Waldman tells us in one of her interviews, "I took a vow early on to never give up on poetry or on the poetic community to serve as a votary to this high and rebellious art." She continues to believe in the quasi-religious role of poetry and articulates it at every moment, as several of the manifestos included here show. She continues to be rebellious, constantly questioning political attitudes. One interviewer tells her that he thinks her "shrillness and inability to draw political distinctions" makes her "marginal and ineffectual." Waldman replies with humor, "How provocative of you! I disagree. I find the government and most governments, not just ours demonic."
Though her rants are fun and often funny, Waldman is best when sticking close to her artistic home: when writing about the poets she has known and about their work. There is a short piece in this book describing her last visit with the dying Allen Ginsberg, about the tears they shared when he told her about his impending death. She ends the piece with a poem she composed beside Ginsberg's body, while several Buddhist monks chanted around her. This piece will certainly become part of the mosaic of American literary history. It alone is worth the price of Vow to Poetry.
Waldman reads from her work at the Hatcher Graduate Library on Friday, March 15, as part of a three-day U-M conference celebrating Waldman and her work and influence.
[Originally published in March, 2002.]