe
Where: 160 Hall Street
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