cover image Voice’s Daughter of a Heart Yet to Be Born

Voice’s Daughter of a Heart Yet to Be Born

Anne Waldman. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $17 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-56689-438-8

The inimitable Waldman (The Iovis Trilogy) takes an ethereal, meditative trip “Offworld” with Blake’s character Thel, exploring the existential dilemma of whether to choose life in the face of suffering. Throughout, these long poems alternate between verse and prose, Eastern and Western philosophy, spiritual channeling and focused critique. The disembodied Thel goes by an array of monikers, including “the dulcet voice of God through the female,” “she who sleeps on a swan’s wing,” and “the thirteenth fairy, wandering sister.” With one foot in the otherworldly and another planted firmly in reality, Waldman artfully places Thel’s quandary in the context of war, terrorism, police brutality, and the devastating consequences of capitalism. This is most evident in the final poem, “Endtime”: “We have met the enemy and it is the psychotic karmic flow of our own blowback.” The mystical features regularly, as when Waldman annotates the strange correspondence she receives, including a writer seeking a dreamed-of guru and another seeking absolution: “I have been wrong about you and William Carlos Williams, please forgive me.” If there is a solution to Thel’s dilemma, for Waldman it lies in protest and the powers of language, “a bigger poetry/ that paces like a panther, alone yet enormous.” (June)