By Matthew Pincus
The 11th Annual Women of Naropa Reading was a celebration of both women writers, and Anne Waldman’s birthday. Bobbie Louise Hawkins said in her reading, “Time eats history,” and certainly it did for Florence Jenkins, the subject of her fine short story about an amateur operatic soprano who had a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall in the 1940s.
Readers included professors, graduates, and undergraduates of the Jack Kerouac School. Mara Ochoa, an undergraduate, in her poem discussed the speaker’s personal grievances over how language had been used to hold sway over an individual’s feelings. Undergraduates Erika Hodges and Sara Schultz also read.
Many second year MFA students (Hannah Kazema, Ella Longpre, Brent Zionic, Ellie Swensson, and Sean McDaniel), known as Polly Vocal, along with Professor Reed Bye, performed one of Gertrude Stein’s many short plays. Although all her plays have an absurd fixation on language, the cast provided a strong rendering of a Modernist Parisian scene with the discipline of syntax and grammar the writer herself would have approved of. Graduate students Heather Sweeney and Rachel Martin also read.
Another performance-based piece in honor of Anne was by her friends and colleagues Toni Oswald and Max Davies. The musicality and also repetitive hushes of their lyrics, a musical experiment by Anne herself, written and performed in the 1970s, brought to life, as she often does, the vibrancy and energy surrounding art and music in New York City.
Colleague and alumni HR Hegnauer read a touching letter by Anne’s mother written to her in her twenties, and contained a good deal of cynical wit about a workshop she was attending at the time. Andrea Rexilius read a fitting poem for the evening written by Anne, and Laura Wright used a fierce, passionate voice for her piece. Also, friends and alumni to the Jack Kerouac School Lisa Birman, Jennifer Dorn, and Jade Lascelles read.
The last, and featured speaker of the evening was poet Anne Waldman herself. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she becomes younger through the years. Anne’s poetic voice is swift with perfect elocution. She speaks with passion for scenes varying from quiet serenity to ominous paranoia. In Beirut, at the outdoor courtyard of a teahouse, the speaker encounters the beauty and freedom of artistry in a space, which both inspires and fosters creative growth. However, a remembrance of a child’s fear of drones harkens one back to the concern with devastation caused by the American unmanned air crafts many civilians in Lebanon fear, and which effect innocent citizens.
This evening of performances was a fundraiser to benefit Bombay Gin, the school’s literary magazine, and also A Woman’s Work, a non-profit based out of Longmont, which assist women in financial crisis with child care, housing, medical, and transportation needs. They also helped, and continue to help, victims of the Boulder flood.
Matthew Pincus was born and raised in San Diego, CA. He has a B.A. from Pitzer College in English and is has written book reviews for Bookslut, RainTaxi, Pank, and Necessary Fiction. He also published an essay on Dodie Bellamy in Coldfront, and presented at last years Disembodied Poetics Conference.