The Chapman Conference Center at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus was abuzz on the first night of the Book Fair as fans eagerly awaited the arrival of award-winning author, poet, singer/songwriter Patti Smith.
She was the final speaker of the Evenings With kick-off evening, and as Mitchell Kaplan, the Miami Book Fair’s founder and owner of Books & Books introduced the iconic artist, the room had filled to capacity.
As she made her way up to the microphone, the audience broke out in applause at which Smith seemed almost shy to receive, a reaction that seemed both surprising but also expected.
Patti Smith reading at Miami Book Fair 2017 (Photo courtesy of Miami Book Fair)
The evening turned out to be a window into Smith’s soul, as she read passages from several of her books, including her latest “Devotion,” which she explained “has several themes.” And then from “M Train,” a book about her times in New York with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
“The subject was devotion to books, writing, and friends,” was how she replied when asked about “Devotion.”
She read several passages from the latter while she also shared how she met Mapplethorpe in 1967, when they became inseparable -- how he loved Motown and she loved Madame Butterfly and their life together in New York. She recalled the small apartment they shared, where they each would go on to build their lives as artists.
Woven into her introspective but also very funny talk were moments of sing along. At one point, she led the audience in a rendition of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You;” then after the Q&A time with the audience, came a few pivotal and unforgettable moments to close the evening.
She concluded her time on the stage by reading a touching letter she wrote to Mapplethorpe in the final weeks before his death, then closed by singing her hit song “Because the Night” and asking the audience to join in, once again.