Trickster feminism

Anne Waldman, 1945-

Book - 2018

"New from celebrated poet and performer Anne Waldman--a witty, visionary collection that meditates on gender, existence, passion, and protest. How do we investigate the psyche of our playful resistance to assumptions and norms through poetry? What mischief can we invoke as purveyors of a future feminism, its ambiguity, and power? In her new collection, Trickster Feminism, Anne Waldman looks to the imagination of mercurial possibility, to the spirits of the doorway and of crossroads, and to language that jolts the status quo of how one troubles gender and outwits and topples patriarchy. Waldman summons Tarot's Force Arcana, the Bible's Miriam, the passion of the suffragettes, and various messengers and heroines of historical, ...hermetic, and heretical stance. Melpomene, the muse of tragic poetry, is highlighted as an inspiration for dirge, prophecy, and imagination in action. Mythopoetics, shape shifting, quantum entanglement, chance operation, magic, and divination play inside the field of these poems. Tricksters turn many ways, as does poetry, and in Waldman's rendering, a female trickster's manipulation may be apocalyptic"--

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New York, New York : Penguin Books [2018]
Main Author
Anne Waldman, 1945- (author)
Physical Description
141 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
  • Acknowledgments
  • Trick a'death
  • Denouement
  • Crepuscular
  • Mash do beauvoir
  • Clytemnestra's body polis ticks
  • Melpomene
  • Streets of the world
  • Radio play: face-down-girl
  • Mash butler
  • Strangling me with your lasso of stars
  • Tresses
  • Patriarchus
  • Trickster feminism
  • Rite
  • Entanglement
  • Trick o'life
  • Coda: time to gambol withal?
  • Notes & citations
  • Visuals
Review by New York Times Review

IN FOLKLORE, the trickster figure is a cunning rulebreaker, positioned disruptively outside conventional mores. With her new book's title, Anne Waldman, whose writing, performing, teaching and activist career defies political and poetic convention, appears to promise feminist mischief and playfulness. And there are such moments: when, for instance, the names of woman poets are embedded as homonyms ("Mean alloy" for Mina Loy, "Burn a debt" for Bernadette - Mayer, presumably). But these operate more as a homage to fun than as fun itself. The pervading mood in "Trickster Feminism" is of a piece with our national mood: gloom-filled, sorrowing, yet occasionally threaded with hope. "And the day would be proud of itself going on as if it hadn't already collapsed, had not been destroyed, riven, all the people mad and metabolically downcast," begins the prose sequence "denouement," which responds to Donald Trump's election. "People were coming out to the street. In the way they wanted to see where the big guy lived and boasted so as to mock the event. ... How ugly would it go?" Later, Waldman tells of a woman "mumbling mantras... as she circles the tower.... ?? Man Be Gone ... Om Con Con Be Gone," and laments "a lack of power to move ethical clocks forward." Waldman is associated with 20th-century experimental writers who have energetically defined themselves against what she calls "the official verse literati culture academic mainstream." A longtime leftwing political activist, she has written dozens of works of poetry and given hundreds of performances. She co-founded, with Allen Ginsberg and Diane di Prima, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. A devotee of Tibetan Buddhism, she seems to have centered her life and work on the idea that poetry and language are a "tribal responsibility," summoning a powerful kind of political magic. Over the decades, Waldman has written many long poems. Her urge is epic. In sequences of prose and verse, she gives voice to vatic, rhythmic, litany-shaped utterances, with an intensity that can mute her playfulness (though in performance her ability to play gets more play). Waldman combines political, mythical, literary, artistic and historic references in poems that tend to blend and blur rather than yield imagistic clarity. The shortest poems in "Trickster Feminism" are one or two pages long; most are much longer. The metaphor that comes to mind is of a river, its great volume washing by. My undergraduate students would love to talk about Waldman's "flow." The opening poem, "trick o' death," takes place "when you are sitting / with the corpse of your friend." But the act and ritual of remembrance, rather than its object, are what become important: "make a binding of your mind / surface the body / breathe in quick breaths / huff! huff!" Physical description is general and, at first, female ("a cut, a scar the beautiful slit / of feminine aperture") until "ungendered now ... / she's getting out of this / into another maelstrom." In the same poem, Waldman connects "patriarchal poetry" to political aggression: fend off patriarchal poetry and your own struggle in cultural anachronism bombing unilaterally nothing about socially constituted witch trials women restrain or manipulate desire Here Waldman's abstractions, with their rhythmic thrust and variation, might be best read out loud. It's pleasant, for example, to move the third and fourth lines around in your mouth. "Fend off patriarchal poetry" is a vague, if admirable, directive, delivered without apparent irony or a sense of complicity. (Waldman approves of and/or quotes Brecht, Rimbaud, Duncan, Césaire and "my William my difficult Burroughs," as well as a number of female and trans writers.) The point is that Waldman sees oppression, marginalization, injustice