Poets House, circa 2017.
Anne Waldman makes me think of mothers. Mothers of poets. Her mother often came by the Poetry Project when I was working there. She was stylish in a traditional sort of way, but oh not her mind. Not traditional. And yet grounded.
That too is Anne, but she is traditional, or she holds many traditions in her heart and mind. The traditions of poetry: oracular, rhetorical, lyrical. The traditions of spirituality—her Buddhist practice. The traditions of pedagogy: she is always in many ways teaching with her poems, essays, interviews questioning the ways humans treat the planet, treat each other, treat other creatures. She wants us to find the answers and correct these massive injuries and injustices.
And there’s the tradition of festivity, hospitality—the welcomes she gives to all, no matter status. There are few poets on the planet who carry so may ways of being in one glamorous body, but Anne does it, intense, creative, disciplined, generous, compassionate and yet protective, enraged, engaged and demanding that we seek a just and loving world.—the Elder Woman, wise and wise cracking. The Elder Woman stylish and styling. It is grand to be in her presence for there will always be wine, cheer, music, and possibly gossip.
–Patricia Spears Jones
EXT: outdoor amphitheater, Montclair, N.J.
Alystyre to Anne Waldman: What is your weapon?
Anne holds up her pen (shakes it)
Anne (adds): My big mouth.
I was an M.F.A. student at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute circa 1994.
The second year was very difficult, and I struggled to come up with a thesis and a build a coherent manuscript. Then my thesis advisor refused to work with me. Anne Waldman was my angel and agreed to read it all. How shocked I was, working odd jobs and living at my parents house in 1995, to get her dense and beautiful letter in response to this body of work, affirming the practice of writing. I last saw Anne in 1997 at Shambala Center in NYC. I told her I was pregnant. She said, “Oh my!” and started fanning herself. Then we did the meditation.
–Karin Falcone Krieger
Anne came to my poetry course at The New England Conservatory a few years back. Her energy bowled us over; this from students who themselves have enormous energy. Some of us took her to lunch afterwards and then I had a little time to talk to her alone. I asked if she was born with so much energy.
“I guess so,” she said, “because when I was a kid I was always doing two things at once.” Unfortunately I can’t remember what those two things are! Maybe she does.
Even now the number of events she is involved in and organizations she heads and gigs she and her son hold at the apartment is a source of amazement. Of course her spiritual practices have enhanced that energy greatly, but she was already headed in the direction of OUT THERE, GO!
Patricia Spears Jones (www.psjones.com) is an African-American poet, playwight, cultural critic, educator, anthologist, and activist. She is the author of four collections, most recently A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems and five chapbooks. She is the 11th recipient of The Jackson Poetry Prize. She has taught at CUNY, Barnard College, Adelphi University, Hollins University, Naropa University, University of Rhode Island, and Rutgers University.
Alystyre Julian has documented Anne Waldman’s work-in-action for over a decade, and is currently in post-production for Outrider film (2021). She is also a writer, photographer, and a yoga teacher at pink quartz yoga in New York City. Alystyre is currently documenting artists in residency at Five Myles.
Alystyre at Poetry Project at St Mark’s Church, Matt Kohn foto.
Ruth Lepson is poet-in-residence at The New England Conservatory, where she often collaborates with musicians. MadHat Press will be publishing her new and selected poems. Visit ruthlepson.com and click on Shop to hear musical settings of some of her poems from her last book, ask anyone (Pressed Wafer).