Connection Series: Literary Readings by Anne Waldman and Janice Pariat

ADITI MODY: Good evening. And welcome to the evening’s
program, the Connection Series. This is in collaboration
with our partners at the American Institute
of Indian Studies. We’re really delighted to
have Philip Lutgendorf, the President and Purnima
Mehta, the Executive Director for India, the United
States and India Education Foundation, Adam Kosky,
thank you for your support. And of course, the
American Center and the American Embassy,
Craig Dicker and Richard [? Finkelmeyer, ?]
thank you again. Really though, the
aim of today’s event, the inaugural lecture, was
to bring scholars, both from the US as well as in India
in connection with each other. And as I found out today
our two celebrated poets, Anne and Janice really
haven’t met before. So a big round of
applause for them, please. [APPLAUSE] And a special, special
thanks to Anne Waldman, who despite a delayed
flight from New York, missed connections
in Heathrow, managed to make it here on time. So thank you very much. Today’s event actually
would have not been possible without
the support of a faculty director of mine, Dr. Gary
Tubb, as well as Dr. Srikanth Reddy, who’s the
Associate Professor of the Department of English
at the University of Chicago. And he was really the
architect for bringing our two keys because together. I think he knows both of them. So very delighted
and indebted to him to suggest them
as speakers to us. And we’re also very grateful
to Dr. Geetanjali Joshi Mishra, who is the Assistant
Professor at Amity University Lucknow and a 2008
Fulbright scholar who has traveled especially
from Lucknow for today’s event. So a big round of
applause to her, too. [APPLAUSE] In establishing a
center in Delhi, the University of
Chicago really draws upon a very long and rich
history of excellence in scholarship,
research, and teaching that is related to South Asia. It aims to create
new opportunities for a broader and deeper
understanding of the region’s past and present. In the 2 and 1/2 years that
the Center’s been established in Delhi, it already
serves as a base for our undergraduate, graduate,
and professional students studying in India. It also catalyzes
interdisciplinary research and discourse, for which
University of Chicago is very well-known. Our Department of English
and the Program in Creative Writing promote a very global
perspective on literary arts, both in [? purity ?] and
contemporary practice, with symposium on contemporary
Anglophone Indian poetry, literary translations, and
readings, like today’s event, the University
Center in Delhi is proud to contribute
to an expanding forum for literary arts in
our transnational community. So with those very
short words, I’m going to now call upon Dr.
Geetanjali Joshi Mishra to introduce our speakers
and to begin the session. GEETANJALI JOSHI MISHRA:
Thank you, Aditi. Ladies and gentlemen,
from time immemorial we have sung our songs
and told our stories to plead and to teach,
to correct, to redress, to heal pain, to
steal moments of bliss in a very banal human life. Be it the great
epids of India that sang the Holy Gita, the
poetry of the Psalms, the ayats of the Koran,
or the melody of Gurbani. Poetry is one step that
mankind has taken to get closer to his or her own divinity. And today that’s exactly
what we’re going to do. We are going to sing poetry
over here, because we sing and write poetry because we
are members of the human race, ladies and gentlemen. We sing and write poetry because
our feet touch the ground while our imagination seeks
the secret of the cosmos. Therefore it is my pleasure,
ladies and gentlemen, to welcome to you this evening
to the songs and poetry of two poets of exceptional
merit, Janice Pariat and Annd Waldman. I must not progress
in the evening without congratulating
University Center of Chicago in New Delhi. We have AIIS. We have [? Yusef, ?] and we
have American Center, who’s come up with this brilliant
idea of having this Connection Series. Bringing two writers from
different geographies, different backgrounds
and putting them together on one platter for us and
creating new magic and music out of it. That is tremendous. So a big round of applause for
this lovely evening over here that we have. [APPLAUSE] Also our two guests today belong
to two different backgrounds completely. Janice Pariat hails from Assam,
Meghalaya, the tea plantation, the gardens, the hilly areas. And then we have the
celebrated Anne Waldman, who represents the
spirit and the zeal of the 1970s in America. So I’m pretty sure
that this evening we’ll be able to find a
connection in their songs, with their spirits, their
bodies, and their souls. Without further ado, let
me introduce our first poet for the evening Janice Pariat. Janice Pariat is the
author of Boats on Land, a collection of short stories,
and Seahorse, a Novel. She was awarded the Young Writer
Award from the Sahitya Akademi, Indian National
Academy of Letters, and the Crossword Book
Award for Fiction in 2013. She studied English literature
at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and History
of Art at the School of Oriental and African
Studies, London. Her work, including art
reviews, cultural features, book reviews, fiction
and poetry has featured in a wide selection
of national magazines and newspapers. She lives in New Delhi, India. So when this event was taking
place, of course, I’m a Beat– I’ve known Anne Waldman, met
her because I’m a Beat scholar, have been studying Beat
literature for eight years. But Janice was a
new name for me. So I started to look up
information on Janice. And I saw that she’s written
this wonderful book called Boats on Land, and I started
