Kill or Cure
1994 • 288 pages • ISBN: 978-0140587081 • $14.95
“Kill Or Cure,” a bold prescriptive for these apocalyptic days, brings together substantial new work as well as the best of Anne Waldman’s previously uncollected poetry. It includes credos, manifestos, dreams, homages to literary predecessors, “Shaman Hisses You Slide Back Into The Night” (the journal poem written during Bob Dylan’s historic Rolling Thunder Revue), witty political diatribes, travel vignettes, incantations, and a new section of the ongoing epic poem “Iovis,” a powerful meditation on male energy.
To read Waldman’s (Suffer the Mysterium) collection of new work and previously uncollected poetry is to revisit the era of Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and the Beats and reopen the window of Woodstockean sensuality, spontaneity and “global poetics.” A performance artist, an educator and a poet for the past three decades, Waldman here offers readers a compendium of aesthetic credos, other ideologies, feminist paeans, naive graphics and linguistic excursions into Spanish, Buddhist Tantras and Chaucerian English. Cautioned by the writer’s expressed disinterest in “linear time” and “the tongue of discursive mind,” and by her interest in “the phones & phonemes of experience, the language moment to moment,” readers should not be surprised if they sometimes stumble over inchoate imagery or fall outside the rambling rhythms of the poems. Waldman’s most accessible work may be her retrospective studies-such as “Shaman Hisses You Slide Back into the Night,” portraying the relation between Bob Dylan and his entourage-and her “political rants,” e.g., in support of ecology. Her belief in a community of kindred spirits, the “body poetics,” is persuasive, impelling new readers to “Break out of the circle, go to my book/ It’s as big as the world.”
The attention-grabber of this collection of old and new work is a long journal poem called “Shaman Hisses You Slide Back into the Night,” which Waldman wrote while on tour with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review (Dylan hired her, along with Allen Ginsberg, as a “poet-in-residence-witness”). Waldman’s ongoing dialog with artists, lovers, hipsters, and gurus, often via stream-of-consciousness prose rather than poetry, can be entertaining, but it may annoy readers interested primarily in good poems. Fortunately, good poems are included: the title poem, for instance, which is a dense, literary prayer for “a thorough attention span, outrageous logic,/a sinew of wrath to kill, to cure” or the short, lovely “Rudeste,” written “to the muse, absent one night,” which ends: “I loved her color, her mynde, her yearning/Her sicnesse, her obsession, her sliding/& seeing all lyfe as writing, a genuine worlde.” For readers who want to feel intimate with a performance poet, here is a lot to live with, and some to like.
—Library Journal, Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York