The author of more than 40 collections of poetry and poetics, Anne Waldman is an active member of the Outrider experimental poetry movement, and has been connected to the Beat movement and the second generation of the New York School. Her publications include Fast Speaking Woman (1975), Marriage: A Sentence (2000), and the multi-volume Iovis project (1992, 1993, 1997).
Her work as a cultural activist and her practice of Tibetan Buddhism are deeply connected to her poetry. Waldman is, in her words, “drawn to the magical efficacies of language as a political act.” Her commitment to poetry extends beyond her own work to her support of alternative poetry communities. Waldman has collaborated extensively with visual artists, musicians, and dancers, and she regularly performs internationally. Her performance of her work is engaging and physical, often including chant or song, and has been widely recorded on film and video.
Born in Millville, New Jersey, Waldman grew up in Manhattan on Beat poetry and jazz. Early encounters with Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, and Thelonious Monk drew her attention to the full range of musical possibilities in poetry, as did her reading of poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Gertrude Stein. She was educated at Bennington College, where she studied with Howard Nemerov, Bernard Malamud, and Stanley Edgar Hyman.
In 1965 she attended the Berkeley Poetry Conference, where the Outrider voices she encountered inspired her to commit to poetry and to found Angel Hair, a small press that published an eponymous magazine and numerous books. Upon graduation she returned to New York and became assistant director, and then director, of the St. Mark’s Church Poetry Project, a role she continued for a decade and where she found support for her own work from poets such as Ted Berrigan, Allen Ginsberg, Diane di Prima, and Kenneth Koch. In 1974, with Ginsberg, Waldman founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
Her honors include grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the Poetry Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has had residencies at the Civitella Ranieri Center, the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, and Rockefeller Center’s Bellagio Center, and has received the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award. She has twice won the International Poetry Championship Bout in Taos, New Mexico. She was “poet in residence” with Bob Dylan’s famed concert tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue, in 1975–76. Waldman has also edited several anthologies, including The Beat Book (1996). She co-founded the Poetry Is News collective with writer/scholar Ammiel Alcalay in 2002.
photo credit: Lawrence Schwartzwald
Not A Male Pseudonym is a poem at once Steinian and Shamanic, a “Femanifesto” and a love poem to Bernadette Mayer written in 1974 and revised in 1988. The poetics statement “Muse & Scribe" written for Not a Male Pseudonym also appeared in her collection of poetics essays, Vow to Poetry.
“You watch me through the eyes of your book
for you are always writing”
“Today, women it is only women
Today it is only women”
Muse & Scribe: A Note
I am the one writing to be more herself in the thought that all poems are invented by women. The night or travels of night being a shaman of no particular society male or otherwise get spoken exactly like a love affair and are held as words. As words, these towards the beloved woman, get mouthed, & she & I, or you & She & you come into being. It is my privilege to speak thus, it is my joy. The words are an event of no small passion and are caught in a place back then outside travel outside time. They're here too. And travel proscribed was the name & opportunity of the song as I was always a scribe & sidekick to her motion. She was my fixed star for a while of heart & I was perpetual motion too. I catch her as best I can / could through scent & ambiguity of verse. The pronouns you find us in here are a relationship to secret notebooks and hallucinated masks. The "shoes" in it are our relationship. I am the mother most frequently & she too. And we are both daughters standing between the lines. And as children we both put on the shields like Amazons. O Sappho! I want to dance most of the time like a war dance. I always here coming back to me through many lifetimes, what a life to write of adoring her. Of adoring her. Now is the chance.
The Muse is always my opposite & opposing sister-singer. She is dark. I am simple. And light. She is not olive, but more like a dream-coal. She says she is at the poem's service. To be loved & stripped & goaded & adored. Questions, berated. She is somewhere to put verbs the poet bows down to taste things of. Play & scorn. That's the rub or night & day, the two of us.
Who reaps the joy of Muse in the ultimate sense? She creates the motive to leap in words the love of our female bodies. Is she that hip? The line is drawn between words of dignity & those that do not further the gender cause. Light up. Light up. I am one of those domos of Sappho surely. And the cry of sister, sister, I know your sandals because I wear them too. Show me your parts. Who is she? The same age, the same build(a little smaller), size 8 or 10. To call her sister was always the call. I lighted on her plan to me as a confidante makes. She was not impressed. Muse won’t let the drive run. She conquers me.
The poems and how they'd form were always inside me, far back. I needed her as a vehicle more than any father, rather to do battle. It’s light out the window, 2 a.m. Goddesses walk the light sky. They tell me to keep the story up. They instruct a woman who was slumbering these long centuries to meet you.
Muse was a city. Muse was a road. Muse was my 20th century. For me she was a first civilization. Muse has arms like mine. Muse has my eyes, slightly aslant. Muses’s wrists grow cold at night as mine do. Muse sweeps her hair to one side. Muse colors her hair with the clays of Morroc. Muse’s legs are the pillars of exactitude & exertion. Muse holds her own torso of immense proportion. Muse was born under a sign of water & fire. Her sister muse is the Bull-Head-Woman. Muse crawled on her belly once. Muse never humbled herself before the guys. She stole fire back from the father. Muse took the fire and saw herself dancing in there, and the flames were the notes of these songs.
Not A Male Pseudonym will be republished in the forthcoming