The undoubted artistry of Patti Smith is not lost on us here at Far Out Magazine. Her ability to create both literary and musical prose which has us feeling the same guttural lurches that inspired mitosis is almost unstoppable. So when we found this wonderful 1978 poem for Keith Richards, titled ‘WREATH’, we knew we were in for a treat.
Smith’s recent memoir ‘Just Kids‘, which focused on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and New York City and also won her numerous literary awards, alongside her poignant lyrics are a testament to Smith’s command of language. Patti is also a sincere and authentic poet who is capable of stirring the basest of cries and loftiest of ambitions. Her “POEM FOR KEEF” is no different.
The poem first appeared as part of a special issue of Rock Scene in early 1978 and, aside from Dangerous Minds, is virtually unseen online. That article offers a little context on Rock Scene, which by all accounts, was a magazine for rock fanatics. Now, we don’t mean that in an old dude with a beer belly making the “horns” at every opportunity kind of fanatic. We mean back in the 70s no phones, no internet, no streaming, just give me anything about music you can… kind of fanatic.
The magazine was by all intents and purposes a fanzine of sorts, but instead of focusing on pop bands like Bay City Rollers or Donny & Marie they focused on Blue Oyster Cult, Sex Pistols, Television, and so many more. The kind of magazine which boasted about the number of photos it would have in each issue – Smash Hits for those who’d rather smash shit. The mag would come out every two months and add a particular focus on the insider parties and the ‘scene’ as much as offering critiques on the music.
It was in one of these issues that Patti Smith, an unstoppable member of the New York City punk scene and a perpetual poet, debuted her poem for legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. On the front of said issue, it’s highlighted as ‘PATTI SMITH: POEM FOR KEEF’ and we couldn’t be happier about them using his correct moniker on the front cover at least, as throughout the magazine itself they call him ‘Keith Richard’ leaving the ‘s’ off his name.
But in the same issue, the magazine would print one of Patti’s poems which would never be published anywhere else. It doesn’t appear in WITT, or Early Work, 1970-1979 or even in Babel. As far as Patti is concerned this poem lived and died in the pages of Rock Scene’s February 1978 issue.
But below you can read that very poem and add to it your own gravitas, subtract your own meaning or just slam on some Stones and live on the “hills of rif” with Patti Smith’s 1978 poem about Keith Richards, ‘WREATH’.
on the hills of rif we come to greet you
through the halls of myth we choose to roam
crown of thorns
shroud of love
our gifts we offer
and the waters of life
on the hills of rif we call, undefeated
crown of thorns
kreed of love
and language comb
on the hills of rif we rise
ja-kiss your face of light and bone