Anne Waldman: Poetic Beginnings



just have a little text here so I was a war baby born in 45 poetic disclosure the label of second generation or second generation and a half New York school poet daughter of the beats with strong alliances with the investigative poetics and projective verses thrust of Charles Olsen but I'm not so but I'm not so secretly my own species a hairy bag of water with a few scarves and a restless larynx and I took about at poetry in 1965 at the Berkeley poetry conference I grew up very near here on MacDougal Street clutching a dog tag while taking shelter under my desk at PS 8 and during the air raid drills maybe some of you remember that clutching your your dog tags I think it was a New York thing I'm looking into that and a lifelong interest with my own writing has been one of destabilizing war and patriarchy changing the frequency as it were and in creating temporary autonomous zones of infrastructures for experimental and activists poetic activity the visionary MA left section of Allen Ginsberg's howl written while under the influence of peyote was gripping in the 50s and still is the Canaanite fire God demanded parents sacrificed their children a propitiation of auto-da-fe Allen was also drawing on Blake's allegorical figure your reason with his absolutist satanic mindset and Allen wrote the Jehovah kuiper rationalist judgmental lawgiver creator of spiritual disorder and political chaos his abstract callipers limit the infinite universe to his ego at Horizon I was drawn to the power of poetry in public space in its Incan Tory power struck by how Alan used mantra and other things of that sort Incan to in Cantore devices as a political device I was drawn to resistant poetics and to Shelley's view that the poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the race growing up in Greenwich Village involved in interracial relationships and friendships listening to jazz had an early interest in Buddhism and expanding ones conciousness with mind-altering and Theo Jones I starting to travel to more fella keen worlds in Kerouac sense of those worlds below the border or something like that by an early age I traveled to Egypt in 1963 early 70s to South America and India I felt part of Gary Snyder's rucksack revolution and also to the cultural to cultural and political activism I was intrigued by Burroughs his methodology to the use of dream and montage and subversion of power structures also curious about the work of Diane de prima who I met her in the early 60s and Joanne Kiger I was drawn to what I knew of the ethos of The Beat literary movement and Allen often asked what is it you desire unworldly love that has no hope of the world and cannot change the world to its delight will in Krause Williams Moloch Moloch nightmare of Moloch Moloch the loveless male mental Moloch Moloch the heavy judger of men Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone Moloch whose soul is electricity in banks Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen molecules the mind I was also charmed seduced profoundly moved by the terrific cadence and other beauties of the poetry frank O'Hara the Whitman s candor deceptively insouciant elegiac power of the daylight he died and so many other poems the beautiful organically sustained memory of my feelings this was someone walking around in my city noting its shimmering luminous details ordinary magic of an astute perception with a powerful emotional no-fuss trajectory and I won't read from day lady Dodd I'm sure you all know that and then the wonderful why I'm not a painter where he said he's talking with his artist friend my poem is finished I haven't mentioned orange yet it's 12 poems I call it oranges and one day in a gallery I see Mike's painting called sardines and it was specific poems in John Ashbery the Tennis Court Oath that were particularly riveting for their erasure montage their juxtaposition their complexity their familiarity or similarity to the logics of a dream ellipsis mystery and then the book that seemed very important for a lot of us was a tenant Tennis Court Oath cut-up erasure poems like America and you which destabilized the first person confessional thrust of future language poetry strategies the pear tree moving me I'm around and in my side the gift of the Stars the person are the morsels of this choice rebuked to me I in the apartment the pebble we in the bed the roof rain pills found among moss from America then there were homes like Daffy Duck in Hollywood I'm gonna skip to some of the sort of tropes so this friendship camaraderie artistic collaboration resistance and sometimes outright belligerent to the establishment creating economies a gift culture and the like up against the literary mafias of New York and elsewhere and big-time publishing I remember this great event we had protests at Harcourt brace where they bought and brought the bomb squad we were protesting the price of Phillip Whelan's book it was 1750 and we had to see George Neiman our wonderful painter friend mates on 7th Butte elegant Sun 1750 sucks and they called the bomb squad so some of the a little bit few of the tropes which I you know there are the high energy constructs a term from Olsen and I think these you know as ron was saying these things just it's it's what generates the work and the writing but emphasis on the making the poesis the sheer delight of it hands-on erasure mathematical strategies a lot of the Surrealists the French Lippo thinking of some of those resonances amusement as an attitude be amused be amusing of it a word frank O'Hara used a good deal and a kind of ethos not sneering or cynical or ironical but a healthy stance Kenneth Koch some of Kenneth's poems come to mind a poem was not allowed was allowed to chronicle the history of its own making the mind of the poet could also be the subject of the poem rather than an external theme played out with the beginning middle and end and often an epiphany as with more traditional verse the poems might meander and shift and turn and be a kind of serendipitous adventure rarely a straight narrative line there's a walking around poem form a la Apollinaire or Walt Whitman or open form composition by field coming out of probably originating from malar mays to throw the dice or some of that that quality parallel to indeterminacy and music and painting which parallels the work and interests of radical sentence thinker and composer John Cage writing with an activity a continuous present in Stein's sense at times O'Hara wrote with others around typed as he spoke in the telephone I remember Lee days and my apartment on st. Mark's Place where poet friends stayed on all night collaborating making little books there'd often be two typewriters going there was a lot of small press publishing going on with the poetry project where I started working in 1966 poetry was also seen as a collaboration with language language rather than logic led to certain moves you weren't always at the controls the language pushed on you free association sound over logic semantic plays as well you went to language took you to strange and funny and unpredictable places not so much concern with the final form but an engagement with the medium of language and imagination itself free of heavy historical reference although I felt I really had to go in that more investigative way in these recent projects pseudo mistranslation collage cut-up as in beragon sonnets the work of Burroughs so the methods were similar across a different school these so-called schools and stealing lines from book scrambling lines deleting every second word whiteout technique insight into the nature of language this idea if the relation between word and world or between word and concept was arbitrary one's attitude toward language changed and then to the beats just a few things ought about a graphical hybrid prose epistolary riff lyric polemic satire investigation manifesto memoir caching natural speech rhythms unabashed candor out of Whitman and straightforwardness I write this book because we're all going to die eulogize Kerouac the impulse to make is gathered into decentered in magnanimous gestures through language handed American speech rhythms jazz boxcar boxcar boxcar industrial Rhapsody skillfully cut-up juxtaposition beggary talks of course so the use of mixtures containing spontaneity Bob prosody surreal real images jumps beats cool measures long rapid vows and then Burroughs said at one point there's no doubt that we're living freer in America as a result of The Beat literary movement which is an important part of the larger picture of political change in the world during the past 40 years when a four-letter word couldn't appear on the printed page and minority rights were ridiculous that's a little taste thank you you

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