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Patti Smith and Greta Thunberg

Watch Patti Smith recite the poem she wrote for Greta Thunberg’s birthday

The punk icon reads The Cup, which she says was ‘written with great urgency’ – much like the activist’s climate campaign

On Sunday (January 3), Greta Thunberg celebrated her 18th birthday with a characteristically sarcastic tweet. “Tonight you will find me down at the local pub exposing all the dark secrets behind the climate, and school strike conspiracy, and my evil handlers who can no longer control me,” she joked, referencing the right wing belief that she’s being manipulated by her parents. Now, to celebrate the activist’s milestone, Patti Smith has dedicated another poem to her.

In a video recital of the piece, titled The Cup, Smith says the poem was “written with great urgency”, which is why she’s dedicating it to Thunberg. “Her message for us all, a message we must all embrace,” the punk icon continues, “is one of action, of a school girl who stepped out on her own, and appealed to us all to save our earth together.”

Smith goes on to read the poem, which includes the line: “If we be blind, if we turn away from nature, the garden of the soul, she will turn on us.” The musician then lists a number of critical climate disasters, including rainforest and peatland fires, rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

“Species will die,” she concludes, “the bee and the butterfly driven to extinction. All of nature nothing more than an empty husk, the unholy ghost of an abandoned hive.”

This isn’t the first poem Smith has dedicated to Thunberg. In January last year, the artist wrote a piece specifically for the activist’s birthday, which began: “This is / Greta Thunberg, turning / seventeen today, asking / for no accolate, no gifts, / save we not be neutral.”

Smith’s new work is created as part of her month-long residency with digital art platform Circa. On New Year’s Eve, the artist staged a 15-minute performance, which was streamed live via Circa’s YouTube channel. The show also saw Smith share a NYE message and pay tribute to NHS and healthcare workers.

Last year, Circa launched its first exhibition on the giant electronic billboard in London’s Piccadilly Circus, and announced its plan to commission a new artist every month. This month, Circa is exploring the impact of poetry on Smith’s artistry, and will examine a rarely seen selection of works written by her over the past 50 years. Four limited edition prints have been created to celebrate her residency, priced at £100 and available from Circa’s online shop throughout January.

Yesterday (January 5), Circa released a new interview with Ai Weiwei – who’s also featured in the project – Hans Ulrich Obrist, Josef O'Connor, Cauleen Smith, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Eddie Peake, Anne Imhof, and Patti Smith. The hour-long video saw the artists and curators reflect on 2020 and how technology played an integral role in keeping us all connected.

Find out more about Circa’s 2021 programme on its website and watch Patti Smith’s recital of The Cup above.