This sprawling book-length poem from an American countercultural giant takes its form and concerns from a Tibetan Buddhist ritual and from the poet's close encounter with the endangered aquatic mammal of her title. This visionary verse and prose attempts "to describe the known world of any reach or stretch of imagination/ the relative world of death & change"; to praise the resources, but also to limn the limits, of ecological science, of all Western ways of knowing; and to imagine the whole of human and prehuman history, from the "humdrum Paleolithic" across "20,000 years of 'keeping' time once keeping it for all & moving it, time, forward, & it, the art, forward, & it, humanity, forward, & now they want to kill it really they killed it." Waldman's energetic odes and dialogues, part memory and part dream, may learn from the manatee "what it is to be human"; they also try to understand the nonhuman, from seaweeds and seashells to mammals, asking, "[A]re minds possible without language?" and answering that they must be. Exuberant as always- though detractors will call her undisciplined-Waldman figures the gap between mind and body as the gap between air and sea, between the manatee's world and our own. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Manatee/Humanityby Anne Waldman
Anne Waldman's new investigative hybrid-poem explores the nuances of inter-species communication and compassion. It draws on animal lore, animal encounters (with grey wolf and manatee), dreams, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and Buddhist ritual to render a text of remarkable sympathy,/b>
A fascinating new work from an internationally renowned poet
Anne Waldman's new investigative hybrid-poem explores the nuances of inter-species communication and compassion. It draws on animal lore, animal encounters (with grey wolf and manatee), dreams, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and Buddhist ritual to render a text of remarkable sympathy, reciprocity, and power. The poem asks questions as well as urges further engagement with the endangered (including our human selves). Part performance litany, part survival kit, part worried mammalian soundings, Waldman explores, as ever, what it means to inhabit our condition through language and imagination inside a wheel of time. This is the mature work of a philosophical field poet with a shamanic metabolism.
Buddhist thought has inspired many American poets since the Beat era, perhaps few as directly as Waldman, whose latest book (after 2004's Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble) springs from her interest in Kalachakra initiation—a practice that moves the subject toward heightened empathy with the natural world—and a profoundly mystical, personal encounter with a manatee, transformed here into a metaphor for peaceful transcendence. Though this may sound like a recipe for New Age-y self-indulgence, Waldman skillfully synthesizes her meditations on the nature of consciousness, evolution, neuroscience, and threatened species into a vibrant poetic discourse, employing a variety of literary devices—litany, parallel texts, historical narrative—to channel the urgency of her ecological message. "Surely our conscious plans have precursors in animal brains," she writes, and by thoughtlessly slaughtering other species humanity risks erasing a critical clue to its own nature: "sentient being's connection to the visceral animal." VERDICT In speaking "for the wild universe," Waldman has contributed a substantive addition to the growing body of ecopoetry.—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
Meet the Author
Anne Waldman co-founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where she still teaches. Her poetry collections include Iovis I, Iovis II, Fast Speaking Woman, Helping the Dreamer, and Kill or Cure. She is a recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award.
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