going through Goodreads comments because
that’s really what I do when I first pick a book. And there was one quote
that said that, “it’s a brilliantly written book. Buy it, but do not
lend it to anyone.” So I was like fine. This is one book I’m
going to pick up. And I started reading the lovely
stories that transported me back to my childhood. The lovely stories that come
from this hilly background, the tea plantations, Assam,
in particular the Northeast, which is not very
well-represented in literature. And I felt I was reading
Enid Blyton again. It’s like bedtime stories
for adults, I would say. I will now welcome
our second guest for the evening, Anne Waldman. Internationally recognized and
acclaimed poet Anne Waldman has been an active member of
the Outrider experimental poetry community, a culture she has
helped create and nurture for over four decades as
writer, editor, teacher, performer, [INAUDIBLE] scholar,
infrastructure curator, and cultural political activist. Her poetry is recognized
in the lineage of Whitman and Ginsberg, and in the
Beat, New York School, and Black Mountain trajectories
of the New American poetry. Waldman is a recipient
of the Before Columbus Foundation for Lifetime
Achievement bestowed on her by a Ishmael Reed;
American Book Awards Lifetime Achievement of 2013; Guggenheim
fellowship; the Poetry Society of America Shelley
Memorial Award; and has served six years as
the Chancellor of the Academy of American poets. The Huffington Post named her
as one of the top advocates for American poetry. In 2015, I had this
privilege of meeting Anne Waldman in Brussels in a
European Beat Studies Network Conference. I was the sole person from India
already feeling very lonely, not being able to
find any connection. And then I met her, and my
presentation was the last. I was talking about the
influence of Indian philosophy on the writings
of Allen Ginsberg. And Anne Waldman was sitting
right in the front seat. I was trying to have a
very confident demeanor, but my legs were so shaky. Because I was
thinking, OH my god. I should not go wrong anywhere. So ladies and
gentlemen, I would like to begin this evening by
calling our first guest here, Janice Pariat, for a
magical recitation. Janice, it’s all yours. Thank you. JANICE PARIAT:
Well, good evening. And it’s absolutely
fantastic to be here. Thank you so much for
extending an invitation to me. It’s warm, and it’s
generous, and it’s just been so, so lovely. I know that the University
of Chicago Center in Delhi hosts a really exciting range
of events through the year. And I’m so happy to
be sort of featuring as part of their calendar. Apart from that I’m also
utterly, utterly privileged and honored to be sharing
reading space with Anne, who is astounding, as we all know. It really is very, very special. And I was very nervous
about putting together sort of a little curated
collection of poems for this evening. But I did pick about seven
or eight short poems. And they all sort
of just organically fell into clusters of
geographically located poems. So they begin where
my poetry begins, which is Shillong, a
hill station in Meghalaya in the far, far
Northeast of India. And I do come from a very,
very mixed sort of heritage, a very mixed background. But I was born into
the Khasi community. And the Khasis had no script. So we were a largely oral
culture until the mid-1800s. And we preserved our
history through song and stories and folk tales. So my first poem
is about language. It is about Khasi. It is about naming the
word through orality. And it’s called “Our Names.” “Our names are old names,
unwritten, unrecorded, wrenched from stone,
Light is the wind on a white stork’s back, which traveled
here in summer and rested at Demthring. They aren’t carved
on our monoliths. The mawbynna are smooth from
relentless wind and rain. We have no letters with which
to etch those come and gone save the sounds of our
names we set to music. They aren’t embedded
in [INAUDIBLE], our sacred forests remain
untouched, nor cast down rivers as sacrificial flowers. Instead, they travel with
us on our children’s backs in rough bamboo baskets
heavier than stone. Our names are old names,
untranslated, sitting uneasy on a foreigner’s tongue,
untraceable on parchment, save for stories behind
our names we set to music. No names save for old names,
after water, om, and stone, [? mao. ?] Where will
your history be found? For that, you must
play our music, and search for
[NON-ENGLISH SPEECH], the mountain at the
center of the sky. For those of you
who might not know, Meghalaya is also a
largely Christian state. It’s also a very deeply
conservative Christian state. And my next poem talks about
churchgoing, especially in relation to my grandmother,
who dragged me to church very, very often on Sundays. Just trying to find that. It’s called Small Liturgy. The church I went to had four
bells to startle the sky. Those sounds sometimes came
from far away and unexpectedly, when walking through the
cemetery with flowers from my grandparents. How perfect to hear them here
in this crystallized silence. The graveyard is a
wading pool of memories. I am dragged back to Sunday
mornings of churchgoing with my grandmother, the
row of parked cars rendering small roads smaller,
the click of footfall, the streams of faithfuls
whose tributary hands dip into the cauldron
of blessed water. Those tall arches
that swept above me like stone rainbows, the
long-stained windows, playground for
many-angled light. The row of saints caught
in stoic ceramic holiness. And we would choose a pew
among hundreds, somewhere in the middle. My feet barely touched ground. Yet the test, I thought, was
in the dust-grated kneeling. How graceful the bent of head,
