The latest Writer’s Chronicle features an interview between Renée Olander and Anne Waldman. Congratulations Anne!
Olander: Could you talk more about what has spurred your “investigations” that have resulted in the book-length poems?
Waldman: Structure Of The World Compared To A Bubble, another investigative piece, was inspired by a pilgrimage to the Buddhist Stupa in Java—the Borobudur Stupa. It’s a Buddhist reliquary that’s also a mandala you circle, maybe five kilometers, and you circumambulate around it on an upward trajectory, “reading” the carvings along the walls that are Buddhist sutras—various tales of spiritual journeys—until you arrive at the top. It’s a little bit like hell at the lower realms, you’re ascending toward a kind of liberation; I thought of Dante’s Comedia naturally. The poem includes explications of Mudras, with illustrations, and a sense of a gong continually striking, so when I verbalize this it’s a penetrating ripple-effect sound: “Gong—ong -ong -ong -ong -ong -ong -ong.” It has a glossary of Buddhist terms. Thus, it’s a didactic more “logopoeia” (Ezra Pound’s “dance of the intellect” category) piece, tracking what is called the Mahayana or Bodhisattva path. Again, it was a project I felt “called” to do—like Iovis and Manatee/Humanity, which was sparked by meeting a Manatee in a Florida aquarium. Structure of the World began as a pilgrimage, but the site of reclamation was also a psychology, a cosmology, a way of thinking, a philosophical language journey.
And Marriage: A Sentence is also a long serial poem moving between prose and poetry in a duet mode. I started it in a Naropa class as an assignment to work with the Haibun, the Japanese prose poem form—and it began “Marriage marriage is like you say everything everything in stereo stereo fall fall on the bed bed at dawn dawn because you work work all night night,” and my class said, “It’s funny, you should keep going.” So the longer poems—that’s the evolution. It’s probably more of a challenge currently for me to write short, individual, discrete poems. They seem so lonely by themselves. The trajectory has been towards these long, investigative, circuitous narrative poems, all within the context of continuing the Iovis project, the great mothership, for quite some time. I think of them as narrative, because they include narrations of my own psyche and interests and obsessions, and sense of ritual which involves procedure and layerings until you arrive at the inner sanctum!