Anne Waldman and Fast Speaking Music (Anne Waldman (vocals), Devin Brajha Waldman, (synthesizers, drum machines & sax), Ambrose Bye (synthesizers), performing Allen’s classic “Plutonian Ode” in its entirety. The release is available on all download sites and the Ginsberg bandcamp, Apple Music, Amazon and can be streamed from Spotify and Youtube
The track, co-produced in conjunction with The Allen Ginsberg Estate and with the inspirational OBON SOCIETY, will be available for digital download
Anne Waldman writes:
When we founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in 1974 within the cauldron of what was to become Naropa University, the first Buddhist inspired university in the US, if not the West, Rocky Flats (begun in 1952) was a gathering shadow of concern. It was close to Boulder and downwind of Denver and quickly became a priority for many of us recent arrivals to the Colorado poetry nexus, including Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Dick Gallup, and Reed Bye. Along with many local citizens, as well as high profile activists such as Daniel Ellsberg, we became directly involved with the Rocky Mountain Truth Force (later morphing to the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center) and demonstrations, track blockages, and protests continued over a decade and a half with a number of arrests. After the FBI raids of 1989, the DOE lost the ability and mandate to produce the plutonian pits that went into nuclear warheads. During its production years, Rocky Flats produced more than 1,800 pits per year. The Nuclear Weapons plant officially closed in 1992. In 1998, nine years after the raid, plutonium pits production began at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, with just a few pits produced a year. Currently the National Nuclear Security Administration seeks to build a modern pit facility capable of producing possibly as many as 80 or so pits a year. NNSA proposes to start meeting this requirement by recapitalizing facilities at two existing sites – Los Alamos and Savannah River, by 2030. Their website speaks of maintaining a “secure, safe and reliable stockpile.”
Plutonium remains in the soil at Rocky Flats, renamed a National Wildlife Refuge, a place deemed safe for pets and babies in strollers. There are no markers or warnings on the premises about the toxic, deadly element that has a half-life of nearly a quarter of a million years.
Ginsberg’s “Plutonian Ode” is a “time bomb’, a documentary poetics project, a compressed lesson on nuclear reactors, energy, physics, religion’s patriarchal gods, wisdom deity Sophia, poetry with great tribute to Walt Whitman, origin myths, Eleusis, astronomy, cosmology, and more. It was a poem written a day before yet again another protest, and finished at dawn. I saw Allen that morning in his home on Bluff Street. He was still “lit” by the poem’s power and portents. He calls out the demons and summons human and cosmic antidote which is awareness.
In this rendering with Fast Speaking Music I wanted every word and syllable heard clearly of this significant treatise. It has a long shelf life for generations to come…a living, breathing and vocalized thread of compacted gnosis that helped shift some of the frequency around the closure of the plant, although we still struggle on with the long karmic consequences and need stay on alert. And for what the Masters of War who dwell in the perpetual Warring God Realm continue to push on the global stage.
Warfare is more and more cyborgian, taking place in cyber space and through carrier waves. It’s techno-death, murderous as ever seems to want to continue to wreak havoc and harm on civilization and all its denizens. Perhaps this poem can still raise consciousness and conscience and also be an inspiration for poets to come to resist and fight for a true antithesis reality which would never allow Los Alamos to reopen its pit manufacturing hell realm.
“Take this wheel of syllables in hand, these vowels and/consonants to breath’s end/ Take this inhalation of black poison to you heart, breathe/ out this blessing from your breast on our creation/ forests cities oceans deserts rocky flats and mountains/ in the Ten Directions pacify with this exhalation…”
The existence of Rocky Flats and its ever-necessary guardianship continues to haunt my own life, my poetry and practices. I used to take my son Ambrose and his friends when they were children to a ranch near the Flats to go horseback riding. One morning we saw eyeless goat and 3-legged lamb born in the stable, out of this toxic horror.
Our Fast Speaking Music band and its label is committed to the joys of music and poetry and to the ever-demanding ethos to “help wake the world to itself.” We dedicate this version of “Plutonian Ode” to such an effort.
July 4th, 2021
Year of the Metal Ox
Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg, and Anne Waldman at Rocky Flats, Colorado, 1978 – Photo by Leonard Buschel
Fast Speaking Music, 2019 Photo by Natalia Gaia