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The poetry of rock 'n' roll is lost on me when it comes to Patti

THE point where poetry and music meet has long been a problematical area.

We could go back to when people lost the run of themselves by proclaiming that Bob Dylan's self-conscious ramblings deserved to be treated as the equal of Dylan Thomas (several of whose poems were beautifully set to music by John Cale) or WB Yeats (ditto by the Waterboys), whereupon Dylan himself had the good sense and grace to describe Smokey Robinson as "America's greatest living poet".

Simple lyrics allied to a great tune and vocal means that a song can be greater than the sum of its constituent parts. However, it's a different matter when people who started out in the poetry racket decide to broaden their earning opportunities by sticking a few rudimentary chords behind their verses and chancing their arm in the musical arena.


The most successful example is Leonard Cohen, who's back to Ireland this summer for three gigs in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, while the career of Patti Smith is intriguing.

The burgeoning punk scene allowed lots of offbeat artists the opportunity to reach a wider audience, and Smith is a classic example of an against-the-odds outsider achieving mainstream success. Back in the day, I witnessed a reverential audience in the Project Arts Centre indulge Smith in what could only be described as a load of pretentious beatnik babble -- so any of you thinking of heading along to see her in the company of her old chum Sam Shepard -- best of luck.

>George Byrne

An Evening of Readings and Songs featuring Patti Smith and Sam Shepard takes place in the Abbey Theatre on Monday