Internationally recognized and acclaimed poet Anne Waldman has been an active member of the “Outrider” experimental poetry community, a culture she has helped create and nurture for over four decades as writer, editor, teacher, performer, magpie scholar, infra-structure curator, and cultural/political activist. Her poetry is recognized in the lineage of Whitman and Ginsberg, and in the Beat, New York School, and Black Mountain trajectories of the New American Poetry. But has raised the bar as a feminist, activist and powerful performer. She has read in the streets as well as numerous larger venues such as the Dodge Literary Festival in the USA and the Jaipur Literature Festival in India and continues to teach poetics all over the world. She remains a highly original “open field investigator” of consciousness, committed to the possibilities of radical shifts of language and states of mind to create new modal structures and montages of attention. Her work is energetic, passionate, panoramic, fierce at times.
She is the author of more than 60 books, including the mini-classic Fast Speaking Woman, published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books in San Francisco; a new collection of essays, interviews, letters, and poems entitled Bard, Kinetic (Coffee House Press, 2022); as well as her classic, Vow to Poetry.
Waldman is the author of many selected poetry editions including Helping the Dreamer, Kill or Cure and In the Room of Never Grieve. She has concentrated on the long poem as a cultural intervention with such projects as Marriage: A Sentence, Structure of The World Compared to a Bubble, and Manatee/Humanity, which is a book-length rhizomic meditation on evolution and endangered species, and Gossamurmur a meditation on Archive. Her monumental anti-war feminist epic The Iovis Trilogy: Colors in the Mechanism of Concealment—a 25 year project—won the Pen Center Award for Poetry. Other recent books include Sanctuary (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020), Songs of the Sons and Daughters of Buddha: Enlightenment Poems from the Theragatha and Therigatha (translated by Andrew Schelling and Anne Waldman, Shambhala Publications, 2020), Trickster Feminism (Penguin Books, 2018), Extinction Aria (Pied Oxen, 2017), and Voice’s Daughter of a Heart Yet To Be Born (2016), which, as Lyn Hejinian says, “brings Waldman’s work into the more intimate paradoxical folds of poetic (and prophetic) knowledge.” Waldman’s major publishers are Penguin Poets and Coffee House Press.
She was one of the founders and directors of The Poetry Project at St. Marks’s Church In-the-Bowery, working there for twelve years. She also co-founded with—Allen Ginsberg and Diane diPrima—the celebrated Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, the first Buddhist inspired University in the western hemisphere, in 1974. Ginsberg has called Waldman his “spiritual wife.” She is a Distinguished Professor of Poetics at Naropa and continues to work to preserve the school’s substantial literary and oral archives and curate the celebrated Summer Writing Program.
An accomplished editor, Waldman’s New Weathers: Poetics from the Naropa Archive (edited with Emma Gomis) is a collection of lectures, transcribed from the audio archives of Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, that represent a continuing lineage of experimental literary movements.
She has edited and co-edited many collections based on the holdings of the Kerouac School including Civil Disobediences, Beats at Naropa, and Cross Worlds: Transcultural Poetics. She is also the editor of Nice to See You, an homage to poet Ted Berrigan, The Beat Book, and co-editor with Lewis Warsh of The Angel Hair Anthology.
She has been a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, a fellow at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbria, and has held the Emily Harvey residency in Venice. She has worked at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and at the Women’s Christian College in Tokyo, She has presented her work at conferences and festivals around the world, most recently in Jaipur, Bratislava, Wuhan, Beijing, Berlin, Nicaragua, Prague, Kerala, Mumbai, Calcutta, Marrakech, and Madrid. Her work has been translated into numerous languages. She curated the Casa del Lago “Poesia en Voz Altro 17” in Mexico City in the Spring of 2017.
Waldman works with the anti-nuclear Guardianship Project in Boulder and was arrested in the 1970s with Allen Ginsberg and activist Daniel Ellsberg at Rocky Flats, which led to a commitment to the accountability for nuclear waste to future generations, a vow that according to Waldman is “a nearly quarter of a million year project.”
“Waldman’s work is the antithesis of stasis. . . . She is a flame,” as one reviewer has noted.
She has also collaborated extensively with a number of artists, musicians, and dancers, including Elizabeth Murray, Richard Tuttle, Joe Brainard, George Schneeman, Donna Dennis, Kiki Smith, Pamela Lawton Pat Steir, and the theatre director Judith Malina.
Black Lodge, an opera for which Waldman wrote the libretto, premiers in Philadelphia in 2022. Part film screening and part industrial rock opera concert, this world premiere event features glam opera band Timur & the Dime Museum alongside musicians from the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra. Music by David T. Little.
Her play “Red Noir” was produced by the Living Theatre and ran for nearly three months in New York City in 2010. She has collaborated with Meredith Monk in performances in New York City, Boston, and Brown University. She has also been working with other media including audio, film and video, with her husband, writer and video/film director Ed Bowes, and with her son, musician and composer Ambrose Bye, Natalia Gaia (videographer), and nephew Devin Brahja Waldman, with whom she works on projects with The Fast Speaking Music label and live performance. They have done projects with Thurston Moore, Clark Coolidge, Daniel Carter, Ha-Yang Kim.
Publishers Weekly has referred to Waldman as “a counter-cultural giant.”
“Poesía en la niebla | Poetry in the mist” is a documentary film on working with the school children at the Music School in the Ayuk village in Tlahuitoltepec, Mexico. Film by Natalia Gaia, with support from Brown University. Other projects with video include Crepuscular with the filmmaker No Land, and the bio-pic Outrider of Waldman currently in progress with filmmaker Alyster Julian.
“Cyborg on the Zattere,” with music by composer Steven Taylor and 12 performers, including cellist Ha-Yang Kim and reed instrumentalist Marty Erlich and a Renaissance trio, premiered at the Douglas Dunn Salon in Spring of 2011. This “Poundatorio” takes on the “knot” of Ezra Pound, his poetics and politics. It includes settings for parts of the Pisan Cantos.
She was active in Occupy Art, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street in NYC, and has recently been involved with Extinction Rebellion projects. She has initiated projects around the theme of Symbiosis, which studies the interaction between two or more different biological species. “The living together of unlike organisms,” a challenge for our times. How to include the cyborg? How to insure / take better care of the “human” in relation. Fight the pipelines and induced hydraulic fracturing. She advocates and works for more arts in education, and in prisons.
Waldman is a recipient of the Before Columbus Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, bestowed on her by Ishmael Reed, American Book Award’s Lifetime Achievement, a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and has served six years as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. The Huffington Post named her one of the top advocates for American poetry.
Waldman divides her time between New York City and Boulder, Colorado.
Photo by Nina Subin, 2014