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







For nine months, this teepee was pitched on the tracks leading into Rocky Flats nuclear trigger factory

just south of Boulder, Colorado. From April 1978 to January 1979, a group of local activists known as

The Rocky Mountain Truth Force protested here. Anne Waldman read here & was arrested here, as seen

in Costanzo Allione’s Kerouac School film Fried Shoes Cooked Diamonds. Photo by Ernie Leyba.



The photograph of a teepee pitched on locomotive train spur bringing plutonium in & out

of Rocky Flats on railcars is an American Ideogram of what Anne Waldman: Keeping

The World Safe For Poetry means to me. The community of citizen-activists that

demonstrated peacefully there––keeping the nonviolent pressure up––led to the eventual

shutdown of Rocky Flats nuclear trigger factory in 1992. Granted, this is but one sign

among many in the Anne Waldman mudrasphere, but the experience continued to have

its impacts––informing her work and life. At the Prague Writers Festival in 2009, for

example, she reads a poem called, “I remember being arrested at Rocky Flats Nuclear

Weapons Plant.”


I remember being arrested at Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant [Excerpts]

for Joe Brainard


I remember being arrested at Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, what I

was wearing: a red & white Hawai’ian shirt, white straw hat with plaid

ribbon, white pants with a gentle crease down the front.




I remember thinking "all this could disappear."




I remember being with Allen Ginsberg in Chicago during the Chicago Seven

trials, I remember thinking that I would demonstrate with him anywhere in the





I remember Allen's good cheer on the bus to be booked in Golden, also his gentle





I remember how we chanted mantras then & we are chanting mantras now and

we will keep chanting mantras for the rest of our lives.




I remember making a huge circle of human bodies for miles & miles around

Rocky Flats.


I remember when I was pregnant I stayed away.




Where she’s been, already! What she’s seen, done, accomplished! “We will keep

chanting mantras for the rest of our lives,” she says of her Dogenesque Poetry War Time

Being at the Poetry Project, with Allen––and all the days after Allen, truth to fact––

making the world a safer space for all voices to rise up from voices long denied. Just

consider the range of her invention. Hers is an expression of Matriot-ear wit-music

mastery, vocal lyric composition mastery, mastery of forms, virile mastery, activist

scholar/experimental international poetics curriculum master. Chant, jazz-blues,

operatics, improvising–mastery of innovation––from the master of whole books spun

from a lone word or two riding along like a spider so big you ride it with a saddle...


Maybe it was the rivalry between Sei Shonagon (The Pillow Book) and Lady Murasaki

Shikibu (The Tale of Genji) or a transmission from Gertrude Stein that made Anne the

poet she is. Maybe it was a sense of Classical Greek fashion. Maybe it was her family,

her magic New York, the passion with which John Lennon cut through his lyrics. Maybe

it was something about everywoman she learned from Mazatec shaman María Sabina.

Maybe it was her spiritual relationship with Allen Ginsberg––both in their founding the

Kerouac School, commitment to sanity throughout their engagement––and how Anne

remains as much influenced by Allen in life and in death, even as she finds herself in

ever-widening circles of poets around the world, carrying on original missions as she sees

them now. Maybe she was a secret member of the Lettrist International, a Dada Muslim

Feminist with a sound like lipstick traces. Maybe she came back to human form in our

time to exemplify what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche meant by The Mishap Lineage &

undifferentiated, undualistic Crazy Wisdom.


It was from Anne that I learned the import of the poetry magazine as a public service

announcement. I also learned the Art of The Interview directly from her, in 1978 when

we interviewed Ted Berrigan. Once, I opened an interview with Anne by popping the big

question, “So, is it true? Are you a blood relative of Sappho?” Something so propitious,

so Sapphic, about her... Although the Buddha remarked that all things are transitory,

including his own teachings, it’s also a corollary that equally as likely, Anne Waldman’s

poetry will never be extinguished. It will find bodies to illuminate in order to be read,

spoken and performed again.


Co-editors Lisa Birman, Eleni Sikelianos and I came together in order to strike the gongs

of bodhichitta in celebration of Anne’s 70th earth year. Poet, novelist, editor, and Naropa

University Summer Writing Program Director Lisa Birman reached out to the Vast

Waldman Network. The poet Eleni Sikelianos, a direct relation to Anne and great

granddaughter of the renowned Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos, also did endless

networking and came up with the title Keeping The World Safe For Poetry. Let it be

(said). Great is our joy in lashing this virtual collector’s item together.


In this pixidelic gathering, one can see the sheer testimony to Anne Waldman’s merit.

Good to have Rachel Blau DuPlessis’ critical analysis “Anne Waldman: Standing

Corporeally in One’s Time” reprinted here. Also fortunate to have included Andrei

Codrescu’s “Who’s Afraid of Anne Waldman?” keynote address/poem in Ann Arbor,

March 2002, University of Michigan Special Collections Library “Anne Waldman:

Makeup on Empty Space” Symposium. To paraphrase Eileen Myles, Anne Waldman

knows. It’s Anne, all along the watchtowers, keeping the world safe for poetry.


Three interviews are reprinted here, giving us the opportunity to retrieve strands of

Anne’s poetics evolution. There’s the definitive 1989/1980 interview by Randy Roark

that became know as “Vow to Poetry.” Marcella Durand’s interview for the St. Marks

Poetry Project Newsletter offers insights from Anne in 2003 on poetry, peace, politics

and humanity. There’s my interview on topics specific to The Iovis Trilogy––her 25 year,

1,000+ page epic––published under the title “Push, Push Against the Darkness.”


Much time-traveling to fill the eyes & feet, mind & heart. Deep connections posted here

from Joanne Kyger and the women of the Beat Generation, to Bill Berkson & Lewis

Warsh from the first and second generation New York School, to Alystyre Julian’s

positively fabulous multigenerational film “Fast Speaking Woman” Tribute by the “Fast

Speaking Woman” Collective. Images of Anne through the years circulate––a 1960s Nick

Dorsky still from his critically acclaimed film Hours with Jerome, the beatific Bobbie

Louise Hawkin’s portrait, decades-spanning photos to which the editors are indebted.


Because the oral tradition is so crucial to Anne Waldman, we also did our own survey of

online Anne Single Poem Clips and included highlights of those to remind ourselves and

the future of the thrill of her live performance. Some are readings of poems. Others are

with musicians––often centered around her son, Ambrose Bye––making spoken word

music. In no particular ranking, these pieces taken together comprise our AW Top 12

Video Pics, spanning five decades.


The work we published in this celebration of Anne Waldman at 70 years reflects the

Home-Of-The-Muse Sangha that has grown steadily around her since the early 1960s. At

20, the 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference opened a door in her. It provided an expansive

model, one she developed throughout her own poetics practice, teaching others with

awakened sanity what there is to write about, fight about, love about, make a united front

about. The occasional poems that we received for and to Anne reveal the depths of these

bonds with those who have come to know her, who have felt the vast geogenerosity of

her language, keeping it safe for poetry.


We stand with you, Anne, in empathy & sousveillance. We taste the fruits of all your

performing, recording, speaking, administrating, programming, orchestrating, touring,

editing, childrearing, teaching, after reading hours, after the readings hours hours & after

those midnight hours the other hours, buying shoelaces on the way to the beach––years

come & gone. We see the enormity of benefit your Time-Being has meant to American

Letters, Women’s Literature, Planetary Poetics. We see you in us, like Imagination &

Action, like Deep Space Nine & “Tomorrow Never Knows”––on the next nonstop flight

heading out into the Sweet Kali Yuga By-&-By.



–– Jim Cohn

Boulder, Colorado

28 November 2015