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Iovis by Anne Waldman

Through accessing a method through which their story can be told, Cixous says women gain the ability to "fly." This ability to "fly" is considered to be a woman's gesture concerning her ability to glide independently, being propelled through the air by the sheer force of her own will. Cixous' use of the term "fly," "voler" in French, is ironic because in the French language it can also mean "steal." By using this double-sided word Cixous relays the message that if women are to ever "fly" and soar on their own, they must first "steal" back from men their right to speak.

This was written as part of a student project forVanderbilt University, posted by a woman named Mandy Albright (presumably the Amanda Albright Turner who graduated Vanderbilt in 1998 and is now a freelance writer) as part of a 200-level class exploring Postmodernism and the Culture of Cyberspace.

I have been thinking about what to write concerning Anne Waldman's magnum opus, or at least the first volume of it, for some time now.And my mind kept returning to Cixous, whom I admittedly have not read in any depth, but whom I encountered in small doses when I was in grad school.What I remember discussing about Cixous was her advocacy of a feminine voice in literature, one in which the traditional masculine norms were bucked, and something differently structured and differently conceived, drenched more in intuition and less in the formalities of logical analysis, was drawn from the barest foundations.Feminine from the ground up.

I find this as fascinating and problematic now as I did then.I am not prepared to discuss the nuances of Cixous here at any depth, but I do want to consider the basic idea in light of Waldman's work.She notes in the introduction,

I want to don the armor of words as they do and fight with liberated tongue & punctured heart.But unlike the men's, my history & myths are personal ones.I want & need the long poem.In one doctor's description I've "too many male hormones." Let them sprout & spurt off the page.But let it not be said she wanted to be a man.Point of view: both accommodation and scorn.And don't forget Wit, a dark fairy.She teaches balance, redress, how to face the end of the world with dignity: make a space for her entourage.Sisters of beauty & seduction with no truck in the male poems these past years.Come out of exile, something still a real person we hope, welcomes you in.

From the outset, then, something feminine is invoked in these poems, something masculine refused, something else masculine embraced.If Waldman's project is to rethink the cultural myths, then she means to do so through removing a particular lens of gender. And part of that lens is the division of the personal and the public, which in this case means, in part, the collective narrative.The mythos.But also, the lens consists of a specific, narrow idea of the rules of genre.In Iovis, Waldman performs what in visual art would be called an assemblage, pulling together pieces that are poetic, conceptual, epistolic, prosaic, and more.It's this interweaving throughout the 300-plus pages of the first volume of this project make the book both so hard to meaningfully quote and to consider simply.

I don't particularly want to use this book as a reason to struggle with gender or literary theory—Rachel Blau DuPlessis does a far better job with that here than I could ever manage.And yet.The ideas, about art and love and history and mythos are dense and meaty.I can't pull any one string without seeing the tension rise in the others.Because, maybe above all else, Iovis is a work about the complexities of identity. One passage, near the middle of the book, asks these questions:

I see you everywhere

the cues (sasmita) are transmitted musically visually verbally

what signals us here?

what pulls us into motion, what navigates our forms?

what priest is behind all this, activating our tongues

what got left behind when we agreed to enter this day together?

what intersected with what?

what cycle are you on?

the loop or the coil

tearing about the island to see, to see

to burn, to see

Part of the wonder of Waldman's Iovis project is how seamlessly she allows questions about one reference point (i.e. history) to overlap with another (i.e. gender identity) and then another (i.e. art).Here, all are present in the contemplation of the self.What's more, it makes the reader wonder how a full contemplation could be any different, how we could be satisfied with a more narrow focus.Of course, it could be argued that there is no more traditionally "masculine" form in history and literature than the epic poem, chronicling heroism and loss and the great rolling tide of history.This is not quiteOdysseus' journey, however: this is Penelope's shroud, woven and unwoven and woven again.It's an epic created by the demands of circumstance, but which recognizes that the needs of the intimate and personal are just as determinant as those of the greater sweeps of history. Pieces of the traditionally epic story have been stolen, to be sure, and they've then been woven into something new and brave and intimate.

It's a story for a new kind of hero, and a new kind of storyteller, though Waldman is hardly the only person in this postmodern world to take on such considerations.It's a shroud for a old kind of myth, or an old kind of consideration of mythos.Something is stolen; something is new.It's fascinating and problematic, and lucid and opaque.But it struggles and wants so much to be whole.

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eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
PublisherCoffee House Press
File size4.8 Mb
Release date 01.07.1992
Pages count256
Book rating4.18 (28 votes)
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