how tightly clasped the hands. Hymnbook in lap was time for
dreaming up stories of my own to explain how the fish was
cooked to feed the 5,000, how Lazarus felt when
he opened his eyes and once again saw morning. All these interrupted by song
and mournful organ, the rasp of scratchy microphone. The bread, I thought, was
broken into small pieces because Jesus was only one
man, and there wasn’t that much of him to go around. When I pass this
place of worship now, the wooden door has shrunk
to the eye of a needle. My feet have touched ground.” [APPLAUSE] My grandfather was a
gunsmith and a poet. And I always thought that was
the most odd and interesting combination. When I was a child, I
would sit in his workshop and watch him work, and it was
utterly fascinating to see him wield all of this machinery. I wrote a poem about it
many, many years later. And it’s called “World Wars.” “He made guns, my
grandfather, in a workshop slammed against a dirty wall
in the rough part of the city, next to the Chinese dentist
with fake plastic flowers in his waiting room. All day he buffed,
shaved, and sharpened on a table of creased
unknowable wood hands lined deep with grease and
grainy gunpowder, picked at dog pins, rivets
and friction springs, names as harsh as the machines
he conjured to kill the wild. I don’t know when he
had time for poetry. How he heard the music of nature
while hammering magazine caps, saw the world anew while
settling viewfinders gone askew. Perhaps when evening settled
and the dentist’s droning drill was silenced, with lantern
lit and pool of light hiding hammer
chisel and knife, he was inspired to place word after
word after word onto paper, in a line of carefully
polished bullets.” We move on to Portugal. And strange as this
may sound, it’s because my mother’s
part of the family traveled many hundreds of
years ago from Lisbon to Goa, and stayed on and never left. And a couple of
years ago, I made what I thought very grandly
was a pilgrimage to Lisbon. I thought I would land
in this magnificent city and feel an instant
connection, because in some way I was back home. I did land in Lisbon and
felt absolutely nothing. It was admittedly
a very lovely city. But that was it, really. Until I sort of wandered up some
sloping sort of cobbled street and found a church that was
built right above the spot where St. Anthony was born. And for those of you
who might not know, St. Anthony was the
patron saint of Lisbon. And he’s also the
Saint of lost things. And that’s exactly what
the poem is called– “The Saint of Lost Things.” “We gathered, the
old women and I, in the church of Saint
Anthony perched on the pews as birds on a wire
slung across the sky. They flicked rosaries
between tree-twig fingers, and I knotted air nervously
into a long scarf of silence. What brought us
here this afternoon? When the Lisbon sun
beckoned everyone outside, apart worlds and ages,
wide echoing valley, such distances are covered
here as flight of seagulls. Them and me. But we come, our ancient
hearts grasping at hope. We stare at liveried
altar, heavy with the distinctions
of saint and toddler– bringing to them our
losses, limitless as the sea somewhere heaving behind us. Over sacred stone
our grief we scatter I imagine them lilies each
night he gathers in his arms. It draws us here,
stark space below us. We sway gently in the
breeze while fresco walls of redemption dampen, and peel– green, guilty seaweed. We ignore it, the
sound of water lapping, praying we don’t lose,
as in time all else, the small, distant
ground beneath.” We move on to
elsewhere in Europe. I lived for many
years in the UK. I studied there and
lived there for a while. And the last three poems are
set sort of on my wanderings around the country. The first one is
called “Greenwich.” I was in a long distance
relationship at the time. And for those of you who might
have been in a long distance relationship at any
point in their life, you know how
difficult they can be. Oddly enough, we met
at Greenwich in a place where time begins and ends. And for anyone who’s been in
a long distance relationship, you know how
important time can be. Wow, I’ve managed to
lose the poem, even though I’ve very carefully
marked everything, found it! OK. [LAUGHS] “Greenwich.” “At the place where
time begins and ends, we search for spaces
between lines, watched by sunken-eyed
skies, piteously weeping. These trees rising,
watershed for lives that spill over
damp-dog grounds. What leaves, green goslings
shuddering in a sudden river breeze, darkling bark
that wraps our insides chaste with dripful longing. At hilltop ruin, we crank
up archaic machinery– a sun follower at heart,
a cryptic medieval tunnel tossed toward the
discovery of stars. At last, us alone through
stone-gated passage where the world is halved,
hung and quartered. We scramble for direction,
such pale, limpid light, and wait for the enormity
of thin, invisible line to split our hearts. Love, such distances
must separate or kill with long, lingering hope.” I have a sister in the
UK who often drags me for walks around
the countryside. And she’s lovely. The walks are often very
tedious and very difficult, but I love her and I
go for them anyway. We were wandering around the
Brecon Beacons at one point, in Wales. And we saw some horses. And I thought, I must
ride a horse poem, in the grand tradition
of horse poems by some of our favorite poets,
Larkin and Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and Enright
and there’s me. [LAUGHS] This one’s
called “Three Horses.” “Beyond sun-touched heaths,
cloven and murmuring, icy stream, that ruined,
paraparetic castle, we trudge as old pilgrims. Under– song of
mud, maddened oak leaves, while scent
of late hawthorne throws scurrilous