and violence as male and patriarchal, in poetry as in politics. The 19-page "melpomene," named after the muse of tragedy (and, more archaically, of song), proceeds with drive-by speed. Waldman's references are ancient and contemporary, local and global: "mammoth ivory," "hipster planets," "fascist salute," "Kurdish, riot grrrl / hijab as act of resistance," "stateless Rohinga," "cyborgian," "mutilated Aphrodite," "fear in Jeff Sessions's eyes." And that's just for starters. It's a messed-up world, she reminds us in her referential shorthand. You can see, for example, the conversion of St. Paul and the current destruction in Syria in a mere three lines: serpentine roads to Damascus odd how holiest of places turned hells Does subsuming massive topics into this long performance diminish or trivialize them? Reading Waldman is like being in the world today, neither inured to the news nor lacerated by our own empathy. A list isn't necessarily dispassionate. Sacrificing detail and dramatization for an expansive catalog may mean that one's emotions are less engaged, but also that one's sense of self becomes usefully smaller. I couldn't help, however, loving best the moment in "melpomene" when Waldman leaves her prophet voice and segues into an updated spiritual tone, both tragic and delivered with desperate lightness: I looked over Jordan and what did I see Drones over Jordan coming after me Singing the crimes of man I've got those Anthropocene Anthropocene blues. Set toward the end of this long poem, the song envisions "Cadres of humans talking to the streets... / Changing the frequency" and "Ghosts of the extincted ones coming after me." The lyric takes on the force of collective making, collective expression, in the poem's claustrophobic swirl. That's part of what Waldman is after: collective responsibility. Readers who are heavily invested in (productive) irony may resist when Waldman, a longtime New Yorker, calls out, with apparent sincerity, "Hecate! Hecate!" in the book's final poem, "coda: time to gambol withal?" But we postmoderns get to choose our idols. All generations need not employ the same tonalities. And I'm wholeheartedly on board with Waldman at the poem's end: don't be dazed around criminals take the wheel of office again boycott, stomp out, plead, hold peace And I can share her understanding of the basic problem in the book's final lines: how get supper to homeless shivering at crossroads with keening imagination however jinxed! It's easy to feel drawn to this poet's idealism and generosity of spirit; hard, as well, not to be grateful for moments when she indulges in a little self-puncturing. Hints of the trickster, indeed, that most intelligent subversive. DAISY FRIED is the author of three books of poems, most recently "Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice." She is poetry editor of the literary resistance journal Scoundrel Time.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [December 9, 2018]
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Acclaimed poet Waldman (Voice's Daughter of a Heart Yet To Be Born) plumbs the variations and nuances of female subjectivity and paths to liberation through the performance of words and rituals. In her opener, "trick o' death," she lambastes capitalism as "the titular rape mode of quest & scheme," directing readers to meet her "on the other edge of town" in order to hatch a plot to "take down the big horrible men." Waldman references such mythical female figures as the Lady of the Lake, Callisto, and the Gorgons while crafting legends of her own, including one involving a coven of women living underground, plotting revolution: "maybe we could have a parable about craving soil under avenues, hope & fear. Times of the chthonic." She suggests that readers "secede from the vocabulary they give you" and provides her own view of what this might look like through poems that tend to be long meditations on a theme, but which vary widely in form. Waldman's erudite and experimental language is notable in such poems as "entanglement," where she riffs on the names of famous women writers, i.e., "Wall stone craft" and "Auld tray lured." The collection is fragmentary and obtuse, even for Waldman, and requires some decoding, but the subtext is a rich and stirring commentary on feminine empowerment. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Countercultural Naropa poet Waldman (The Iovis Trilogy) bases her new book on the trickster archetype, a character who through the use of deception is able to disrupt the normal order and replace it with a new way of doing something. If there's a narrative line to these difficult-to-read language poems, it's that 70-year-old Waldman has tricked death through art. As she says, "I had to write/ my assassin's dream/ I had to conjure with my last breath/ to disappear/ within/ animation of drum and larynx/ I offer crystalline chants/ just scribble out poems; Waldman's open-form, projective verse style is replete with puns, irony, alliteration, and parallel texts, as well as sidebars, footnotes, photographs, and illustrations (based on the cover painting of a rabbit-goddess figure by performance artist Laurie Anderson). The volume begins with the poem "trick o' death," about death, and ends with "trick o' life," a poem about life. In between, the collage-like poems refer to everything from Buddhist teachings to characters from Greek mythology. -VERDICT Waldman defies death with new poems, which at their best, push against her own demise and celebrate life. Recommended for serious poetry collections.- C. Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

