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“Poethic” Particulars: Anne Waldman’s Poetics of Detail in Manatee/Humanity

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Laurence Bécel
Laurence Bécel


In Manatee/Humanity (2009), Anne Waldman investigates our world through a poetics of detail that records diversity in what Édouard Glissant calls the ‘totality- world,’ against the threat of ‘monolithic’ representations of the world that, inWaldman’s terms, are shaped by totalitarian discourses. The poet’s language engagesher own relationship with the world. As Waldman asks: “What is poetry’srelationship to the composite world, /in the relative world?” In Manatee/Humanity, Waldman deals with relativity through a Buddhist conception of time. Besides, her poetic quest echoes Édouard Glissant’s definition of a poetics of Relation and challenges the ability of poetic writing to account for a Glissantian relationship with the world. Waldman’s interrogation also entails a questioning of the relation betweenthe ‘particulars’ of the world and the world as structure. This essay argues that Waldman uses detail as an epistemological standpoint for herpoetics of interconnected particulars which is entwined with an ethical approach to our contingent world, and may be defined as a poetics of Relation.


Anne Waldman; American poetry; detail; Manatee/Humanity; poethics; Relation; Édouard Glissant; ecology; Buddhism; dissipative structures

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