Throwback Thursday: Anne Waldman’s Fast Speaking Woman

waldmenThe 40th anniversary event for the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics is this Sunday, April 20th, at City Lights Books. In preparation of this event, we’d like to share a poem from Anne Waldman, who co-founded the school with Allen Ginsberg in 1974 at Naropa University.

The book is Fast Speaking Woman, no. 33 in our Pockets Poets Series. The book was re-issued by City Lights in 1996, 20 years after it’s first edition. In the preface to the City Lights edition, which includes a few previously unpublished essays from the 80’s and some early poems unearthed from old files & notebooks, Waldman remarks that, “It is a pleasure to have this chance to present a more ample compilation of some of the early ‘oral’ work, which was seminal to my growth as a poet.”

Here we have the pleasure of sharing with you a poem from that reissue: “Battle Beast”

Battle Beast

I woke in a terrible night
I needed to name my world
“Fire,” I said, “Fire burns”
I said, “Fire could burn me”
“Fire burns wood,” I said
“Fire warms me”
“Fire cooks,” I said, singing
a song over a dead beast
“Fire saves my world”
I moved in such & such a way
throwing my head back
& took a hop & two steps to the right,
throwing my head back, and took
a hop & two steps to the left
I circled around the fire and repeated:
“Fire burns,” “Fire could burn me,”
“Fire warms,” “Fire could save my world”
The smoke made my eyes water
“Water,” I said, “Water cools,
but tears burn,” “Water,” I said
“Water cools fire,” I said
“Tears burn”
I needed to name my world
I woke in a terrible night
I write this in flames
I saw pictures in the flames
Animals coming out of animals in the flames
I saw mountains heaving in the flames
I wrote this in water
I saw my wild face in water
Sharp teeth in water
I woke in terror of the letter “F”
I woke in wonder to the burning letter “F”
I wrote it on the earth, on the ground
I took a stick & drew a line like my spine
I crossed it at the top to extend an arm
I crossed it in the middle in order to walk
It looked like a weapon
I walked toward the fire
I woke in bright light to name “Fire.”

The event this Sunday for the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics is hosted by Andrea Rexillus. With readings by Robert Gluck, Juliana Spahr, Cedar Sigo, Eric Baus, Michelle Naka Pierce, and Chris Pusateri.

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