Introductions for Charles North & Anne Waldman

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Called by James Schuyler “the most stimulating poet of his generation,” Charles North is the author of nine books of poems, most recently Cadenza (2007) and Complete Lineups (2009); a book of essays on poets, artists, and critics, No Other Way; and collaborative works with artists and other poets. His newest collection, What It Is Like: New and Selected Poems (Turtle Point/Hanging Loose), is out now, and you can buy it here tonight. North is Poet-in-Residence at Pace University in NYC.

In a review of Charles’s The Year of the Olive Oil, written by Barry Schwabsky and featured in The Poetry Project Newsletter, he says: “My motto for Charles North’s poetry might be: You can’t step into the same sentence twice.” I like that. After reading What It Is Like, I thought another good motto could be “Everything Keeps on Happening,” the title of one of his new poems in the collection. Reading his work in the context of a collected, I felt energy being organized true to the way humans have experiences, with continuous interchange and acceleration. A poem is a synthesis of information

and in becoming a poem, it is distinguished, at least in becoming a Charles North poem – yet he keeps it from gaining too much distinction (“it feels awkward to be noticing” could be another motto). He presents all the things that keep happening in perfect balance. There is actually no comparison for “what it is like.” To have an unmitigated experience is just that, and it is crucial that humans keep having them. The more integral experiences we have, the more we’ll feel how natural it is that “Callery pear trees are the only trees that can silently read” and to his question “whaddaya say to a cat-fur beer” – well, you’ll at least consider it. Please welcome Charles back to the Poetry Project.

Internationally acclaimed poet Anne Waldman has been a member of the “Outrider” experimental poetry community, a culture she has helped create and nurture for over four decades, as writer, editor, teacher, performer, magpie scholar, infra-structure curator, and cultural/political activist. She is the author of more than 40 books, including the mini-classic Fast Speaking Woman, a collection of essays entitled Vow to Poetry and several selected poems editions. She has collaborated extensively with artists, musicians, and dancers. Her play “Red Noir” was produced by the Living Theatre in 2010. She has also been working with other media including audio, film and video, with her husband, writer and video/film director Ed Bowes, and with her son, musician and composer Ambrose Bye. Coffee House Books has just published her monumental anti-war feminist epic The Iovis Trilogy: Colors in the Mechanism of Concealment.

I have introduced Anne more than any other poet in my decade plus of organizing readings, which works out well because I have an infinite amount of things to say about her work. May be someday I can collect all the paragraphs and it will become an essay, an installation. First, I want to congratulate Anne on the publication of the complete IOVIS, a work she began in the 1980s and brought with her into a new century. The opening piece begins with a question to the potential recruit – “Will you help me build my Ardhanarisvara, the androgynous city?” If you will, you are going to rebuild a psyche through an epic. One of the frequencies I was picking up loud and clear throughout the work is the importance of the archive and its guardianship, especially as it pertains to inscribing psychic process. Derrida states in the beginning of Archive Fever, that the etymology of “archive” coordinates the principles of the commencement and the commandment. Things commence physically, historically and ontologically and according to the law, where men and gods command. In IOVIS the social order is non-repressive. It’s Anne’s body poetic, her archive, where the painful, the dark, the violent are out-maneuvered into an open, “both both” system. She reorders material (the world) in a manner that manifests her discoveries about how to create public and private spaces for outrider life. She uses words and the accumulation of personal data to flay power (reference to something Rachel Blau DuPlessis says of her work) and makes a community of her own choosing, “attentive to language and poetry before language.” Being a political citizen in this new polis translates into energy for global transformation. She’ll be performing with Ambrose Bye – please welcome Anne back to the Project.

-Stacy Szymaszek