A n n e   W a l d m a n :   K e e p i n g   T h e   W o r l d   S a f e   F o r   P o e t r y

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 5 :   S p e c i a l   E d i t i o n






Who’s Afraid of Anne Waldman


This is not one of the toughest jobs I ever had

            Talking about Anne

            After years of talking about Anne

With everyone I know

                        Who knows Anne

& that’s a lot of people

            some of them in this room

& a few thousand in other rooms


I talked about Anne before I even met Anne

            In 1967 in the fall

A year after I came to America

Alice and I hitchhiked from Detroit

            To New York and stayed

On 125th Street in Harlem with a couple named Allegra & Jack

            Allegra had been Lewis Warsh’s girlfriend

                        Before Lewis met Anne

& when I showed Allegra my poetry she said:

            “You must show these to Anne Waldman,”

& what I thought she said was:

“You must show this to Walt Whitman”

            not really, but

what was remarkable about that

            was that Allegra was naked at the time

& sitting on Jack’s lap with the sheaf of my poems

            in her hand

& I was so startled by that

            I dropped the two cans of soup I had just stolen

                        From the corner store

Which, considering that I was the only white guy in the store at the time

            & the four of us may have been the only white people for ten blocks

                        I thought was pretty bold

                        But so was this way of looking at poetry —

Alice & I went back to Detroit for the riots

            & it was another year before I met Anne —

I first met Ted Berrigan

            Who was teaching a poetry class at the Old Courthouse on 2nd Avenue

I actually went to Sam Abrams’ class because he encouraged pot-smoking in class

            (The teaching of poetry in those days was serious business!)

but I ended up hanging by Gem’s Spa at the corner of 2nd Ave & St. Mark’s Place

            with Ted’s disciples

& I became one too, I guess

            when I saw that he could overcome just fine

            in content and voice volume

            his competition

                        Ben Morea the Motherfucker

Who used the same corner for starting riots

On weekends

            With the lovely slogan:

“Free Food! Free Food down at the graveyard!”

            which was the graveyard at the St. Mark’s Church

where Peter Stuyvesant is buried

            and should be dug up


so we can put Ted Berrigan there instead

from Gem’s Spa radiated a vast array of activities

                        carried out by mobs of agents of the esprit


cadre of longhaired cappeloni brimming with inexact missions

            all filled with light delights revolutionary zeal

                        & occasionally paranoia & terror

though in 1968 the summer of love in New York

            the delight was much denser than paranoia


& I followed Ted around for about two weeks

            until he looked at my poems

            & the next thing I knew

            I was invited to 33 St. Mark’s Place

            Across the street from Gem’s Spa

            & here was the literary heart of the lower east east side

                        Which was the Number 1 bohemia in the world in 1968

With London a distant 2nd

            And San Francisco on its way out


                        Anne Waldman & Lewis Warsh in residence


Publishers of The World


            The mimeo monthly of the St. Mark’s Church in the Bowerie Poetry Project

                        Anne Waldman director


33 St. Mark’s Place was the inner sanctum

            the command bunker of the New York School of Poetry

                        manned by the second generation


who coined that “second generation” business anyway?


On my way to work at the 8th Street Bookstore one day

            Some guy stopped me on the street and asked

“Do you know where the New York School of poetry is?”


and I directed him to 33 St. Mark’s Place

            Sorry, Anne,

You didn’t really have to put up that guy!

