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
It’s hard to believe that Anne Waldman — who is more than synonymous with poetry, so
deeply is she braided into what poetry is in this living world, deeper than any surface
naming — has been on this planet for 70 years. Like poetry, she seems ancient (as in,
beginning-of-time) and forever new.
One of the things that strikes the most future-fear into my heart: the world without her.
Luckily, as long as there is a world, it won’t be without her, as so much of her life has
gone to weaving new relationships, words, structures, poems, zones. She will always be
here, through her inventions, constructions, and collaborations.
Our family legend goes that I first met Anne when she was on her way to the Berkeley
Poetry conference in 1965. She stopped in Santa Barbara to see her stepbrothers (of
sorts: the half brothers of her half brother), one of whom had just fathered me. My
mother says it was at the Bluebird Café that she held me, 6 weeks into life, in her arms.
She would travel further up the coast to see Olson, Ginsberg, others, meet her first
husband, Lewis Warsh, and take her first vow to poetry.
I didn’t see her again until 1988, when I first found my way to Naropa. She claims I
showed up with a suitcase and no warning. I remember going to the grocery store with
her, where she elegantly, recklessly tossed red peppers and various other vegetables into
the cart and talked rather loudly about Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth — this
goddess who was rubbing her cunt up against tree trunks. I remember, too, a plaid flannel
nightgown, red, and pots of tea in the morning. I had never heard of Frank O’Hara.
Thus began my long education, and the re-weaving of a family history. Some of you may
know that our families have been linked since about 1920 [fact check], when my
grandfather, Glaukos, married a foxy young American girl, Frances Lefevre. Both wispy
with youth, wearing sly, secret smiles as they set sail for Greece.
But the thing is, I know that many of you have this sort of relationship with Anne — it
extends beyond any surface relation into a deep sense of the familial. It’s as if she had
500 daughters and sons, like some biblical matriarch populating the earth for future
generations through her activities and teaching.
One of my enduring images of Anne: we had just cooked steak in a frying pan over a
campfire in the Colorado high country. Eaten it with red wine, salad, maybe some
marijuana. She walks out to the middle of the field, lies down in the dry grasses (my
sweetheart and I follow), and begins an oration about space, star travel, light years,
aliens, surveillance systems, interstellar communications, maybe Blake light, with deep
knowledge, intimacy and authority. As if her skull were completely open to all that
passes in the heavens. As if the bones of her cranium were tuning forks, lightning rods,
receptors — all manner of information passing through — and could open out like an
observatory with a sliding roof. See the proof in her poetry.
So, here we have a great one of our kind — human kind, poet kind, thinking, feeling,
gathering kind. And we want to celebrate the 70 years she’s been here, moving the colors
and threads around.
We are deeply grateful to the poets, artists, filmmakers who have contributed to this
celebration, weaving an artnet to honor her.
23 November 2015