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
Anne Waldman and Zhang Ziqing, Director of Foreign Literature, Nanjing University,
after a poetry reading by Allen Ginsberg & her in New York, big snow evening, 1994.
Photo courtesy Zhang Ziqing.
Anne Waldman in China
As a great bridge-type poet, Professor Anne Waldman is known to China as
one of the co-founders of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa
Institute with Allen Ginsberg, a go-between of the Beat movement and the second
generation of the New York School, and one of the two leading moving forces of
Postbeat poets while another one is Ginsberg.
Anne was invited to attend International Conference on the 20th Century
American Poetry together with Professor Marjorie Perloff, Professor Charles Bernstein
and a number of other poets from America, Japan and Finland at Central China Normal
University in July 21-23, 2007. The conference consisted of three special activities:
International Symposium on Langston Hughes, International Poetry Reading Evening and
Contemporary American Poetic Forum.
The International Poetry Reading Evening was held in Concert Hall, on July 22.
Professor Marjorie Perloff gave an opening speech. Among American poets Charles
Bernstein, Everett Hoagland, Steven C. Tracy, Michelle Rankins, William Foster III,
Finnish Poet Leevi Lehto, and Chinese poets Lu Yaodong, Xie Keqiang, Bei Ta, Jiang
Hongxin, Dong Hongyou, Xiang Lei, Ou Hong, Wang Baotong, Tian Jingcheng, Xiao
Yin, Li Zhimin, Yang Jian, Yu Xiaozhong, Tian He, Bai Jingpeng, and Xiao Ying as well
as American scholars on American poetry Mathew Tuner, David Chioni Moore and
Donna Akiba Harper, Anne left us the deepest impression in her performance poetry
reading. She made full use of her body language and opera voice when she read six of her
poems, a brand new way of poetry reading to us Chinese audience. To my great pleasure,
she invited me to read some stanzas selected from “Fast Speaking Woman” in Chinese
while she read them in English. It was also a new form of poetry reading to the audience
present. In speaking of the poetry readings, Afro-American poet Professor Everett
I have to commend the Foreign Literature Studies Program for
conceiving, putting together and so superbly hosting such a wonderfully
wide-ranging conference, including the commendable symposium on
Langston Hughes. It was a remarkable event. Absolutely historic! 
Invited by the Zhongkun Poetry Foundation and the Zhongkun Pamirs Literature
Studio in Beijing, Anne came to China again in 2008. It was a happy Get-together of the
poets from the five different countries. Sponsored by Mr.Tang Xiaodu, President of
Pamirs Academy of Cultures and Arts in Beijing, the international poets took part in the
2008 Pamirs Poetry Journey for a cultural exchange in the Zhong Cheng Villa, Yi
County, near the foot of the Yellow Mountain, Anhui Province on October 22-25. The
participants included American poets Anne Waldman, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, and
Ron Padgett, Canadian poet Jim Liburn, Spanish poet Juan Carlos Mestre, Slovenian poet
Tomaz Salamun, and Chinese poets Lan Lan, Ouyang Jianghe, Song Lin, Wang Jiaxin,
Xichuan and Yu Jian together with Dr. Liang Li-zhen, a bilingual interpreter,
Professor Zhao Zhen-jiang, an interpreter in Spanish and Chinese, and the present author.
They had seminars on the topic “how poetry responds to reality” during the first two
days. They had passionate discussions in which they talked about their different
understandings of it according to their own different practices of writing and point of
views. Among others, Anne emphasized the role of a poet as an activist in her long talk
“Outrider: Empathy, ‘Sousveillance,’ The Role of the Poet as an Activist”, saying,
The “Outrider” tradition or practice in both poetics and politics
presupposes a kind of parallel universe of mind-stream (or imagination)
and action to the “going” version of our quotidian reality. I think that is
the basic point. [...] I see tribunals both for war crimes and for
reconciliation as being key to so many situations and I support the
tradition that works through these kinds of traumas. That the tragedy and
injustices people suffer must be acknowledged , there has to be
accountability. [...] All the “disappeared” must be heard from. Social
change can only happen when the people in the shadow interstices are
participating and listened to and re-voiced, redefining relationship
between the oppressors and the oppressed.
Like other Beat poets, Ginsberg in particular, Anne showed and shows a great
concern about the social reality ever in her poetry. The poetry in an ivory tower cannot
play an important role. It is what we’ve learned from her.
In the late afternoon on October 23, they visited the Hong Village, one of the
beautiful places on the world cultural heritage list. They were surprised to find quite a
few young artists sketching around its blue lake against its Chinese traditional houses
with white walls and black tiled roofs. Then in the evening, a lively poetry reading was
held in the open air in front of the Zhong Cheng Villa. A beautiful designed pamphlet of
selected poems of the participants had been printed for the occasion. Every poet chose
and read one of his or her poems except Xi Chuan who chanted a classical Ci in a
classical reading style. As usual, Anne gave a lively performance poetry reading in her
opera voice, which aroused applause from the other tourists who sat at the tables near us.
Like a diligent farmer, Anne has also scattered her poetry seeds in China, such as
“After Po Chui,” “Millennium Sutra,” “A Book of Events,” “I Bow At Bodhgaya,” “Red
Hat Lama,” “Writing,” “Fast Speaking Woman” and “‘Fast Speaking Woman’ & The
Dakini Principle,” all of which were translated appearing in Contemporary International
Poetry, a big poetry journal supported by the Zhongkun Poetry Foundation in Beijing
(2008. No.1). 
October 7, 2015
1. See Everett Hoagland’s e-mail to the present author on August 28, 2007.
2. An essay “Anne Waldman, an Outstanding Poet: from Beat to Postbeat” by the present author
appears in the same issue.