            He was Allen van Newkirk

                        Just kidding


At 33 St. Mark’s Place

             Everyone was poets

                          Even the drug dealers

             They conducted circular missions

             wide circles that touched

                          on other circles

            of painters & musicians

                        & Andy Warhol’s crowd

all the way uptown to Lita Hornick’s

            & to the Hamptons

& vertically in time to other bohemias

            that had just gotten tired


absolutely nobody was ever tired at 33 St. Mark’s Place


and amid this current & historic rebel splendor

            was Anne cool classical beautiful

energetic, intelligent & in charge


everyone was in love with her

            it was the summer of love Anne Waldman

there wasn’t anybody who didn’t love Anne Waldman

            the Establishment didn’t love any of us

                        but even the Establishment

            if we had let the Establishment

                        anywhere near us

would have loved Anne Waldman


but Anne Waldman didn’t love the Establishment

            she was a “Dark Commando”


private property that’s why

you can’t snuggle up to someone else’s trees”


            (Giant Night, 1970, p. 62)


            and she went to the store to buy:


            1. PRINCE fast drying RUBBER CEMENT

            2. airmail envelopes

            3. brown wrapping paper

            4. a light blue washcloth


and she declared these things “necessary to my daily life / as love sex happiness joy”


now there was a Pop credo

            there was faith

                        there was a hood


as in the next breath she thought about her friends, “Martha in Vermont,” “Ted in

Maine,” and “all the people everywhere in the country / surrounded by trees /

&water&birds&the song of the birds / heard in our land / America America America,”


            quite breathlessly


and if you went back of that list you’d find that the Rubber Cement was for gluing Allen

Ginsberg’s poem “Wales Visitation” cut from the New Yorker, and her annoyance at

people who use Elmer’s to do that


            and from there to missing her friends

                        to total pantheism

            & the pickle of American policy


there was only a wave of breath the same breath


Of course we were young

            & we had a lot of breath


and a new mission that included

1. taking nothing for granted

& 2. making sure everyone was in love with you

& 3. vanquishing the masters of war

& 4. staying high

& 5. making a new art & literature


and amazingly

            we accomplished all that


esp. 2 & 4


but when I met Anne I felt very young indeed


Ted seemed to me an ancient — he was at least 28

Dick Gallup — a man from centuries past — 27 at least


And Anne

            Anne was only a year older than me

                        But she was sophisticated


            She was Olympian

Essence of cool

            Totally American

& all these New York poets who knew each other so well

            were also rich

or so it seemed to me still stealing cans from the A&P

            & deploying my accent


I’m still deploying that but I have a couple of credit cards now


These Americans scared me

            They were so American!

And Anne was the most American!

            She even put brand names in her poems!

Elmer’s! The Mets! The NY Times!


I was brooding and seething with philosophy


but I had one thing over them

            my secret weapon

my belief that I had taken acid

            at least five months before anybody

in the New York School 2nd generation had


This was my firm belief


At least until a month ago when I talked to Anne

            & we ascertained that yes, indeed,

I had taken acid in the spring of 1966 in Rome

            But that she was only a month or two behind


A difference that by 1968 meant nothing


Since by then we had all taken acid —


Still, there was this class thing —

            Bohemian pedigree

I never quite felt at home at 33 St. Mark’s Place

            I thought that people were laughing at me

                        They probably were

I made some jokes

            They weren’t laughing at those


But I do feel home now at 33 St. Mark’s Place

            Because Ted Berrigan wrote this:


It begins


“It’s just another April almost morning, at St. Mark’s Place / Harris and Alice are

sleeping in beds; it’s far too early / For a scientific massage, on St. Mark’s Place, though

it’s / The RIGHT place if you feel so inclined.”


and it ends:


“Calling right from where you are, in Anne’s place, / As to your heart’s delight, here

comes sunlight.”


Ted wrote that in 1971 or 72 so I’ve felt at home at 33 St. Mark’s place ever since.


I had one of my graduate assistants

            Go through Ted’s complete works to find out

                        How many times Anne’s name appears in his poems:

                                    438 times!


Mine only appears twice


In 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 my poems appeared in The World. Not just one poem

but many. And everyone on the scene had not one poem but many in The World. We

could appear as rich as we wanted to be, knowing that the bar was set high, the standards

quite elevated. Culture.


            Anne Waldman was my publisher.

            Anne liked my poems.