surprises of edging summer. At hilltop, before
sweet sweep of slopes to massacred boulders,
paleolithic burial ground of kings and farmers– three horses, watching. Aligned in a painting,
heavy-hooved wanderers, wet fisheye reflections
deep and dark as graves. Something in me,
slow tap root, moves beyond this gaping,
silver fence. Brown arcs lower,
long grassy breaths. Wanton creatures, him
and me, we breathe into each other’s
faces, and struggle, to find the faint memory
of love and freedom. What it means to be
unheld, tethered only to the tragic sound of
wind in open spaces. Last poem. My sister’s a doctor. She often drags me around
for medical conferences. I have no idea what
I do in those places, but luckily for
me, they are often held in these sort
of back of beyond, out in the wilderness,
beautiful old houses. And this particular
poem was written in a place, again, in
the Welsh countryside, in this manor house,
in fall, in autumn. And it’s called “Mimesis.” “Cavernous this room of culled
eggshells, edge to tidy edge, such clean shores of solitude– cold, white chamber
of birth or death, I travel in softening September. Straighten a bath mat,
end a dripping tap, ghost-echo of
footsteps and breath. Behind the shower a
whole-wall mirror– cool, clear slab, hidden
doorway in childhood to a world of infinite song and summer. Transformed now
to looking-glass. Slow, patient reflector of
my graceless undressing, spooled clothing, the eventual
amazing lightness of air on skin. I touch this bark scathed
by familiar longing, lined by the persistent wrench
of hours, pulled to open earth, and marked by secret
network of scars. Beyond the window, past
raw, pecan plumbing, the world is in autumn and
trees turn russet-yellow. I turn quietly like a leaf.” Thank you. [APPLAUSE] GEETANJALI JOSHI MISHRA: The
charm of the written word lies in its ability not
only to touch the intellect, but to transcend and
get to your soul. I believe that’s all that
we experienced here today. Beautiful works, Janice. It transported me completely. How lyrical and just beautiful. That’s it. All right, next I would
like to call Anne Waldman. [APPLAUSE] ANNE WALDMAN: Thank you so much. Such an honor to be here. And thank you for all of
the people in the room who have helped support this event. Thank you, Aditi. Thank you to Srikanth
Reddy, our mutual friend who seems to be a mutual
friend with a lot of us here. And very delighted. So I’m going to begin, and
thank you for your introduction. And your presentation. She had naked sadhus
at this conference up on the huge screen and music. And it was a very staid
literary conference, so it was quite a delight. I’m going to start with
some recent things. Feeling somewhat traumatized by
recent events in my own world, I won’t say more. But the poems touch on this. And I’m based in New York City. I live part of the year
in Boulder, Colorado, where I was one of the
founders of the Naropa University, the first
Buddhist-inspired college in the West. And so I’ll read some
things at the end, some work I’ve done
with another faculty from the Therigatha, which are
the in Therigatha the songs and hymns of the
Buddha, the sons and daughters of the Buddha,
Buddhist nuns and monks. But in New York,
I’ve been caught up with a lot of the events
of recent days and protests and poets and artists
gathering out in the streets and trying to– we talk about this time as the
post-truth time, which I think is a little bit dangerous. And this will be one of the
topics at the Jaipur Festival. It’s supposed to be
some sort of debate, where we will debate whether
we are in a post-truth time or not. So I’m going to hold to
relative and absolute truth. And in terms of relative
truth, it’s the Buddhist view is this co-arising,
interconnectedness that Pratityasamutpada. And that we’re all
in this together, and we’re all projecting. And there has to
be a safety net, for that beautiful
net, really Indra’s net of interconnectedness. And so to suddenly decide
that a label or a term where people are not
standing by their word– there’s a lot of
parrying and deception and very direct
sort of insult. I mean it’s hard if you’re
sensitive to language and sensitive to
a view of humanity and a kind of discourse that’s
open and in good spirit. So this has been
on my mind lately. And my long trip over here,
because there was a delay, this kept sort of going. And I kept thinking, I’m
so glad to be getting away from some of this intensity. Anyway, this is a recent piece– “Denouement.” “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. It’s around the eyes, they said. It’s around the hearts. The city was reeling. People were coming out
to the street in the way they wanted to see where
the guy lived and boasted, so as to mock the event. It wasn’t over. It wasn’t going to rest. The guy was not real, as the
day, as the year, the century, the epic shared was not real. The tribulation he
ensued was not real. But it was that
affect that mattered. What would suffer? It was the warmest
year on record, as if that wasn’t enough to make
some idiot pause, and pausing, resist. And if resisting, insist on
being heard and calibrated, so that measures were
taken round the clock, ice caps photographed
melting, and all the rest, a pole away from accountability. How ugly would it go? How ugly would it get? Resistance had to resist. And it had already happened,
if you stopped to think. Someone had gotten up
and walked this far, and then paused to take
stock for the last time. It was the last time
the human had a chance. The last one to be
observant and cry and stomp and take stock and
be something like the something that had melted. And as if healing could ever
be, it would be theater, a spectacle, [? Kampe, ?]
