Sisters of the Extreme, “One of the most electrifying poetry events of the seventies was Anne Waldman’s stage readings of her poem, ‘Fast Speaking Woman,’ a free adaptation of the Mazatec shaman Marian Sabina’s sacred mushroom chant.”
I’m the mushroom woman
I’m the phantom woman
I’m the moaning woman
I’m the river woman
I’m the singing river woman
I’m the clear-water woman
I’m the cleansing woman….
Waldman wrote 13 Tankas In Praise of Smoking Dope in 1969:
Even a priceless jewel
How can it excel
A toke of good grass?
Even jewels that flash at night
Are they like the breath of grass
Freeing the mind?
Of the ways to play
In this world of ours
The one that cheers the heart
Is laughing dope tears
This week to celebrate the Goddess Magu’s Harvest Festival, I took an hour off and stopped at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, opening Waldman's collection Kill or Cure to my New Favorite Poem, Pulse:
She swallowed the drug with her whole heart.
She wanted to go that far, as far as she could stretch.
In her head she could be joined again in the imagination
of the demons who turned to archangels. She saw them
as flowers. She saw them as pliant dancing pulses
of energy, as light. She wanted to see the whole
scene again as it fractured in increments of life
and light, as it danced. It was a great dance.
She wanted to get on top of the hill where she could
look back at the town, where she could look toward
the sky. The sky was a screen for her mind to play
upon. She wanted to melt with the trees, with the
rocks, with the flesh of all the nameable world.
She loved words. She would name the world now.
She would name it again. Again. Name it words again.
She would embrace that hill and everything upon it….
Waldman traveled with VIP Bob Dylan and wrote about it, correctly identifying him as a shaman. She also co-founded, with Allen Ginsberg and Diane di Prima, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is a Distinguished Professor of Poetics at Naropa and continues to work to preserve the school’s substantial literary/oral archive.
Writer Maria Garcia Teutsch asked Waldman about the role of the artist in the 21st century. She replied, “I believe it is to help wake the world up to itself. To point out the beauties, the possibilities, the extraordinary power of empathy and love, in art and in life, as well as the horrors of our greed and ignorance, our inhumanity and cruelty, and unspeakable injustices in a world that should know better from the harrowing legacy of slavery and war and climate degradation.”
Hear a 2009 interview with Waldman.