Fantastic Caryatids

Anne Waldman & Vincent Katz

2016• 58 pages • ISBN: 978-1-60964-244-0 • $18
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Fantastic Caryatids, by Anne Waldman & Vincent Katz, is a lush, vivid and spectacular reading/album/book of poetry, conversation and photographs. Note that the subtitle is A Conversation with Art. The “with” has the particularities of city, specificities of the senses, of memories, of an ethos whose upper limit is friendship, companionship. It is a model, a remarkable “alternative version of how to be alive.” (Anne Waldman) Dynamic, urbane, intimate, “the occasion of these ruses” (Frank O’Hara) is synergy from chronos to kairos. From Ted Berrigan and Barbara Guest to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, from Chelsea to St. Mark’s, from Kiki Smith to Patti Smith, we see the duo’s radiant and earnest exchanges about how communities develop around being together in space and time, making and sharing a world, a life. The proliferations of concretions and abstractions connect to early days (“first hits of reading,” first poetry) to the making, the working, the people they knew and know. “From you I get the story” gestures back to Guido Cavalcanti’s subtle spirit which “strikes through the eyes/ That rouses a spirit in the mind/ From which a spirit of love will rise.” From “Look at that field” to “What did we miss?” From Vincent Katz’s “Alright, we’re live” to Anne Waldman’s “Satori!” Well, you get the picture: “Form is love.” You don’t want to miss this!

—Norma Cole

New York Schooling: standing still and walking in New York. Philip Whalen, ever far from NYC, wrote in a poem that “a walking grove of trees” is what “academy” might, in its deep root, really mean. Taken to heart, this could lead to a mode of wondering-while-wandering “what could happen to us between ourselves when we expose ourselves to this space, which belongs neither to one nor the other.” That is, to Avital Ronell’s charmed formulation for the kind of study and finding out that can open up when conversation happens.

Our two simpatico Manhattanites from birth, of a “composite generation,” set out, all eyes and ears, into their city among its works, “taking a walk to look at art with you.” New York’s “fantastic caryatids,” cutting through the neo-liberally capitalized new ruins of the super-urban, shine down out of an earlier rendition of “Empire City.” They think with their poem as the singular intelligence, unmoored, drifts loose, pluralizes: “theory & practice, my DNA // this will get you far . . . ‘seeing’ is why we exist for a time // and would you agree, holding up / the world in imagination.”

—Steve Dickison

‘He saw. / She saw.’ Anne Waldman and Vincent Katz say. If seeing is an act of love, Waldman and Katz not only love but love to be astonished. And they collapse the many eras of New York into a mural of music and reminiscence… embrace it!

— Francesco Clemente

Fantastic Caryatids is a wonderful conversation between two poets. The combined poetry is magical and the conversation in the second part of the book opens up doors of recognition and reminiscence. A total pleasure.

—Pat Steir