like the kabuki you just saw imitating
the resolution between a sword and a fox,
in a country and its honor. The last straw of honor
broken on its back, and blue was invoked in the silk
scarf that draped the emperor’s chair where he sat timeless and
waiting for the play to begin. We were it, played upon. But could that be true
and yet be denouement, with hope still streaming
in beneath the surface, and then dark applause from all
the centuries come raining down and the actors, the
warriors, the bodhisattvas pick themselves up and
start all over again.” A few years back when our
President Obama had gotten the Peace Prize and when Sarkozy
was banning the headscarf, and it was a tumultuous time. And I was there actually, as a
guest of the State Department, and kind of
representing America– and I have to say
I’m just a poet. I have my feelings,
but my opinions don’t really count for much. So there was Q&A, and it was a
Muslim school, actually very, very wonderful students. Separated, the
women and the men. And there were questions
from the women’s side about the banning of the scarf. And Sarkozy and I sat– and
they looked so extraordinarily beautiful. I said, you just all
look so beautiful. And then from the other side
were some very interesting questions about
the appropriateness of our president, US president,
getting the prize concerning the state of the world. But the best question
which stumped me was from a young
scholar, saying, can you tell us
Ms. Waldman, what were the agrarian policies
of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? [LAUGHTER] OK, this is refreshing. So I don’t have a poem about
Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But there’s something
about the Anthropocene. Anthropocene. Anthropocene or
“Anhropocene Blues.” Sound de-territorializes
weather, de-territorializes
weather, realizes weather and my love clings
to you, sings to you in the new weathers
within a tragedy of the Anthropocene
nothing not held hostage by the hand of man. Will we fail to save our world? We dream replicas of ourselves
fragile, broken robotic thought bubbles inside the shadow
a looming possibility this new year to wake up. Could it be? An anthropoid seared and
scared from the forest, slow in development, now
infantilized much like us. Stressed, yet perhaps ready
to fight this scenario? The forest made the monkey
and the cave and the steppe– the human and now what makes
us suppler, more human? Climate grief? A fierce tenderness toward
the destruction of our world? Questions or actions? My love for you
sings for you, world. (SINGS) I’ve got
those Anthropocene– Anthropocene– blues. 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.” [APPLAUSE] That’s for you. It’s called “Conversation
with a Visionary Botanist.” He was a lot of things. But he worked for the UN. He would give advice on
endangered creatures, on endangered climates. He helped analyze the
Black Sea at one point. The point where
the question was, is there any possible life? And I mean there was some
possible slime mold life, and the slime molds
actually are going to inherit this planet I think. And I’m already working
on my slime mold poetics. It’s got a lot of slurping
and smacking sounds. [LAUGHTER] Anyway, this is a “Conversation
with a Visionary Botanist.” Peter Warshall. “Green grass, you said. I had said our
spectrum must be green. And you said the fungal
mat, my core is all. And then the love affair
of fungi and algae and lean or loan or loam or lawn
not necessary in many a place. But what they
establish, a symbiosis. Green from Old English
grow on, because tidal life is grow on, because plankton is
grow on, because green because. Saying about dryness, I
said, how it might look. Why not always green? But meant more like,
what is going on? And you said drought or doubt. Then I asked how
urgent this, you say, we walk in a
dark proverbial forest that it be protected
and that it be protozoa, that they be alive, too, in you. I whisper, imagine a death
day that is dawn and drawn of cerebral work. But not manicured to
be a cradle of green. The knots were suns
where burning came to me. You ran on. We walked by the ocean,
deciding to do this for our love, our attraction. Green is slang for money, I say. Oh, no, no, not that. People out here riding a
beast the color of sand. Where on the spectrum, I ask? We’ll walk on the
cold tundra, you say. Talk about nanometers,
photosynthesis, because grass an
adherent will be present in your
eye never absent. This was the measure
of our time, Peter.” This is an older piece
that’s still relevant. “Problem-Not-Solving.” And I was working in
Venice and standing in front of the Canelleto
of Venice’s Ghetto Vecchio, the old ghetto– Vecchio, the word for foundry. And I was contemplating
these arms and harms. This is an area near the former
Jewish section of Venice. And it’s called
the Ghetto Vecchio. And I was thinking of the
contemporary ongoing strife in the Middle East and
still that it looms. And maybe no steps
forward of late. “Problem-Not-Solving.” So there’s a relationship
between foundry and the arms and so on. And it’s very near this
former foundry area. “And metal was cast in
the dream of the ghetto, and metal was forged for
cannons, , 1390 in “ur,” in “pre” in nightmare of
ghetto and laboratory of ghetto a metal mentality. For it takes a long
harm, a long arm, a long hatching this
mentality of force of problem-not-solving
your ghetto, and in the name of decree
and forging a metal mentality with harming arms and where you
can live under a low ceiling, where you can live and
problem-not-solving. 5,000 in a crammed room
un-dream it now your nightmare, not allowed into the light
of other campos and canals , your arms held and not being
able to reach out across a map, a city divided and
problem-not-solving. Un-dream, un-dream,
problem-not-solving, the nightmare of ghetto or
problem-not-solving your night. Palestine building more
arsenals in the arms that harm and reach out and
harm human and fleshly. {SINGING) I will sit here. I will sit here and
sound here and reach out arms human and fleshly,
to ghetto to Gaza.” [APPLAUSE] I don’t know. I want something
