Today (introduced by Allen Ginsberg) – Anne Waldman reading
Allen Ginsberg: Some of the audience are students from Naropa and some are old friends from Denver and some are strangers. So for the strangers and old friends from Denver, some background here. Actually, all three of us, Anne Waldman, Kenneth Koch, and myself, were in England just a couple of weeks ago and we all read together at Cambridge. And I was coming from a tour of the Continent with Peter Orlovsky – Italy, France – and Anne Waldman and Kenneth Koch went on to.. Glasgow and Durham and read. So, actually, we’ve been wandering around reading, and just got back in the United States a week or two ago, and Anne and I, the day after tomorrow, are taking off and flying to Rome [Castelporziano] to give a big reading with William Burroughs and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso and about fifty other poets, sponsored by the Communist commune government elected in Rome, who were interested in having an international poetry conference. So, in between all these flights and European fantasies, we’re having this little reading here. And some of you know Anne Waldman and some of you don’t, so I’ll introduce her.
She is the co-director of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute, a Buddhist meditation center in Boulder. She’s had a number of books published (one by City Lights, called Fast Speaking Woman – and she has a book of Journals and Dreams, and a long poem called “Shaman” about Bob Dylan, (whom she knows quite well, because she traveled with the Rolling Thunder Revue, and was featured in the movie Renaldo and Clara, which probably passed through here, like a flittering ghost, within the year – I think it showed here, but nobody went to see it and it got really attacked, viciously attacked in the Denver Post).
So, Anne was, for many years, the director of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project in New York in the Lower East Side, (for) almost a decade. She was born in the Lower East Side.. born in Greenwich Village in a classic.. Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village.. and grew up, and saw Gregory Corso when she was a young lady (going to high school, I guess), she saw Corso on the street and she grew up with all the bohemians as neighbors in Greenwich Village, and some, actually.. she knows the literary scene..down..totally..(it) comes in her family [sic]. She was a great executrix editor of Angel Hair books and the co-ordinator of the Poetry Project in New York (as she’s been up here) . And she’s also the editor of a really interesting compilation of lectures made in Naropa called Talking Poetics, where John Cage, Robert Duncan, myself, Ted Berrigan, many many others who visited over the last few years – we recorded what they had to say to the students and published it as a book this year  called Talking Poetics, and Anne edited that. She’s also a very great orator (which is to say, given the right mood, and the right text, and the right situation, she certainly can swing and the wind comes through her bones with great subtlety and violence. So, Anne Waldman, poet.
Anne Waldman: That’s a lot to live up to! – This first work is for all the ladies out there and it’s a poem addressed to the Madonna – (is this better without the sound-system? – no? – ok) – inspired by reading some of Dante‘s love poems (and there are a couple of lines in here stolen from Dante) and it’s called “My Lady” (“I wish to speak to you about My Lady..”…”…I love her tragedies and the way she undoes me, My Lady, My Lady”)
She follows this with “Plutonium Poem” (“This was a Plutonium chant for a Rocky Flats demonstration” (“Fuck Plutonium! Love it? Hate it?…”…”poor, sad, monster eyeballs, reincarnated for a quarter of a million years!”)
Next, a poem incorporating found language – “This poem was wriitten on a limousine ride from the Stapleton International Airport to Boulder. It’s mostly a cut-up of the overheard conversation (actually, it’s more direct than that’) – “May 10th, moon’s nearly full, this is a great time for Scorpios….”…”what a silly town, what silly people, but they do good business, but..”
“I’ve been preparing for this class (that) I’m going to do a second session, on, sort of, shamanistic poetry. It’s quite fascinating, and I don’t know what that means exactly, but I’m trying to figure it out. And this (next) is “Shaman Song”, sort of based on some compilation of texts – (“I’m throwing words around..something is forming..”…”..to me to me to me to heal me up again” (and) this is called “Alphabetico Sudamericano”. It’s about trying to learn Spanish – “Alphabetico Sudamericano” – (“I am young, studying language in the high striped mountains, 0 South America…” ..” looking for the sign of a shoe-maker, a zapatería
“I was making my class write, this last winter, write sestinas. So I’d like to read an old sestina and then a newer sestina. This is a sestina from the ‘Sixties – it’s called “How The Sestina Yawn Works”. Sestina is basically a six-verse poem with six end-words that you repeat in a varying form.The words for this poem are “yawn”,”revolution”, “television” “poetry”, “methadrine” and “personally”. So if you want to follow those words through their permutations and then there’s actually a little three-line coda at the end where you use all six, all six of the words.” – “How The Sestina Yawn Works”- (“I open this poem with a yawn, thinking how tired I am…”… “..war, strike, starvation, revolution.”
“This was written in a train station in Dimitrovgrad (it’s a long way from “methadrine”!). It’s called “Trains and Clouds” and the words in this one -“Dimitrovgrad” “1949”, “about”, “me”, “ambassador”, and “clouds” – (“We have just arrived in Dimitrovgrad…”…”..but I love exotic trains and clouds’).
and this is.. “Skin Meat Bones” – [Anne reads “Skin Meat Bones” in its entirety] – (“I’ve come to tell you of the things dear to me/& what I’ve discovered of the skin/Meat/bones…”)
This is another little formal poem. It’s a cantilena [sic], which is a dispute or dialogue between a man and a woman, between a lover and his lady, and this is written with a Boulder poet named Reed Bye “Cantilena” – (the lady speaks first) (“Lady: I like elegance in dress, in men, the display and play in the phenomenal world…”… “…a poet’s choices lie in his closet, he can pick from there what ain’t too moth-bit”)
Just a few more here. This is by request – “Silver E” (“I’m a mischievous woman, whose heart expires…”… “…we’ll lock gaze rock fire love”)
This is “After the Copper Eskimo, a sort of shamanistic song, song to expel hesitation (“I’m quite unable, I am quite unable…”…….”I am quite unable to wince more pain”).
There’s one other here I’m supposed to read if I can find it – [Anne rifles through her papers] – It’s not here, sorry. I’ll close with.. Ah! here it is – I’ll read this one and then I’ll close with a shorter one. This is called “Swami”, a little travel story (“And I had written the Swami, and I had rented a bungalow a little above the town and waited..”…”..sat by the river, locked in meditation”)
Anne concludes with a brief excerpt from “Fast Speaking Woman” – “I want to read a few lines.. these were lines, that were added to this second edition of Fast Speaking Woman, that I’ve never read before, so I’ll just.. it’s just a few phrases, and this..also comes from..(is) partially inspired by a Mazateca Indian chant, the shaman-ess,Maria Sabana, who takes people on an all-night..mostly, it’s an initiation for women, a sort of all-night..it’s a vigil” – (“I’m the hieratic woman/I’m the hermetic woman/I’m the harvesting woman….”…”The woman inspired inside her house..)