Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Anne Waldman is deeply committed to an approach to performing that treats poems and songs as “word-scapes” or “sound-scapes” created with breath, voice and body. The German language has a word for this: sprechstimme, which translates into “spoke-sung.”
A lifetime celebrant and proponent of poetry as an oral art, Waldman was blurring the lines between reciting, chanting, singing and dramatizing poetry decades before terms like “performance poetry” “slam poetry” or “spoken word art” were in use. She digs down to language’s atavistic roots—coo and cry, whine and howl, whimper and growl—to get at the language below language: the rhythmic sounds hominids may have used before they developed anything we would recognize as speech, and which connects us to our non-human relatives.
And yet, Waldman’s work is also highly spiritual. A student of Buddhism since the early 1960’s, she was co-founder with Allen Ginsberg and others of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, the first writing program in the United States rooted in Buddhist principles.
As the poems she reads in this clip from the 2006 Dodge Festival attest, Waldman is also passionate about the political and social issues of her time. An active peace advocate throughout her career, Waldman has also been outspoken as a protester, organizer and artist on nuclear arms, women’s rights and the environment. For Waldman, her art, activism and spirituality are all part of the ongoing struggle to remain deeply engaged with and committed to the world.
Anne Waldman is the author of over forty books, most recently, Manatee/Humanity. In the Room of Never Grieve: New and Selected Poems 1985-2003 includes selections from her earlier work.
Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead.
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The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark is October 7 – 10!
For more information, visit the Poetry website.