to lighten up here. Let’s see. I have one more that’s
a little intense. But it’s also– there’s
been some resolution. The terrible
situation in Carolina with the massacre
a year ago and then the recent trial and so on. So it’s called “Dirge South.” “South in the spectrum events. Murderous events. Good South, the longer warrior. Not Bad south,
unreconstructed warrior. Get ready room, for hell. Untethered hatred. Sky aflame, stars aligned
for the non-rational. Desponded maps. Down under. A long forgiving. A long forgiving
and then reckoning. Long long. Who forgive? Would she? Would they? Would he? Mothers and fathers, forgive? Brothers and sisters, forgive? See the bigger picture. Ethno-historical days. A sum. We do holy ritual and turning. We do secular ritual, turning. We continue you, Dear murdered. This is domestic terrorism. Body, holy, blackness. Holy, holy blackness. Holy, holy dark continent in
the cross dream of liberation. But there, a collective
groan, longer groan, a vision. You want psyche? You cross a world together. Sing of victims and crime. You curse. You will not sing. Must not sing. Then must sing. Sing the evil down. Sing centuries
unmitigated disaster. Arrive at a hundred year plan? Thousand year plan? Withers without your spirit. And all go down. And all go down. And this white body go down. Do something white
body, and white go down. And all go down. What genocide. Any room for poetry? And the Navajo poet lowers
his head, children, he says, this time– room for poetry? This time. Sorry, sorry, sorry, Hominid. What? This is domestic terrorism. Walls. Wall you were up
against, all all. O, O, O, O, it– it
murder, detail, all of it. [SINGING] Emmanuel,
O come, O come, man. [SPEAKING] Could
tell– rupture, scream. What next? Sing. Could tell it’s over,
wash, come over us. [SINGING] Emmanuel. [SPEAKING] O come, o come. Leader, minister, senator. Young man dead in his time. Then all lay in blood. Washed in the blood. In this body go down
and all all go down. Unsolved. Rip again. Structure of rupture the
architectures that don’t work. What then? Saints in heaven. The disappear. Erased. All the saints in heaven
down on their knees for this. Apotheosis. The Nine. Assumption of bodies. Lift. Innocents when you
go to slaughter. Broke down into violence. Degeneration. Up against and scream. Pressuring brain,
and more ghosts begging for light,
Mount in the heat. Pile up. Layers of atrocity in
the House of the Lord. What law will bind, hold
back slaughter of innocents. O you syndicates of
some Samsara breed, genocide proud genocide
flag of the murderer Insignias and shells
of battered hatred, proud to wear by the
battered weak and damned. Room for poetry? This is domestic terrorism. The Nine– [CHANTING] Cynthia Hurd,
54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70 years
old; Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor 49; Honorable
Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Reverend
Daniel Simmons Senior, 74; Reverend Sharonda Singleton,
45; Myra Thompson, 59. For rest, for succor,
arrive, arrive. When they say never
coming, then arrive. Eruption of chaos. Then arrive. Blood and twin to the
universe, always, chaos? Arrive. How many guns can you buy today? Locked in chaos, like fever,
a cosmos of endarkenment. Mask, mine or yours. Masked in privilege. Mine or yours. Turning around as word in the
mouth, try to take it off. Sob me a river. Language is biodegradable. Come south, the dirge south. Rotted man inside
taking it down. Legion of terrorism. This land. Infernal descents. In-born. Wake up. Hold it up. Arrive. Insulated? American soil saturated
with the blood of innocents. They are the holders, will hold. They will. Hold. O blessings, o
dark lamb, o come. O come, o come. O come, o dark lamb. Help me Jesus. Help us Jesus. Whatever the way. Hold, hold. Shake, shake these
white bodies down. Arise or all go down, all
go down in this white body go down. [SINGING] And help us
Buddha, help us Yaweh. Help us, help us,
help us, dark lamb. Help me Brahma. Help us Confucius. Help, Mohammed. Dark lamb man on the way.” [APPLAUSE] I’m going to read just a
little bit from this piece– a whole book called Gossamurmur. This is an allegory about the
rescue of poetry’s archive and whole struggle
with the deciders who want to murder
poetry and don’t want to save the precious archive. This was actually
an internal battle with some of my
deciders at Naropa, just how to take care
of our precious tapes that go back to the founding
of our school in 1974. And we have people like
John Cage and Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs
and many, many artists over the years, Anna
Carson and Meredith Monk and wonderful oral archive. So it’s a plea for aurality. And so the there’s an Anne
and a doppelganger Anne. There’s a factotum created
by the deciders who want to sort of thwart
this plan of rescue. And there’s a kind of plot to
maybe bury, steal the archive and bury it in the tundra, which
is not a good idea actually. So it gets a little fanciful. But I’ll read a
few bits from it. “The double is always
present in our psyches. I follow her. What is hidden responding
to what is revealed is the binary axis on which
the investigation pivots. I hide behind the screen
of my own investigations. Still longing for a
shadowy, more flagrant, more casual other cause. The double writes books
on desire and the need to colonize the host
bodies of the Deciders. Long fascinated by the
stories of “double women,” I pick up the tale of
the two Lilas, which presents us with a woman’s view
and that of a double or shadow. In one story, a woman has two
husbands a demonic husband whom she loathes and
an incestuous lover whom she adores. Both women share a single
lover in the other story. He is cunning. In older variants of the
title of the shadow woman, the shadow “other” serves
to protect the woman from any defilement
or strain at the hand of the demonic husband. The shadow who keeps the
‘pure’ woman of the real world separate from the
lustful, passionate woman of a subterranean world. The shadow women seem to be
more like a shard of a dream. I study types of dreams
