“Devotion (Why I Write),” by Patti Smith
Teaching writing can be challenging. Although it’s relatively straightforward to show aspiring writers the basics (e.g., structure, grammar), helping these authors tap into their creativity is far more difficult. Thankfully, Patti Smith exists to function as a beacon of inspiration. Although a compact 112 pages, the musician/writer’s latest book speaks volumes about her creative motivations and details how she finds inspiration in the world around her.
Written in a stream-of-consciousness narrative manner — sample: “The phone rings, breaking the spell, my flight canceled. I have to make an earlier one. I swiftly get in gear, call a taxi, slide my computer in its case, camera in a sack, and cram the rest into the suitcase” — with some storytelling anchors thrown in for good measure, “Devotion” is spare, elegant and aspirational. Consider it a compressed collection of tips and valuable insights into how Smith approaches crafting her astounding, ornate body of work. Buy it here.
“I Am The Wolf: Lyrics and Writing,” by Mark Lanegan
Post-Screaming Trees, Mark Lanegan has carved out a versatile musical career marked by intriguing collaborations and solo work. This book, which features chapters of lyrics introduced by a page or two of fragmented but enthralling “autobiographical commentary,” is a resonant peek behind the dark curtain.
To preface lyrics to the 2012 album “Blues Funeral,” Lanegan tells of working as a scenic painter for television show sets such as “Biggest Loser,” “Judge Judy” and “Big Brother” — he was fired from the latter for painting a bedroom the incorrect color — and writes, “In the aftermath of a near-death experience, music no longer had any effect on me.” Such a striking statement only lends more mystery and gravitas to Lanegan’s lyrics, which are (rightfully) arranged in “I Am The Wolf” as they would be in a book of poetry. It’s the ideal presentation for artistic work that’s haunting and…