            I know, maybe it was Lewis who REALLY liked my poems

            But I preferred to think that it was Anne who really really liked my poems.


            The word “counterculture” had just come into vogue

A word I never liked

            Il s’agit of culture pure and simple

What’s this counter all about? Is this a store? 2nd generation? What?

            The counterculture had utilitarian aspects indeed

And insofar as we were rebel poets we were serving this counterculture

            By making joyous noises wherever we went

            And angry noises too, but joyously


The readings at St. Mark’s place

At public meetings

At anti-war rallies

In the parks


Everything had a grand scheme like a big top over it


            But the New York poets were not like that

Well, some of them weren’t


Ted was about as apolitical

            & pro-American as you can get

he wrote “fuck communism” and mentioned the passing parade

            because it was there

                        not because he was against the war

in fact I never heard him mention it

but he got off on cheeseburgers

                        both in poems and in life

            (when he could afford them)

and those attitudes & appetites drove the peaceniks & the vegetarians crazy


            so that this “counterculture” might have been catering to some Big Ideas

but many of us poets still stole from the store


            even The Diggers store

                        which was “free”

& the appeal of the New York School in the Sixties


was precisely its apolitical feel

            that allowed that art is art only

                        & only art


that it’s not bombs or propaganda


            until that attitude became a propaganda of its own


                        but that’s another story


& the New York School was a refuge also for midwesterners and finns and romanians

and escapees of every sort even for some categories of people who had no ID tags yet


I would call this the apolitical stage of the New York School

            For those in the audience

Who know Anne’s amazing activist career

            After 1970 or so

& first her vice-presidency of the Counterculture

            under President Ginsberg

& then her Presidency of the Counterculture

& while the personal was certainly political

            it was a lot more personal than political back then

we were just amazed to be alive at such an interesting time


& Anne was breathless and a busy bee


            making The World

                        the St. Mark’s readings

                                    her own poems


& all the lives I knew nothing about —


the word “community” might mean more than “counterculture”

but I think that “family” fits better La Famiglia La Cosa Nostra

because we had some major ties & were up many nights writing

together & keeping up the dark shift until the radiators hissed “Basta!”


there were so many people in this family

            I won’t name names

Because I am no longer a New York School poet

            I’m a New Orleans poet

                        First generation


The only way not to be in the New York School back then

            Was to not want to be a New York School poet

                        Either that or not to know Ted or Anne


I remember Bill Knott reading a nasty poem about the New York School

            At St. Mark’s Church one time

            He said “the New York school is a spigot on a corpse”

Or some such thing & Ted shouted from the back of the room,

            “Bill, you can be in the New York School now!”


Anne & Ted wrote a poem together

            “Memorial Day Poem,”

and it was such a great poem

we read it over and over

and many people still read it

it’s still a great poem


it was a love poem to America & to all of us


that poem was a masterful collaboration

in a collaborative age and place

that was a small pool swarming with life

current & past life

from which sprang many streams

that are now flowing everywhere in America

stocked with all kinds of fish that were never

even born in 1967


Ted Berrigan was the Prime Mover

Eminence Grise & Pink & White

And sometimes deus ex machina

But Anne was the Goddess Machina

She was the whole machine

The little engine that could


The Total Goddess of Work


& when she drove people too hard

they ran off to Poppa Ted and he severely critiqued their verses

& made them pay for the check


& then the members of the family

began dispersing, and making families

of their own, in Bolinas, in Colorado,

in San Francisco, in Jersey, and in England


but never forgetting to pay tribute to Anne

& send their poems to The World

& read at the Church at least once a year


At least I did —


Anne went on to inhabit two states

The State of New York

And The State of Colorado

States of Mind with buildings on them


the community we are developing at Naropa

is already very strong

and continues as a webwork

extending into the planet at large”


interviewed by Randy Roark 1991

(Vow to Poetry, 2001, p. 108)


