When American poet Anne Waldman reads poetry, she doesn’t just read — she sings, whispers, shrieks, gasps, stamps her feet and flails her arms, so that her verse begins to resonate at a more intense plane of meaning.
“I have always felt, from my very psychophysical make-up, the need to vocalise my poetry,” said Waldman, 65, whose energetic performance stunned the audience at a public reading of some of her work on Saturday.
The event was organised by the academic group Jnanapravaha and the online literary journal Almost Island. Though based in New York, Waldman grew up with Bohemian parents, was closely associated with the rebel American Beat poets of the 1960s, and is strongly rooted in Eastern philosophy and spirituality. “I feel a philosophical, almost animistic connection to Buddhist ideas,” she said.
The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics that she co-founded in Colorado, offers a compassionate environment for students of any sexual orientation.
Waldman often likes to set her verse to haunting piano pieces composed by her son. “I love Indian music, especially the women singers, who sing with a sense of being rooted to the earth,” she said.
Waldman last visited Mumbai for a Marathi film festival a few years ago, and she dedicated her Saturday reading to Marathi poet Dilip Chitre who passed away recently.
Waldman’s poetry is closely enmeshed with her tireless feminist and human rights activism. Her latest poem, Manatee/Humanity, is a symbolic meditation on the crimes of humanity on the environment, and the almost-complete Iovis, an epic poem she has been working on for 25 years, is a feminist battle with patriarchy.