Spontaneous Poetics – (Ted Berrigan Defends Anne Waldman)

Anne Waldman & Ted Berrigan – Photograph by  Gerard Malanga

Ted Berrigan:  Are you making a criticism (of Anne Waldman) on those grounds (set theory, mathematics)?

Allen Ginsberg: Pardon me?

TB: Is he (one of the students) making a criticism (of Anne) on that grounds?

AG: I don’t know.  I think so, yeah

TB: I want you to tell me. I’d like to know who he is.

AG: I’m making a criticism. I’m criticizing Anne’s later poems.

TB: But you’re making it on different grounds, Allen (and your grounds are not valid either), but his grounds..

AG: I’m just saying what I think..

TB: Okay, you think what you’re thinking, that’s only valid, it’s what you’re thinking, whereas she’s speaking (in “Fast Speaking Woman) as a woman there..

AG:  ..that this was a..

TB: She’s being an (archetypal) woman, and then she’s being “Anne Waldman”, at the same time, whereas, in the other one (“Pressure”), it’s just like that she’s a pronoun. She’s herself, you know..

AG: Uh-huh

TB: But in that  one, I mean that’s.. (that might appear) coming on to you, but that’s.. she is..she does.. she’s attempting the shamanistic concept, Allen

AG:  Yes

TB: She’s attempting to speak for all women..

AG: Uh-huh

TB:..and it seems, consequently that  that bulwarks the structure very much

AG: Yeah

TB: And when the juxtapositions may possibly seem facile, it’s true that the faces are different, but there are..there are many more interesting things that she says a woman can be, for example, in that poem, than there are..

AG: Yeah, the virtues of the poem are apparent . The virtues of the poem are already apparent, I think . I’m demurring now on it’s total virtue, in a sense that I think that it’s less interesting on the page and probably depends a good deal on recitation for it to become really live, because, line-by-line, reading it through, it finally becomes a little boring on the page..

Student: Really?

AG:  ..and the only way to mend that was (she does it at a few points)..is..complicate it a little bit, instead of just having “elastic woman, necklace woman, silk scarf woman” – “I’m the woman who works the machine./ I know how to work the machines”..

TB: “I know how to work the machines”, okay.

AG: .. which is, I think, the great line (or one of the great lines) in that . But, at this point, when I first heard her read it, I began thinking it would be interesting if she started making the lines a little denser, because she had already done that in “Pressure”, and I thought that in “Pressure”, that the situation, the original situation, was so penetrant – the idea of “no way out” the entire universe – that all you did have to do was list places in the universe in a weird juxtaposed order and that that juxtaposition of the order would make the excitement. Here the juxtaposition of the order – “I’m a moon woman/ I’m a day woman/ I’m a doll woman/ I’m a dew woman/ I’m a lone star woman / (I’m a) loose ends woman”..” – There isn’t enough tension. It’s just like repeating the line and making changes, but it isn’t mad enough, verbally – and for the eye-ball it isn’t mad enough (because I’ve shown it to, say, kids in France, French translators who say, “The conception is interesting, but, line by line, it doesn’t seem to have the same tension between the lines”.

Student: Alright, alright, but…

TB:  I think that it sings in a different way and that the singing accomplishes there [in “Fast Speaking Woman”] as much as the tension accomplishes in “Pressure” . And the fact that, it’s true, it doesn’t always rise off the page, it’s equally true of “Pressure”, where some things of “Pressure” are going by so fast..

AG: Yeah

TB: ..because of the pace of the poem, that you don’t believe that this person really feels and knows  anything about what she just said there was “no way out” of, except that she’s heard about it.

AG: Hmm

TB: For example, “Joan Sutherland’s astounding voice” – that little molecule of a second that it takes to say that, is not enough to (convince me that..)… and there are a few other examples..

AG:  Well, anyway, does everybody get something of the point I’m trying to make.

Student(s): Yes

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