described by Cicero, lifted from Philo Alexandrinus’s
De Somniis– night apparition, oracular, enigmatic– horama, oneiros, chrematismos. Teased There is also a
sense of double universes as time and space are
both mapped separately in a Vedic cosmology,
although the two dimensions are parallel. This mythology tells not
only of double people at two points in the
spectrum, but of double worlds that provide two layers of
the spectrum of space-time. The doubles in myths or dream
or illusion make possible a process that seems to protect
the presenter-in-this-life from the dangers of
complete solipsism. Or you might go mad. The deciders keep
interrupting the narration. They control the base. The deciders create
their factotums. They create impostors.” So here’s the Anne
being taken apart. “The deciders took Anne apart
organ by organ, sinew by sinew. And they copied these parts
into the husk of the new Anne with skill and dark intent. As they did this, they
would pause muling into their sinister autopsy. Little organ of original Anne,
what can you do for us now? Little eyes of original Anne
what will you accomplish now? And you, sinews that
bind operation of motion, where walk you now? Tongue that composed many
ballads and odes for your time, how will you sing? They gloated in their
desire to reveal the nothingness of all
things and to murder poetry. They could not remove or
mutate her consciousness, which stayed intact in
the retreat and isolation of the original Anne. They made their copy, a
mockery of the original Anne, undoing the manna
of original Anne, who they cast into
a virtual prison while they went about their
plot of alienating humans from their linguistic natures. Language would become separated,
torn from its vital dwelling place. Humans would be
living out history in a life of unrelenting
state without poetry. The archive of the multiple
voices was endangered. Years in the making to
preserve breath and intellect, imagination’s other place
as psychic inscription. And to let future
humans know some of us were not just
killing one another. You would never
guess, they said. Look at our creation,
a perfect simulacrum. And they looked to a
time of acquiescence, where the populace
would be silenced. Where the attention span
of humans ever waning, would ride the waves
of mediacrats and hear tell endlessly,
monotonously, the slow drip of the undulating fortunes
of celebrity worlds and become even more accustomed
and inured to the beat and thrum of war. And more in lockdown and
more and more in lockdown. There was a decider
of the fifth rank of the state of
rectilinear space as it applies to a
subject’s metabolism. Decider of how
many gold bonnets– how many gold stars
on that bonnet? Or for one entering the room of
major decision-making feeling diminished, there
was a decider sitting behind a massive desk
of protocol and power, facing windows of gray light. in sad anemic offices over
which more deciders preside, deciders of who leaves or
stays, who gets laid off, who must be demoted,
who closes rank. It was not a happy world.” [APPLAUSE] “She sent a message
to the base.” So this is an ongoing
struggle and battle goes on. “Whatever you do
to me know this, I know this from Derrida.” There is a great book called
Archive by Jacques Derrida, and talks about the archons. And in the book, I declare
myself an archon, a protector of this poetry’s oral archive. And I will do
battle to the death. Here’s the little litany
about what archive is. “Archive is shelter. Archive is the disembodied voice
of a palpable consciousness. Archive is a jumbled dream. Archive needs poetry,
you must never forget. Archive is inscription,
is aspiration. Archive tells many stories. I am archon, and a mere
unscripted postcard is archive. When we return to our speech
and start our own country take this as directive. Memory of an animal
is also yours. Archive, all opposable thumbs we
have record of and many wisdom identities. Archive’s murmurs
circulates around the room. Archive let’s originals breathe. You can’t temper with archive. It’s a strange cosmology. Archive is antithesis
to a war on memory and stealing a poet fire. Archive as the
tender foot print. Archive will not tread
on the footprints of the most vulnerable. Archive is a trust. Let archive record the names of
those going out of this world. Trystan, albatross, all
disappeared, all suicided. Archive listens
into the margins. Archive is a
privileged topology. Archive exists as
a map of the future beyond the exigencies of
electronic media, which has transformed the
relative reality of Homo sapiens sapiens. If you are good at
this, please memorize. Are you good at this? Memorize archive. Archive could be safe
from composite strife. Gain intellectual control
of the collection. Consider a cassette
tape life expectancy. Water pipes run
through storage space, materials are housed in
a 100 year flood plain with environmental swings. No climate control, security,
multiple keys to the storage exist. The space is not secured. Walls that leap space at ceiling
height can be easily breached. Digital collections
on CDs which are at risk themselves due to
disk failure and equipment obsolescence. Archive is housed by and
reanimates sentient beings. Archive is nest, is
house, is reverie. Archive will hold you. And the line comes, I
swear it from the breadth. Archive is [? obad, ?] is
[? alba, ?] is [? Tagelied, ?] is seduction. Archive is dying, and
archive will not die. Who lives to push the
buttons, to install the implants of archive? A foreign agent, a forest,
a mountain to climb, an orange sunset, a
cloth for the body. Strong ropes to circle and
carry dynamite with an app for soil content, an app to
read constellations in the sky. Moon, a fingernail above
you, is a modest proposal. And sometimes a
wildebeest on the tundra remembers a former life, and an
albatross crossed your shadow at sea one day. Tristan, whose name means
sadness, quested the grail and drank a love potion. This is the sublimated
test of future identity– T, T, T, T, T, T, T,
T, T, T, T. Identity– T, T, T, T, T, T,
T, T, T. Identity– T, T, T, T, T, T, T.” [APPLAUSE] So this is called Songs of the