trick o' death when you are sitting with the corpse of your friend this is what to do when what do you do if you are strong make a binding of your mind surface the body breathe in quick breaths huff! huff! this is what to do libation in small drops on heart center coins of ancient India on eyes feathers and serpentine remembrance and open words like talismans that shake the cosmos as in opening a crypt asleep too long for death is awakening and the alive, like you, ahunted like "art" like "phantasm" they will guide you around the heart circle around heart's cold with drops of amrita leave them there of candle, frugal or flame can she see? she can still hear they say hearing is last to go more of this is what to do images of all you loved to go and lastly enterprise to repeat acts of love, and in going pound heart once more dear suffragette summon here to outlast the misogynist other curative wisdom what is our speed to know from branches of laurel trick o' death a strategy this is what to do be tactful the dead are shy go inside them visit their nooks & crannies visualize their ash & impermanence then how to start a spirit fire play some music with your hands sing masculine song of the mourning dove you are alive in cosmetic time her death chamber cooler now stretched on the plinth her cheek fading you can whisper: see the syrinx, laurel, a tuft of reeds offered reeds like to hold you close one hundred eyes see from inside you no false twitch could be nothing going on but seeing like this a cut, a scar the beautiful slit of feminine aperture and can laugh at trick o' death that's what you say to a fabulous corpse ungendered now trick o' death growing younger by stuttered moment: have no fear she's getting out of this into another maelstrom or just nothing, no breathing streets are quieter world violence feels less structural lies as secrets seem truer now you nab them the interlocutors blue calcite most prominent heirloom in color, texture imagination of mercurial twilight words to utter in the doorway the bottom of the mind paved smart luck with crossroads encryption, generation to know you, spider of crypt what does the trickster say kinetic or clown or hiding so as in retreat how many come-ons in one lifetime you will stand in for her beauty fend off patriarchal poetry and your own struggle in cultural anachronism bombing unilaterally nothing about socially constituted witch trials women restrain or manipulate desire face understood it must vocalize a kiss working a voice (dead lady of the lake) opposed to state apparatus my sword! my sword! my mirror! my mirror! come, sirrah, come help your mistress sleep behind the dull glass what face pleasure gleam herself in status quo mottled ragged coyote of display acculturation text rite's viability bleeds naked return? code this anatomical "mothers" dressing up like a prince to love you form is arbitrary ruins hard to imagine what the country wants needles appropriate to need "the people want it" look of the west mysterious logos rock on the road the Ghent Altarpiece and its tribulation exemplified in the material worship they nibbled monsters under cartel broken-down colonial power it issues forthher disordered mouth erotic wish or queer? I believe in crucible logic harassment & insubordination breaking through no regulation but performance what is the grammar drag, how exquisite demon feminine not be victim a vow, a queen will not be plaything you, sister, reckoning a large-scale genome algorithm taking you down maelstrom of own mind it pulls it spins you, gender into fragmented realities of future past & present a span is epic is how every life-form is turbulent where you are seen in a series of guises and some go exhaust the void, a full place and a sensory gate still opens what wanted to believe went there in a dream of sleight of hand shark of all cards giving out the tactile organs kinesthesia like handshake eidetic tesserae bargained my kidney, my spleen, my temporal lobe eyes in all heads too many impostors hacker in a past life? how's the glitzy facade? saying, your woman's hand has a detour if you just open this door ghost was saying your woman's bed has a detour is true? I wonder in red she wears the same scarf I do her hair is shorn, tonsured this is and this is and this is the way it looks and this is the way it is and this is the way she looks and this is the way she is this is the nimbus she is and this is her rebus this is the category and this is a song of her restitution this is the calyx and this is the individual this is the etiquette and this is the lung this is the shadow & abacus of hovering a trace to count on who will bear the weight of this tissue this issue, hair & nails of the yogini this is the clinical this is the invasion this is the odds and these are the statistics whatever you meet unexpectedly on the path embrace, cross purposes whenever you can expand the road longer limb that long extends and this is the longer lung that extends longer speech, she was always vocally the longest of all concatenation mouthing off the longest syllable ask and whatever you meet and your own death, asking this is and this is a longing this is Ceres summoning Dame Hunger this is Ethiopian Andromeda or Lady Midnight's Songs of the Four Seasons this is tranced attention this is Hermaphroditus this is a shouter, an Engine-Woman become a midnight star, Callisto when you are in your trouble and turn from death this is what to do find the meeting place: intersectionality under stars way to gnosis saying this is the place this is indeed the place with many layers lie down here where one thrives in parity with