Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Introduction for Anne Waldman (at SEGUE)

This past weekend Anne Waldman gave a brilliant reading with cello accompaniment at SEGUE series. The following is the introduction that I gave for her.

Poet’s poet. Poet-scholar. Poet-activist. Poet-healer. Poet-anthologist. Poet-administrator. Poet-journalist. Poet-administrator…. It takes many hyphens, more than I have space for here, to encapsulate the multi-faceted, polymath, multiple-hat-wearing career of Anne Waldman, who perhaps needs no introduction, especially in a space which among others in NYC may be considered her stomping ground and native habitat.

Among the hyphens that attract me to Waldman’s work—which call me back to it—it is that indicating the poet-teacher which I find perhaps most alluring during a time when poets indeed need to occupy the role of educator again in order to ensure the counter-inscription of various social histories, and to transmit knowledge which may be useful to preserving public discourse in our present.

Seeing Waldman read a few years ago at the Whitney, I was immediately struck by this function of her work as she framed her reading through the use of a “teaching stick” which had been helping her to learn Arabic. Likewise, seeing her read at the Louis Zukofsky centennial gathering at Columbia University in 2004, I was struck not only by how Waldman drew-out the prophetic synergy of Zukofsky’s “A-8”—a poem which she reflected on at some length—but also the formal powers of the poem to evoke historical recognition.

How to teach through the poem? How to teach through the performance (and not just the recitation) of a poem or poetics? Waldman’s practice as a poet-teacher recalls other great artist-teachers such as Joseph Beuys, Charles Olson, and Waldman’s friend and colleague, Allen Ginsberg. Teaching, via the platform of reading, becomes energetic; it conveys energy, it motivates and incites.

While some might read Waldman’s latest book, Manatee / Humanity as one long prayer or invocation towards both the manatee and grey wolf, both of which are endangered by our intensifying climate crisis, the book also has a wealth of knowledge and insight to convey about the status of the creatures as they reflect the current conditions and values of human species.

Please welcome one of our great poet-teachers and poets period to the SEGUE series, accompanied by composer Ha-Yang Kim on cello.

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