Sons and Daughters of Buddha. And this was published by
Shambhala Centaur Editions. And I worked with a poet,
Andrew Schelling, who also translates from the Sanskrit. So these are somewhat
literal in places. These are preserved in the
Pali scriptures, these texts. The earliest written
documents known to Buddhism, they did not get into
written form, which is to say transcribed
into palm leaf, until a great Buddhist council
took place in Sri Lanka during the reign of King
Vattagamani, circa 89-77 BCE. I think that’s right. And this was after the
poems were first composed. And many are ascribed
to direct disciples of Gautama Buddha, which means
they had been in circulation for 350 years before finding
their way into written form. So obviously they went
through many translations. And there’s a little essay
and some notes on this. But I’ll just do a couple. And I use the names
of nuns in the titles. [? “Attikasih ?] Speaks.” “I was a prostitute
with fees as large as the whole kingdom of Khasi. The [INAUDIBLE] fixed it. I was priceless. Then I got disgusted
with my figure. No one was interested in it
anymore, used up, tired, weary. This old body good for sex? This sex money body,
where does it go? How far does it go? Never again, chasing rebirth,
after rebirth, after rebirth. Mahakala speaks. This lady who cremates
the dead, black as a crow. She takes an old corpse
and breaks off a thighbone. Takes an old corpse and
breaks off a forearm. Cracks an old skull and sets it
out like a bowl of milk for me to look at. Witless brain. Don’t you get it? Whatever you do,
just ends up here. Get finished with karma. Finished with rebirth. No more bones of mine
on the slag heap. She thought of suicide,
but gave it up singing. Distracted, too passionate,
dumb about the way things work, I was stung and
tossed by memories. Haunted, you could say. I went on like this,
wandering for seven years, thin, pale, desperate. Nothing to hold me. Taking a rope, I
went to the woods hanging is better
than this slow life. The noose was strong. I tied it to the branch of a
tree, flung it round my neck. When suddenly, look. It snapped. Not my neck– my
heart was free.” And there’s a final one. It’s a kind of apocalyptic one. This is [? “Sisupakala ?]
Speaks with [? Mara.” ?] “Sisupakala was sure of herself. Her senses pure, her
perception clear, she drank life’s elixir,
a sweet fluid sustaining that replenished her mind.” [? Mara, ?] the tempter,
as you know, interrupts. “Don’t forget where
you’ve been before. Those other lives you lead
in bittersweet realm– animals, demons, pretas
your friends, companions. Think about it. Long for it, he
whispers in her ear. Yearn again for the Kamaloka
and the seductive beauty of the dark gods who rule
in shadow and the blissed out gods who rule by day. They’ll take you,
caress your naked body. She– stop Mara. Don’t you know those gods
go from birth to death, to birth to death, again,
again, become this, become that, become this again, become that. You know the Kamaloka
stinks with lust. I tell you the world
is blazing, blazing. The whole world is in flames. I tell you it’s flared up. The world is shaken. Your words are shaken. The whole world’s ablaze.” [APPLAUSE] Some things never change. And then I’ll close with- this
is called “Chenrezig Walks Among Us.” And Chenrezig is the wonderful–
there’s a story about Chenrezig is the Tibetan name for
Avalokitesvara, kind of a male-female deity,
a Bodhisattva, who as legend has it, clears
the world of suffering, sweeps out all the suffering,
and then turns back and sees it’s all filled
up again, sheds a tear. Out of that tear, Tara
appears and more arms and legs and hearts to combat
the Samsara in this world. And the name Chenrezig
actually translates. And I think also the
Avalokitesvara as looking down with compassion. And then Amitava
Buddha is invoked. But anyway, this is a chant. And it was written
with the Dalai Lama in mind, who’s supposed to
be an emanation of Chenrezig. [SINGING] “Swept
away all suffering, gathered it up in
a quantum leap. Sucked it up until
it returned and when he looked back over his shoulder
and saw all suffering come back in a great wave of suffering,
riding and filling up nooks and crannies and crevices
and templates of the world. All suffering filling neurons
and quarks and electrons troubling minds of fathers,
mothers, sisters, brothers, lovers. All sentient beings suffering
toxins of passion, aggression, ignorance in the middle of the
night strapped in demon mud. Nowhere to hide when all
pounding suffering rides it. And mind splits in 1,000 pieces. Chenrezig wept. And heads split in 1,000 pieces
and mighty red fire Buddha Amitava leans in and puts
the puzzle back together, wires it with
tantric thread, adds some extra arms, extra heads. A conglomeration
of more tendencies. This wisdom body to rid
the world of all suffering. More arms and heads take charge. Build it better, a deity to
maximize power of Bodhisattva to ease all suffering. And now Chenrezig had a 1,000
arms in all directions of space with numerous accoutrements. And under those arms,
1,000 hearts better to banish suffering, suffering,
all suffering of Tibet, of India, of Pakistan,
wherever his crystallized land. Whatever map of suffering. Your USA, empty
Israel, Palestine, empty China, Russia,
Japan empty, India. 11 heads with 11 third eyes
and bigger build it, bigger. More wisdom lies in all
the pores of the body. Chenrezig walks among
us, humble prince toward all systems of
empire walks among us as all constituent forms,
precious ink, diamonds scepter, skull cup of blood, thighbone
trumpet, dissolve in mind and lotus at his
feet arises again through cracks of
a concrete city or charnel grounds eternal
war and extinction is nothing but the extinction
of all suffering. Inside the extinction
of self, whose form is emptiness to
power of compassion. O push, push against
the darkness. Push, push, push
against the darkness. Push, push, push, push
against the darkness. O suffering, o suffering, push,
push against the darkness. Push, push against
the darkness.” [APPLAUSE] Thank you.

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