A writer, performer, and artist, Patti Smith has recorded twelve albums, exhibited her drawings, and published many books, including Coral Sea, Witt, Babel, Auguries of Innocence, and Just Kids, which last year won the National Book Award. Smith lives in New York City.
In this small, luminous memoir, the National Book Award–winner Patti Smith revisits the most sacred experiences of her early years, with truths so vivid they border on the surreal. The author entwines her childhood self—and its "clear, unspeakable joy"—with memories both real and envisioned from her twenties on New York’s MacDougal Street, the street of cafés.
Woolgathering was completed, in Michigan, on Patti Smith’s 45th birthday and originally published in a slim volume from Raymond Foye’s Hanuman Books. Twenty years later, New Directions is proud to present it in an augmented edition, featuring writing that was omitted from the book’s first printing, along with new photographs and illustrations.
As if the reader were riding shotgun, this intensely vivid novel captures a life on the lam. “L’astragale” is the French word for the ankle bone Albertine Sarrazin’s heroine Anne breaks as she leaps from her jail cell to freedom. As she drags herself down the road, away from the prison walls, she is rescued by Julien, himself a small-time criminal, who keeps her hidden. They fall in love. Fear of capture, memories of her prison cell, claustrophobia in her hideaways: every detail is fiercely felt.
Astragal burst onto the French literary scene in 1965; its fiery and vivacious style was entirely new, and Sarrazin became a celebrity overnight. But as fate would have it, Sarrazin herself kept running into trouble with the law, even as she became a star. She died from a botched surgery at the height of her fame. Sarrazin’s life and work (her novels are semi-autobiographical) have been the subject of intense fascination in France. Patti Smith, who brought Astragal to the attention of New Directions, contributes an enthusiastic introduction to one of her favorite writers.
New Directions is pleased to announce the relaunch of the long-celebrated bilingual edition of Rimbaud’s A Season In Hell & The Drunken Boat — a personal poem of damnation as well as a plea to be released from “the examination of his own depths.” Rimbaud originally distributed A Season In Hell to friends as a self-published booklet, and soon afterward, at the age of nineteen, quit poetry altogether. New Directions’ edition was among the first to be published in the U.S., and quickly became a classic. Rimbaud’s famous poem “The Drunken Boat” was subsequently added to the first paperbook printing. Allen Ginsberg proclaimed Arthur Rimbaud as “the first punk” — a visionary mentor to the Beats for both his recklessness and his fiery poetry. This new edition proudly dons the original Alvin Lustig designed cover, and a introduction by another famous rebel — and now National Book Award-winner — Patti Smith.
For all his charm and intelligence poet Gregory Corso lived a vagabond life. He never held down a regular job. Until his final years, he rarely stayed very long under the same roof. He spent long stretches––some as long as four or five years––abroad. Many of his letters came from Europe––France, England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece––as he kept in touch with his circle of friends––among them his best friends Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He left (or was left by) a number of girlfriends and he gathered five children along the way. He was apt to raise a bit of a ruckus at poetry readings and other public events. No one could be sure what he might do next except that he would write poetry and get it published and that it would be widely read. When the idea of a book of selected letters was first proposed, Gregory had some reservations about it. Would the book reveal too much about his private life? But then with typical hubris he said the equivalent of "let it all hang out" and "all" does hang out in An Accidental Autobiography. The book is indeed the next thing to an unplanned self-portrait and gives a lively sense of the life Gregory Corso led, marching to his own drummer and leaving in his wake such marvelous books of Beat poetry as The Happy Birthday of Death, Elegiac Feelings American, Long Live Man, and Herald of the Autochthonic Spirit.