Where the Words Come From: 02 - Patti Manhattan


We have been getting a lot of questions about the poetry within, specifically regarding the focus of each poem. Are these poems about each woman specifically? Why the Killdeer Mountains? Why lipstick? Why JFK? That's why we wanted to start a series where we talked about where the words came from for each woman and tell the deeper meaning of their story behind the poetry.

We met with Jana on one of those early mornings in July when there is a special cooler morning you savor. The breeze was coming through her window like silk and everything she did seemed warm and slow in comparison. Upon meeting, the first two things I noticed were an old Christmas card on her fridge and a copy of 'Just Kids' on her nightstand. She told us she'd read 'Just Kids' dozens of times, enough to nearly have it memorized. 

I sat with a blinking cursor for a long time after meeting Jana. She had been respectably quiet and working throughout most of her morning, answering questions in long and breezy storytelling - I could have listened to her tell me these stories all day long, deep into a long brunch certainly. She lost me in them and I nearly forgot what we were talking about. 

Understanding Patti Smith's 'Just Kids' was based in New York (it was a delectable favorite of mine as well), it suddenly fell into a pieced puzzle. Jana felt like New York to me. New York in 1967, when Patti Smith sauntered down 5th Avenue and sought St.Mark's Place for cheap food. I have an incredible respect for Manhattan, how it makes me feel smallish and alive. While reading 'Just Kids' the book vortexes me into a New York City I don't quite understand...one that felt full of shadows and hope, a contrast so brilliant it felt overwhelming.

That's how I wanted to write about Jana. And that's how Patti Manhattan came to be. She was the perfect blend of Patti Smith and the city itself. Shadows and parted lips and bashful in black and white - vibrant all over, if you let the day go long.

david puente