thieves and lovers where one can fuck without retribution (meet me at the edge of town) a road out there answer to curiosity don't you get it? derivative mimicry isn't going to reflect world's madness like she can out of doors mimicking love or death junction where you can go either way and feminism is old mistress to strange tiers of it to make you think on death how cold it is out on the road making love like this with the stars conspiratorial, hey! they are your neighbors slivers of twinkling form in and out of many universes existing in "probability space" ice rustles, shimmers above clouds and you are probable too what shape, body? with what do you inspire devotion? how do you construct existence? your pioneer apparatuses your added-on identity, a voice hits all the registers your conglomerations with your timidity with your power your willingness to die and cairns where we'll leave markers for you find the way to love that drives you? loosened aside a bower down the road little tones piling up to make a melody of a way your various parts organize to be here in fiction stones can be struck will one still sit astride his thigh or it hasn't started having onto you yet heaving, hanging bright girl don't you get it how they fuss you over with love of all things mental meant to be in your care innermost being insides of things, as poet feels inner bark from a ghost tree aspiration, and go down and some still resting on laurels of survived dominance look again a factotum a dead book perhaps drive my sex into its covers driven by lust outside fear that money drives the world down under to shut all feeling of existence out great mind will I be bought by last-ditch patriarchy how weakens maybe passed by here and bowed and made offering to corpse of rascals stones speak of hardship where you boil them for food for their mineral ink magic scribe is the biologist new phase coming of tones made visible odd patches of kin scribe is tentacular memes of evolving feminism and the means of it speak your heroes, mash them mixed with fervor of protists how assiduously seeking truth this is what to do as in ways or means and a committee meets to make sure a con won't push over you force goods that enhance misty feminine way of life how to sell it? undiluted disempower the girl get down, morphing sister get down what are your ploys stacking up capitalist wiles may they be dashed lauded over aroma scents of perfumed doom avaunt idiots of compassion and the titular rape mode of quest & scheme what do we see? a weeping Capitalocene a weeping many centuries wide vaster submersible system it weeps and weeps crocodile tears a stall of state the Mao of hurt the heil for hell the muss of the hurt churl a Franco murders a pol a pot a Papa Doc somo, pero pino Assad of the hurt capital hurts despots go down on bite of diction & silence of sycophants complicit in their slimy way attend won't bend hearts to abused moans of extinction trauma, trauma to this poetry now get over right now paradox of fear ineptitude muscle up find yourself in boundary a name which means "I have tricked you" woman up your paradox of betrayal false? didn't steal the poems, am I not their keeper? want to crash gates of city, life gives ambiguity & deceit to old fem con to make you pay all this curvaceous beauty and tough sisterhood take heart my lovely meet me on the other edge of town (one for lovers this one for assassins) dagger glints in moonlight how many femmes can you hold in dusk time when it's too late the friend the enemy hag in retribution how many years, an icy lore remote that they do this to any bodies you know they do this to women on their rounds and to bodies sensitive as women's the strange, displaced the transposed the fully realized however declaring self expression to move, chiasmatic, heaven & earth resumes holy measures and it is a spiritus praxis I sing O lordy lordy to open your own tomb then you're fearless when you are both tomb and prescient womb go down, matrix down, sepulcher of women stealing your secrets and these are the secrets I steal innermost beings a mesh of silicon & copper all the pulchritude in the world they'll beat it, meme of us: metataxis the oligarch is in charge is at it metabolically and has to go we make him go grasses will hide and rejoice we make him go please learn this before you leave the earth rout plights to bury the wild girl women in abstraction thinning facedown ones they do rise in disguise of agenda what is the ploy? a strange miasma. . . . catch him make him go from our body of light though we be trickster shadow a scented elixir drank the what is it? wordless amrita? without word crossroads will make you stand tall in your architecture of chance "down the rabbit hole" you rise out the other side you survive feminism is your ploy, ofttimes retired come out now not disenfranchised nor abandoned nay obsolete how many you go con bruited lab death of feminism? when you sit with the corpse of your world let it shut its corpse rabbit is in the moon illusion's illusions strumming on being around voice jumping thrice over coyote trick o' death take down the big horrible men destroy them in their icy sleeves cuff them not you brethren but impostors and their minions who cater and mew and shuffle just so you know what stage femme is on evolving its fluid body its principle the crossroads can't nail you down to ignorance but it's a promise meets you there speculating with choice & impetus which way the wind blows avenge all deaths of hers poet-thief drive the stake in Excerpted from Trickster Feminism by Anne Waldman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.