Anne and Alice in Florence, 1979.
by Alice Notley
I met Anne in 1969, I was with Ted we’d traveled from the Midwest
We climbed the stairs at 33 St Marks Place to the first floor she answered the door
wearing a blue mohair cap She said Hello Boss to Ted
He told me afterwards they’d all started calling each other Boss, after seeing Cool Hand Luke
She never took the cap off! I said and Ted said She’s always got something on her head.
She comes to visit us in Wivenhoe, Essex, England in oh 1973 . . . 4? She and I go
for a walk through the village of Wivenhoe. At an open-air stall she buys
a bunch of watercress, holds it like a bouquet and then begins eating it voraciously –
watercress? Watercress! Walking and eating watercress.
Around 1978 I’m at Naropa She invites me to meet her to be interviewed
one evening, where? I arrive in the room first and wait She bursts through the door
and leaps at me like a dancer making a roaring noise — there were a lot of dancers
at Naropa then Jim Cohn comes in, conducts the interview, my first ever. I mean she
came through the door like a fast lion.
She Ted and I go to Florence together in ‘79 and stay at a hotel on the
Arno, full of murals mosquitoes noise We awaken and check out, hail a cab don’t
speak Italian but Ted tells the cabbie, we need a quieter hotel because Anne is pregnant –
a lie. He drives us to a sanatorium on the outskirts of town. A medical institution
white buildings and restful green grounds . . . We have to tell him to take us back to
A few years later she and I trade Buddhas Ted is no longer among us and I give her
a Buddha that Joe’d given Ted so she gives me one back, her tiny traveling Buddha.
Once in the 90s in Boulder Anne needs to buy a car I go with her to the used-car
lot, she already has a car in mind afraid it’s an old-lady car I say something like,
Just buy it, it’s just a car And she does And is grateful I said that and tells me so often.
That time in 1969, there was a dress shop below her apartment, on St. Mark’s wife of a
painter was the proprietress An outfit in the window – blue skirt long with red
roses and silky black top Ted bought for me . . . Recently Anne and I were trying to remember the proprietress’s name Howie Kanowitz’s wife, she’d said, she was an artist.
Mary Kanowitz, Anne! I have since remembered and take this opportunity to tell you.
I’m turning 75 soon myself but we’re the youngest people I know! That’s the most
important thing I have to say, Who really is younger than us? We both have so much to do that no one else can . . . It doesn’t matter. It’s just a car. I myself don’t even drive.
Is it a car or a Buddha? Does the poem name it? maybe. Happy Birthday, Anne!
Alice Notley was born in Bisbee, Ariz. in 1945 and grew up in Needles, Calif. in the Mojave Desert. She was educated in the Needles public schools, Barnard College, and The Writers Workshop, University of Iowa. She has lived most extensively in Needles, in New York, and since 1992 in Paris. She is the author of numerous books of poetry, and of essays and talks on poetry, and has edited and co-edited books by Ted Berrigan and Douglas Oliver. She edited the magazine Chicago in the ’70s and co-edited with Oliver the magazines Scarlet and Gare du Nord in the ’90s. She is the recipient of various prizes and awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Award (for Mysteries of Small Houses, which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), the Griffin Prize (for Disobedience), the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize (for Grave of Light, Selected Poems 1970-2005), and the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Prize, a lifetime achievement award. She is also a collagist and cover artist. Her most recent books are For the Ride and Eurynome’s Sandals.