Makeup on Empty Space: Poetry Reading Night

“Poetry can be a transmission to help you notice things.”
–Anne Waldman, 22 April 2017, Pensacola State College, at The Lyceum

Last night, I attended a poetry reading by poet, Anne Waldman, whose workshop I attended Friday.  I don’t write about these things so much to report, but rather to highlight the impact the event had on me.

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Anne’s son, Ambrose Bye, played the piano, which added to the ambiance, and behind them, flashed images of what she called a “family album”, or “honorary album”–pictures of poets, brain diagrams (which the medical student in me appreciated), indigenous peoples, nature (and perhaps environmental devastation–I’m not sure), so one could say that Anne had the three “poeias” down (words, music, images). 

One of the lines that captured me was “her century needed her to see above the height of the grass” which conjured up images of antitheses to anti-Christs (the latter who may always come in the form of a man).

Her poetry was written (and performed, rather than recited) in a woman’s spirit.  It wasn’t even her words so much that moved me, but the musicality of her words.  At heart, I am a storyteller; I like characters, and so many of my poems read like stories, so I saw, or rather heard, the expression of poetry in a new way.

The only thing that wasn’t for me were the chants, because it reminded me of speaking in tongues (except hers weren’t creepy).

She opened with singing the “Anthropocene Blues,” which sounded like an old-time religion church hymn.  (Btw, anthropocene is the name for the geological time we’re living in, where mankind has a significant impact on the environment.)

She also spoke on the theme of “archive,” which she defined as “an antithesis to a war on memory.”  We are living in a technological age where our words will be out there forever, which makes me very happy as a writer, but probably wouldn’t if I were a politician.  Politicians often wage a “war on memory” by trying to con their constituents/employers, saying they never said (insert inflammatory statement) if they did, as there is usually video to back it up.

Her poem on suffering was recited in a way that made me think of bullets being shot or bombs being dropped in rapid succession.  No, we don’t want to be seen as the age when people were killing each other or destroying the planet, though every age since the beginning of time can claim the mantle of the former.  We just have the power now to execute the latter.

One of Anne’s refrains was “pushing against the darkness”; I think of poetry as a way of illuminating the world.  It is the color where there is only black-and-white.  (The movie Pleasantville comes to mind.)

She recited what she called a “feminist love poem” about the g-spot (reminiscent of an apostrophe poem), which she described as a “genie trapped in a bottle.”

I concur.

I learned that the manatee is related to the elephant , and what human doesn’t love a herbivorous animal and one that won’t kill you for the hell of it?  She made a good point about man having no use for the manatee, which I took as an an allegory for how humans judge one another’s worth–by their perceived usefulness or productivity (even to them).

Because racehorses have use for man, men breed them.

There was a question-and-answer session at the end, and, as Jamey Jones, the local Poet Laureate put it, “Anne really cares.”  She believes in her work, and that poets can change the world.

I will say that it already has, for is not the Bible a book of poetry?  Does that mean something has to be packaged as religion, or absolute truth, to change the world?

Something to think about.

About myself, and poetry: What I learned at an Anne Waldman workshop

“Out of a very small thing you can create a whole world…it can be as modest as a book of matches.”
–Anne Waldman, 21 April 2017, Pensacola State College

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop given by world-renowned poet, Anne Waldman (http://www.annewaldman.org/).  My poetry class, taught by local Pensacola Poet Laureate, Jamey Jones, is studying “Fast Speaking Woman.”

I must admit, my initial reaction of “Woman” was one of bewilderment.  It was like a book of spells, or chants.  However, upon recursive reading, and especially after reading it aloud in class, I grew to appreciate this pocket book of list poems (and essays) in the same way I appreciate Shakespeare.

I see “Woman”  as performance poetry–something to be shared, not read in solitude.  It is a sort of litany of the “every woman.”

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Me, holding my autographed copy.  This will be the first textbook since I’ve been in college I’ve chosen to keep.

I think the problem with poetry is that only other poets (or faculty from English Departments) read it or listen to it, unlike novels, which even the worst non-writers will read.

Perhaps it’s because one can speed through a book and “get it,” but with poetry, one must slow down (even if the poet is a “fast-speaking woman”).  We live in a world where captions and headlines are the most read items in the newspapers.

I say, I’ve never been interested in being part of a book club, but there is something about poetry that brings people together.  It connects people in a way books do not–perhaps because of the very personal nature of the art form.  Books are inside me, but I am inside my poems.

