Patti Smith Molly Russakoff

Patti Smith and Molly Russakoff

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Double Philly Poetry Thanksgiving Eve: Patti Smith at the Free Library and Molly Russakoff at Fergie’s Pub. 

Anyone interested in the fine art of the spoken word has had, and will have, a pretty great Thanksgiving week if Tuesday and Wednesday – Thanksgiving Eve – keeps its promise. On Tuesday, that meant one-time Germantown native, Patti Smith, and on Wednesday that means South Philly’s Molly Russakoff reading from their work and delighting fans, old and new.

Patti Smith was in town for a sold-out “Songs and Stories” session at the Parkway Central Library to town to discuss and read from A Book of Days, her just-published collection of 366 photographs taken over the course of a single (leap) year which portray Patti Smith’s artistic passions, intimate daily reflections, and celebrations of obscure places and beloved objects. 

Sitting in the front row of the Free Library’s auditorium, I had a close-up look at Smith – with her Band’s multi-instrumentalist Tony Shanahan on acoustic guitar – poring through the thought bubbles in her head, collecting her thoughts and improvising her way through more than a dozen tales based on the photographs that make up her life, many of which were culled from childhood memories of Germantown and South Jersey. Porcelain dove figurines reminded Smith of her father and his interaction with birds in their family’s backyard. Her mother’s heavy brass “B” (for Beverly) key chain fob reminded Smith of her mom coming home from work as a waitress. 

Patti Smith Molly Russakoff

Detailed recollection as such is precious to Smith, which was all part of why she themed the night’s program around the topic of “gratitude.” Smith also humorously answered many silly questions from the audience, sang Dylan songs along with her own “People Have the Power” (co-written with her late husband, guitarist Fred Smith), and reminded the crowd that November 22 was the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one of the first deep hurts of the young Patti Smith’s life.

Tonight, things promise to be no less poignant or raucous as Molly Russakoff – a published poet with Beat Gen accreditation from the Naropa University in Boulder, and the co-owner of Molly’s Books and Records in the Italian Market with her husband and drummer Joe Ankenbrand – will be reading from her recently completed novel manuscript, Red Tape. Russakoff is a smart and sharply emotive poet, so I expect nothing less from her novel. 

Patti Smith Molly Russakoff
Molly Russakoff

What should be doubly amusing, however, is that Russakoff’s gig – part of the Moonstone Poetry Reading with fellow Philly writers David Acosta, Chris Bullard, and Colin Morgan, is being held at Fergie’s Pub at 1214 Sansom Street starting at 7 pm November 23 – Thanksgiving Eve, the busiest bar night in Philly next to New Year’s Eve. And at Fergie’s yet.

Expect madness.


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