Radical Presence

The following passages are from an interview with U.S.  poet Anne Waldman, co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics…

Poetry needs the breath. It needs the voice. It needs the body. It needs the mind.

It needs to be able to dream. To imagine.

Thus poetry depends on and recognizes the preciousness of our existence in the service of this particular art and of course in the service of so much more. It is rooted in the palpability of our existence and interdependence, the pratitya-samutpa—of all existence.

And the poem wants to sing out, to communicate, to wake you up.

The maker of the song who has this urge, this gift, sees how others are faring on the planet, including other writers incarcerated for their beliefs, who scratch their  poems on prison walls, smuggle them out in samizdat publications and so on.

Think of the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova whose first husband was executed, whose son was imprisoned under Stalin. She wrote Requiem  for all women whose sons were in the Gulag.

I am not talking about an easy, therapeutic confessional poetry that just talks about how you, the personal ‘I,’ feels. Or suffers. It’s of a higher order and command.

So there’s a way great poetry—Shakespeare, Blake, Emily Dickinson—poetries and cosmologies all over the world that inspires you to care for the planet, and for all its creatures and greenery.

To be a help rather than a nuisance.

Poetry has always been a radical presence in my life. I sometimes think it has saved my life.

–from Radical Presence: An Interview with Anne Waldman by Sonya Lea


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