“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.
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 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 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.