The planetary business

The Allen Ginsberg business


“The new deeper voice

The poet’s path

Voice and wisdom

The tough tongue of a crone”


These are all Anne’s words


But also:


“Heady talk in La Garona restaurant after poetry show

Cathars argue separatism”

That was “2 AM in Toulo

use,” Kill or Cure, 1994, p. 101


Anne’s genius then as always

To give back in talk

What the world gave her in sound

Texture fact gossip and news


Intense talk

Thick with the density of various streams

Not just language hoping to win the lottery


The magnetized Olsonian field

Through which one travels

Gathering intensities


Throwing body and soul into the dance


Anne’s New York family

Made alliances with other families

& there were great familial reunions

& great familial tragedies

& truly down moments

like the Naropa Poetry Wars

when Anne told me apropos of Tom Clark’s

book about it:

the family umbrella’s shredding”


and that was such a fine Cold War metaphor

for all of us still under the atomic umbrella


but the family just kept getting bigger

with or without an umbrella

because Anne’s interests got bigger


and there was a whole tent city

where the umbrella stood


And she moved into Annes

Some of whom I knew some of whom I didn’t

One Anne after another

I kept up with Anne in books


And once or twice a year in person


So I do know of Anne the traveler

Anne the dream journalist

Anne the raw-feeling lyricist

Anne the keeper of the record

Anne the epistolary

— I have about a hundred cards scribbled by Anne,

all of them ending, “Love, Anne” —

Anne the Naropa builder

Anne the Shaman

Anne the Performing Shaman

Anne the Heavyweight Poetry Champion of the World in Taos

Anne the teacher

Anne the student

Anne the flirt

Anne the interviewer

Anne the interviewee

Anne the essayist

Anne the historian

Anne the Mourner

Anne the Protester

Anne the refusednik

Anne the propagandist

Anne the Environmentalist

Anne the Gringa

Anne the Mother

Anne the Daughter

Anne the Founding Father

Anne the Witch

Anne the Buddhist

Anne the Feminist

Anne the Lover

Anne the Wife

Anne the patient

Anne the Therapist

Anne-with-Allen Anne

Anne-in-meetings Anne

Professional Anne

Amateur Anne

Rolling Thunder Review Anne

Anti Mega-Mega Bomb Anne

Anne at West Point Anne


I heard about them

I read them


I do know Anne-in-stories Anne

I know Anne stories

I know what X,Y,Z said about Anne

And I’ve seen little Annes

Perform nationwide at slams

I know the I-am-a-little-scared-of-Anne Anne

I’m a little scared of Anne


But I’m not sure which Anne I’m scared of

Anne’s always been a good friend to me

& that’s Anne-my-friend Anne


and this is Anne — the List

Alpha-bibliographical Anne


             Kill or Cure dreams nightmares

Congresses with the Muse the male/ female personae

There is Iovis Anne

            Some scary dude

And the tractatus on the sentence of marriage

            Ten to life if you’re not careful

Baby breakdowns & grownup tantrums

            & the more I read the less I know Anne

In some of these books Anne is a state more than a person

            It’s Anne-land

& you best go there in the summer


Anne-land is big

Is like Ginsberg-land

Or Yevtushenko-land

A regular country with seasons

& a foreign policy


relations with Italy and the Czech Republic are good

but since Heider Austria’s not so hot


and I actually feel the pathos of a thousand readings

or performances a thousand late-night colloquiathe ocean of talk

the wordless chasms between faces



the everwidening sea of humanity with its center

in Anne


Anne cannot be lost

That “vow to poetry” is to be everpresent

A tough job

& even Anne needs some sleep now and then


            I can identify with that


& with such magnitude comes a bedrock solitude

            I know about that

& the dead sometimes appear

            more alive than the living


being awake more natural than being asleep


“Listen to the fragmented buildings

and the decorum of traffic getting somewhere.”

