The poet and punk-rock star Patti Smith has added another string to her bow: bookshop defender. After reading about a break-in at an independent bookshop in Oregon, the musician got in touch to offer her help.

Last month, burglars smashed display cases in Portland’s Passages bookshop and stole more than 100 rare and valuable volumes, including Smith’s complete lyrics, forcing owner David Abel to shut up shop for the next two weeks. Some of the books, he said, were irreplaceable.

A few weeks later, he received a call from New York. “The name didn’t register, I just heard ‘Smith’, and the caller explained that she had seen Doug Perry’s piece about the incident in the Oregonian,” Abel wrote on Facebook earlier this week. “In the week after the story appeared, I’d gotten a few crank calls and emails, so I was a little wary. But when she said she had read that one of her books had been taken, and that she couldn’t replace the missing Warhol but would be happy to send a box of signed copies of her books, I realised that it was Patti Smith calling.”

He was “stunned” to discover his caller’s identity. “That’s so kind,” he told her. “Well, I really love bookstores,” she replied. Abel has now received a box packed with signed first editions of Smith’s books, which have gone on sale. “I’m thinking of them as kindness copies,” he told customers.

On Tuesday, Smith was also announced as the recipient of the 2020 PEN America literary service award, which goes to “a cultural luminary whose work helps us understand and interpret the human condition in powerful and original ways”. The free-speech organisation said it was recognising Smith “for her prolific and multifaceted career, across which she has written arrestingly lucid memoirs and poetry; paired vital literary and raw punk sensibilities in her music; and, through it all, demonstrated an unflinching determination to protest injustice and speak truth”.

The novelist Jennifer Egan, PEN’s president, said that in all of Smith’s “thrilling incarnations – rock goddess, poet, eloquent witness to the bohemian New York of her youth – she has testified to the transformative power of literature in her own life and used her stardom to encourage reading and writing in the legions who revere her”. Smith’s books include her memoir Just Kids, winner of the National Book Award in 2010, The Coral Sea, M Train and last year’s memoir Year of the Monkey.