“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.”
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.
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):
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.”
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.