Marriage: A Sentence

Anne Waldman, Author Penguin Books $15.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-14-058922-1
In a book-length series of haibun, a Japanese form in which prose pieces are juxtaposed with verse responses, Waldman (Fast Speaking Woman; The Beat Book; etc.) energetically invokes and explodes a plethora of marriage-related myths, histories and traditions. The Native American Berdache, the biblical Lilith, the Ngerorod kidnap-wedding of the Balinese and even Vaslav Nijinsky's exploits stand shoulder to shoulder with Waldman's own, often hilarious, marital experiences in '60s New York: ""The father-in-law disappears & goes on a bender invoking Ho Chi Minh long may he win he sobs, he fought an honorable war."" The haibun form works excellently for Waldman, setting up a call-and-response rhythm via the alternating contrasts of prose and verse, and through stretched-to-the-breaking-point repetitions. At times the fierceness of the prose sections-""how many billions a planet can hold as the residue on the sleeve lasts chanting I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do I do do I & I do lasts & I do not last I am impermanent in the name of Buddha""--overpower the more ethereal and meditative verse sections: the verse response to the vivacious prose-poem ""stereo""unsuccessfully invokes the Pygmalion and Galatea myth with too-flat lines like ""ornamental/ presence/ sculpted// ivory/ or virgin flesh."" But at their best, the verse responses offer mythological depths and elegant counterpoints to the prose fireworks. This collection is a valuable and compelling companion to Waldman's epic Iovis books, which delved into male personae. Its innovative use of a ""married"" form--two forms responding continually to each other--makes poetry that dynamically and provocatively questions a still-evolving institution. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
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