(Kill or Cure, p. 198)


the dead fly in

            like big patching bees to patch the family umbrella


I think the idea of Ted as a big fat bee patching

            The family umbrella

                        Is quite funny

& I can see Allen in that role, too,

with a big darning needle

            but others just hang out

            watching Ted & Allen work

& just shout “Go!”

I’m probably being unfair to a hundred of the hard-working dead

            Be kinder to the dead

            They work just as hard

            Anne, materialist and utopian,

                        At times:


“They laid me out on the table all decked out,

scratched me with their metal & I bled &

they began sucking & eating. And you were the

last to partake & that was when I didn’t care

anymore, love or hate. And you were going to

love me when we abolished hunger.” (Kill or Cure, p. 150)


Note that this is utopianism

            Not merely in the service of ending hunger

But eternally hopeful of tasting good

            Even as a corpse


Love, Anne’s major theme,

And work, her major praxis


In the tent city the young are hard at work


& Anne is Queen of the Young

while some of us as Ted once said to Tom Clark

are still just “majors in the army of the young.”



Fielding Dawson, recently dead,

            Wrote in House Organ, no. 37


the influence of the Hag in her performance art

             who I first witnessed at Naropa in 1978

                        an unforgettable experience

            for I was seeing my mother before my very eyes.”


It’s not the first time Fielding saw his mother

            At a performance I’m sure

But Anne sure scared him


I did find Anne on stage pretty scary

            At the Taos Heavyweight Poetry Bout

            My money was on Anne

            I can’t even remember who the challenger was

            He just wasn’t fast enough

            For fast-talking woman

            The world gets faster it’s a fact

                        News from Hubble

            It’s giving pause to the Big Bang Boys

            Who thought that the universe is taking it easy



And the longer we live

The more we know without speaking

We are standing

In a room full of ghosts

That’s not scary

That’s now


& when we stop standing

there will be shelves of us

standing for us


at the U of M


but not very well


Getting old is everyone’s private business

Staying young is a collective affair

& it’s nice to have a place for your papers


& so I sat with a stack of Anne’s books by me

            opening them at random

            for some oracular clues to this

            wholly other kind of performance

            where Anne is at the center but not on stage

            which must be very unusual

            Forgive me for trying your patience, Anne

            I’m of the same school

            I can dish it but I have a hard time taking it


            & I came up with this

             (from Kill or Cure, pp. 83-84):


            “put in:


            put in new-found seas

            put in courtesy & wit

            put in groveling wit

            put in symmetry

            put in coffin cords & a bell

            put in extreme breathing

            put in a cosmic image

            put in a feminine image

            put in politics, brass-tacks level

            put in how he was in love with Turkish eyes

            put in is this machine recording

            put in like footprints of a bird on the sky

            put in lifting arms embargo

            put in when you are cherished

            put in still a little bit up in the air,”


            and I think that I put in a bit of all that, except for “the arms embargo,” and maybe

I didn’t say anything — or too little — about being in love with Anne’s Turkish eyes, but

I certainly put in some extreme breathing and, I hope, some courtesy and wit. I mostly

wanted to put in where she is cherished, because she is. I certainly put in “still a little bit

up in the air,” which is how I hope we stay this entire conference, though not off the wall

or without feet on the ground.



March 5-11, 2002

Baton Rouge



[Andrei Codrescu originally presented this work at a symposium honoring the University of

Michigan Special Collections Library’s acquisition of Anne Waldman’s archive. Entitled

“Makeup on Empty Space: A Celebration of Anne Waldman,” the symposium was held at the

University of Michigan from March 13–15, 2002. It included over twenty poets, scholars,

publishers, and artists participating in both panels and poetry readings. Codrescu’s “Who’s Afraid

of Anne Waldman?” served as the keynote speech for the symposium. The piece was reprinted in

Jacket 27 (April 2005), see http://jacketmagazine.com/27/w-codr.html, and appears in the

Andrei’s 2008 publication Jealous Witness. Used by permission of the author.]