Voice’s Daughter of a Heart Yet to be Born by Anne Waldman ’62? This work combines prose poems and verse in a trip Offworld with an embryonic version of Thel, the heroine of Blake’s Book of Thel. Often intensely close to the actual working of a mind troubled by finality, Anne’s work can read like automatic writing and be difficult to penetrate. Other times, she lucidly shows us how her associative process works as she calls up the eccentric letters she regularly receives. In Blake’s work, Thel wonders what the point of living is if she will just end up “the food of worms.” In this work, the poet, hospitalized and semi-delirious, wonders if it is worth it to return to full consciousness. Her companion Thel is in the bardo, the place between one life and the next reincarnation. At one point the poet conjectures that the bardo is in her own mind. A message from the fragile feminine “vox dei” that “you will travel through this and be healed,” argues for her to continue her struggle to recuperate.
The characters from Blake’s work appear (Lily, the Cloud, Worm and Clod of clay) but even more abundant are mythological, biblical and historical references. Peeking through are modern events of protest and activism like the Occupy movement. There are two parts to the work, and they bear the Blakian stamp: the first is Innocence and the second is Experience. My favorite poem is the gorgeous incantation entitled “A Fourth Moment Speaks Through the Poet,” with its litany “my love comes home today.”
It is probably not a good idea to read one of the poet’s latest works without any knowledge of the important preceding opus, especially when the word “palinode,” a word for a poem that contradicts a previous poem, is used several times. Anne Waldman has led a storied life, having been associated in her youth with the “beat” poets. Wikipedia tells me that Allen Ginsberg referred to her as his “spiritual wife.” I look forward to reading one of her earlier works.