Patti Smith’s Ode To Coffee

Patti Smith is many things. A poet. A rock star. A memoirist. A National Book Award Winner. But there’s a side to her that is only revealed in her memoir ‘M Train’ that as a book lover and a coffee-addict, I can relate the most.

She reveals, “I could drink 14 cups without compromising my sleep.”

While I don’t have an appetite for coffee as strong as she does, I can’t help but go back to ‘M Train’ without making yet another cup of black coffee.

The 273-pages-long memoir begins with a simple sentence – “It’s not easy to write about nothing.” Yet her writing is effortless and mesmerizing, transporting you to a time when reading in a cafe with black coffee by your side was signified freedom.



Trapped inside my little room, while I long to visit cafes, to sit and read, and eavesdrop on conversation while sipping on cold black coffee, I pick up ‘M Train’ once again, hoping for a vicarious experience.

The memoir is non-linear and a perfect ode to coffee – black coffee to be precise. Every few pages, you explore another cafe, another day, but the same old urge to devour coffee while writing about nothing. She takes random dreams, and feelings of melancholia and weaves them into little narratives that on art, life, and everything in between.

It is a solo experience on this journey called life, going to hip cafes, reading Murakami and then writing about Murakami, the book is the gateway to the memories of the past that exists in Smith’s head. You see the world through her eyes – completely colorless but beautiful nonetheless.


Via Ladders


She speaks the language of every coffee lover, Murakami lover, book lover, music lover, and someone who loves life utterly. She speaks your language and while it may not be easy to write about nothing, it’s very easy to read her. It’s an ideal read for a reader as she loves mentioning books and authors in ‘M Train’; The Beach Cafe (Muhammad Market), The Thief’s Journal (Jean Genet), Amulet (Roberto Bolano), An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter (César Aira), The Confusions of Young Törless (Robert Musil), and No Longer Human (Osamu Dazai) – were some of the books mentioned. It’s almost like reading a book about reading books, book-inception, if I may.

It’s a book that has an endless pot of coffee with a side of cafe visits, incessant reading, travelling, and a meditation on where she was. It’s a book where dreams and reality merge while creating a perfect concoction of black coffee.

If you notice me mentioning black coffee numerous times, it’s only because this memoir is an ode to Smith’s love for it. It’s about life between two cups. It’s about writing to give oneself something to read. It’s about realizing that some dreams are better off as dreams. It’s about loving and realizing what it means to love long after the person of your affection is long gone.

And as it is for any book lover, “My great quandary was what coat to wear and which books to bring.” You come across intensely relatable moments that make you want to follow in her footsteps, visit the cafes she visited, read the books she read, live the life she leads. While in the current setup that might not be entirely possible, I am determined to read my way through it over and over again.

If you’re struggling to read something, if you are someone who enjoys coffee, and life, then you will enjoy this gem – a perfect read for International Coffee Day.

Feature image via Medium