Poetry is my aura.

One thing I learned before Anne arrived is that one doesn’t miss out on anything by arriving early, because I met Robin, an artist (see below), who did a phenomenal pen ink drawing of Anne.

Now, why do I write and not draw?  Because I can’t hit backspace.  Perhaps that’s the perfectionist in me, for I won’t even read my articles after they’re published in the student newspaper out of fear I will catch a typo.

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Robin, having presented Anne Waldman with her portrait.

Even though I am majoring in Health Information Technology, I need writing in my life to help me stay awake enough to do the work that will help me support my family, even as the arts support me.

~

We are living in an exciting time.  “We’re all feeling the interconnectedness of our world,” Anne said.  She went on to talk about multiverses and exoplanets, and all the information and knowledge (or access to knowledge) available to us.  Even just learning a new word has inspired me to write an entire work.

Furthermore, she said it was an exciting time to be an investigative, or field, poet, but as for me, I will stick to writing about “the verities,” or the things that transcend time.

Though my primary focus is a career in one of the STEM fields, art is (almost) as essential to me as breathing, for can you imagine a life without art or music or poetry?  Such are like that last moment of twilight.

Anne said, “I want to live in a reality where I can create another world.”  This resonated with me.  Perhaps growing up in near poverty, I, like Francie Nolan (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), created multiple universes I could slip into at will.  I didn’t just slip through time and space, but through time and space.  I could be anywhere, any time. This was my way of “having it all,” and all at once.

~

Anne had us write a genealogy poem (how many times have I had to tell people I am NOT named after the cake and pie lady?).  The fun was in the sharing.

She also taught us of the three “poieias” (which I had never heard of because I am not an egghead, though I wish I were):

Logopoeia:  words
Melopoiea:  music
Phanopoeia:  image

She explained the philosophy (rather than the structure, which I’ve always found to be a bit of a drag) of a haiku:

Heaven (5 syllables)
Earth (7 syllables)
Man (5 syllables; man connects the first two lines)

I appreciate this form now (though my Irish heart will always have a fondness for the limerick).

I also learned about different poetic art forms, where it isn’t just about content, but the way the words look on a page.  She mentioned a poet (whose name I cannot remember) who wrote a poem about rain, the words written like rain dripping down the page.

One of the scribblings produced from this came to me in the form of a mere “thought poem,” which I call, “A New Era.”

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I like the idea of “creating something beyond your own lifetime,” as Anne said.  That’s one of the many reasons I love technology, for I like to think of my blog as a portal to earthly immortality.  Long after I die and my soul has been perfected in one of God’s many mansions, I pray that my stories will live on in this alternate universe we call cyberspace.

~

“The purpose of art is to help the world wake up to itself,” Anne said.

My art has awakened me to myself.  I am not quite the same person I was when I went back to school more than two years ago at the age of thirty-two, as a newlywed and new mom.  I’ve gained some self-confidence that was lacking.  I’ve conquered, for the most part, my fear of public speaking; my motto has become, “Aw, what the hell?”

It has served me well.

 

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #22. Theme: Fable

This was a piece to a longer poem (“Strolling Across Campus on a Monday Afternoon”), which is known as a “walking poem.”  My poetry professor had our class go outside and just record our observations in our journal.  We had to choose a line from Anne Waldman’s “Fast Speaking Woman” at random (the equivalent of flipping through a telephone book and blindly putting our finger on a name), and implement it (though I did not include it today).

Since it is Earth Day, I thought this would be perfect, because in Mormon mythology/doctrine (depending on your perspective), they believe in a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, which makes sense, as in Genesis 1:26, it reads:  And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

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Our Heavenly Lineage

The sun is like Mother Nature kissing me,
the breeze,
the brushing of her hair as she does so,
blessing me.

I think of the blue God,
the green Goddess,
coexisting—
our ecological parents—
for are not humans merely water and earth,
fused with a touch of the Divine?

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-22

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #21. Theme: Pick an object, and make it the title of the poem

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Things

Cell phone:
Life, miniaturized.
Journal:
Unreliable narration.
Picture Frame:
Encapsulating 1/5 of a life second.
Portfolio:
Shows, not tells, what one can do.
Scrapbook:
Life’s trailers.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-21

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #19. Theme: Memory

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The Last Time They Met

The last memory she had of him
was of her getting the last word.
The last memory he had of her
was of not waiting to listen before responding.
Their shared memory was that it had
All ended because she’d said too little,
and he’d said too much.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-19