Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews & Manifestos

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Coffee House Press, 2001 - Literary Collections - 377 pages
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Vow to Poetry is a trumpet call from our most iconoclastic poet that tears down the walls of prescribed creative processes. This stimulating mix of autobiography, interviews, and essays reveals a life possessed by the muse. You've seen the "safe" versions, now comes this unconventional, irreverent, transgressive volume.

Anne Waldman ran the St. Mark's Poetry Project in New York for over a decade. She is the co-founder with Allen Ginsberg of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where she teaches and directs the Master of Fine Arts program in Writing and Poetics.


Author's Note, 13
Prelude: "My Long & Only Afterlife", 15
Feminafesto, 19
My Life a List, 23
Oppositional Poetics, 48
That Light Is Sandino, 49
Managua Sketches, 51
Seeing What Happens (Interview with Joyce Jenkins) , 54
Kali Yuga Poetics: A Manifesto, 60
"Take Me to Your Poets!", 74
Loom Down the Thorough Narrow, 81
Hermeneutical (Light to Read By), 91
Vow to Poetry (Conversation with Randy Roark), 96
Sikelianos's Delphic Idea: Site & Poetic Legacy, 123
Hags, Nuns, & Magpie Scholars, 135
The Outrider Legacy (Interview with Mark DuCharme), 142
Poetry as Siddhi, 155
Noösphere & the Six Realms, 167
I Is Another: Dissipative Structures, 173
The Talisman Interview (Interview with Edward Foster), 192
Warring God Charnel Ground, 205
Deviant Identities, 213
Minstrel Bard, 228
Last Days, Hours, 230
Burroughs: Hurry Up. It's Time, 235
Go-Between Between, 238
Grasping the Broom More Tightly Now (Interview with Eric Lorberer), 247
Creative Writing Life [Reading/Writing/Performance] Experiments, 247
Alphabetic Tesserae, 262
Epic & Performance, 266
"Surprise Each Other": The Art of Collaboration (Interview with Lisa Birman), 272
Spare Us Your Epiphanies, 280
Marriage Marriage: A Sentence Sentence, 283
Muse, 286
My Life a Book, 289

Acknowledgements, 292
Selected Bibliography, 295

Oppositional Poetics

"wozu Dichter in dürftiger Zeit?"-Hölderlin from "Bread & Wine"

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Anne Waldman has always been enormously ambitious with her life in poetry. She was fashioned from the start by her mother, Frances La Fevre, to be a Bohemian poet, and grew up in a privileged life in Greenwich Village, a well to do existence in a brownstone home in an interesting area of the world. Early on, she made herself the attractive feminine center of the post "Beat" poets, doing administrative and organizational work to make herself an important component of the Greenwich Village and East Village, Manhattan literary scene. She was careful to hold other women back from the center of attention, deliberately making herself a sort of secretarial help to the men on the scene, prior to her feminist enlightenement. Her early poetry was shallow and naive. There used to be a joke around St. Mark's Poetry project that went like this: "As for Anne Waldman as a poet, words are not her medium." She matured and took on the sociopolitical mantel fashioned by Allen Ginsberg, Ted Barrigan, and others, and worked hard to keep herself necessary to the Beat and Post-Beat era that she was a part of, administrating things, writing grants, and acquiring the practical skills that movement needed to fund paid readings and teaching, working hard to give herself an earning life in poetry and acquiring earnings for those around her, always careful to manipulate herself into the working indispensable woman at the center of it all, hanging out with gay male poets and praising them and following in their footsteps to be the central female presence on their scene, allowing herself to be mentored by them as well as servant to them. She has very cleverly built herself a place in American poetry with shrewdness and hard work. But, one can't help feeling that her sociopolitical stance is a pose she assumed for the purpose of personal success, more than deep soulful conviction. She is very intelligent at fashioning an image for herself and being politically correct, but when she reads her voice is not deep and soothing and really coming from the deeper gut of feeling and belief. Her voice is harsh and forced and her work sometimes abstract. Her prose is better than her poetry, and she is a force to be reckoned with, using her money, funding and influence to gain prestige, but ultimately, though her work has matured for the better since her early days of shallow writing, one still might feel that her soulfulness is more of a self-serving pose than a true, deeply felt stance coming from the suffering gut of her being. She is not one who has truly known suffering, but one who has taken on the pose and advocacy of the suffering. Ernesto Cardenal, Allan Giinsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti remain head and shoulders above her for actually conveying the deep of feeling and poetry of true emotion. Her mother, Frances Le Fevre succeeded in fashioning and creating a Bohemian poet out of her daugther, one with clout and know-how, and ability, but somehow, somehow the mantel of poetry seem skin deep in Anne Waldman, despite her powerful presence and hard work on the scene of the Beats and post-Beat generation. This review comes from the heart, not the mind alone, and is deeply felt and realized over years of observations. I knew her when, as they say, and she did all she could, I must admit, to squelch my existence back then. This is NOT mere "sour grapes," but clear-headed observations from an old woman nearing death's door, and I hope honest as I can make it . And, what the Hell is "Disembodied Poetics? " Whitman would hate that term. It is Waldman's problem. Her poetics do seem disembodied and made of an assumed mantel. When she reads, one feels a ghost pushing to be born, and her poem about "Empty Space" is indeed "Empty," and unwittingly emblematic of her life in poetry. It leaves the llistener empty, too. Ultimately she is manufactured, not naturally real. Her work won't endure as Ernesto Cardenal's, Lawrence Ferlinghetti's, Grace Paley's or Ruth Stone's will... 

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About the author (2001)

Anne Waldman is an internationally renowned poet, performer, and Distinguished Professor of Poetics at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is the co-editor of Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action and the author of over forty books, including In the Room of Never Grieve and Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews, & Manifestos.

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