Dear Anne Waldman,
When I first started to read “Battery” I was extremely confused, I didn’t understand, the mixture of, nature, space, and the symphony. Instead of giving up there, I re-read multiple times onward. My confusion dropped substantially when I thought about it being about, unifying the human race, and love. For example, in the 14th to 21st lines, I thought about, “I would be sister mother lover brother” and imagined it being anyone on this Earth, no matter who they were, they would be entitled to love. I know that may seem farfetched but it’s what my conclusion came to. I also think that the mood that you were going for was supposed to be joyous and happy.
Alongside my thoughts, I started to think about what you were thinking when you wrote. I thought that you meant that life as we know it, was like a beautiful symphony, with a warm and luxurious sound that was warming like the sun that gives us this lively opportunity. A thought also crossed my mind that you wanted to relive the life that you are living now, but it quickly subsided.
Even though it may seem like I may understand what “Battery” is about, but a few questions still remain.
Fort Lupton, CO
You are absolutely right, the list of “sister mother lover brother” is meant to stand in for everyone we love.
Thank you for your response. To answer your very pertinent questions:
The inspiration for the poem came for a specific invitation to read a poem on Valentine’s Day with a group of other poets. I am not one for sentimental Hallmark Cards and a poem can be a way to say something more original.
The true meaning might be a display of words (as musical notes) /emotions/images that seem to spontaneously arise out of a vision of how we can all be part of this flood of positive feeling. The battery out of which the poet can create a “symphony” of words and sounds is an orality, a ritual of naming as well. This battery, this charge, is what metaphorically keeps the force of love running…There is a flash, a litany of images… “that we be one about a warming sun.”
I think I might want to someday write a Part 2, that would be the only addition.
I read a lot of poetry as a child and I was encouraged by my teachers and family from an early age. We have “air raid drills” when I was a child in the Fifties, where we had to take shelter under our desks clutching our “identification tags” called “dog tags” (soldiers still wear). I experienced a “cognitive dissonance”. This was not the reality I wanted. So I started to think artistically. The only way out of fear and war was the world of the imagination. This inspiration has continued my whole life. It was lead to helping fund organization for poetry and editing magazines and writing many books, and performing my poetry all over the world.
I wanted the poem to be a “Battery” for others. A way to plug into language (logopoeia), sound (melopoeia), and image (phanopoeia). This impulse lead to a much later and longer book/poem: Manatee/Humanity, where the endangered sea creature—the manatee—is a kind of battery.