I have many fond memories of Brad Will, especially his participation in activist and poetics events around Boulder and during the summer sessions of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in the early 1990s. He was a much appreciated “honorary student,” a student of Allen Ginsberg’s and myself and others. Brad seemed particularly drawn to the teaching of Hakim Bey, our “resident anarchist” for a time and the famed author of TAZ—the Temporary Autonomous Zone documents—that further radicalized Brad’s way of thinking. One summer during the height of the years when University of Colorado football coach McCartney was organizing the Promise Keepers Rallies (remember them? the Promise Keepers? The “Men Who Are Not Afraid to Be Men”?) where they would hand out brochures with scary titles like “The Iron Spear: Reaching Out To The Homosexual.” The PKs were on the adjoining property to Naropa’s summer lawn where we pitched out Kerouac big top tent and we staged a mock wedding; Bride Pasque appeared in knockout white satin dress and full train drag that needed a bridesmaid attendant. Groom Brad was decked out in an elegant suit and tie. They were married by Hakim Bey in his role as priest of the Moorish Orthodox Church with a red fez atop his head. I played Brad’s mother, happy to see her son married off in such an opulent fashion, Pasque’s mother was played by Bobbie Louise Hawkins.
Some Promise Keepers were lurking behind the fence and I remember after the lavish event Brad, Allen Ginsberg, my son Ambrose and myself striking up some conversation with the curious onlookers. They wanted to know if the bride was a man? One PK was so curious he jumped the fence to our side. Brad saw this as an amazing instance of poetic justice. If you could just magnetize the opposition with drag agit prop guerilla theatre art…
Brad was right inside the maelstrom of the temporary autonomous zone that is the Naropa community, and continued the friendships he made there with poets Brenda Coultas, Bernadette Mayer, Philip Good, Laura Wright, Akilah Oliver, John Wright, Eleni Sikelianos, Jenny Smith, Jo Ann Wasserman, myself and others that continued beyond Boulder to many other activist zones: The Dreamtime in Wisconsin, La Plaza Cultural gardens, the Fifth Street Squat, with its attendant wrecking ball just a few blocks away from another place he frequented—the Poetry Project activity-zone. All these folks and members of those communities carry much of Brad’s sprit in them. He imprinted on so many of us.
It was wonderful to see Brad grow even stronger in his convictions and become such a fearless Indymedia reporter. I received the bulletins from Brazil, worrying about his wellbeing and the wellbeing of others in that struggle. The last I saw him was on the streets of New York City during the RNC protests. He was in full reporter regalia and did an interview with me outside the pier where illegally arrested protestors were being held in lockdown by the Bloomberg machine. He was still the passionate, curious, wiry kid but he had clearly found his brave “métier.” I was impressed with his grasp of issues, his continuing connection to poetry and the work he did in line with Allen Ginsberg’s vow:
“And what’s the work? To ease the pain of living, everything else drunken dumbshow.”
Brad had taken this same spiritual vow. He was heroic in this.
Spring to Action
_ for Brad_
The will to be such a will that could be inquiry
& willingness in the human temp zone all
temperatures rising to be
oppositional will, rigorous will, sprung will
mano a mano, will & willing always
breath to breath, breathing
mind to mind
that willing eye through a compassionate lens, open, disarming
eye that was will, was willing
the human realm will remember you & the trees & the greenery and so on
would we resuscitate this will see willing justice willed
willful in this will, still
a will to save the planet through
a tough bodhisattva’s will
to save sentient beings from their own
weird willful human realm, the masters of war
unwilling in their power grab and greed
to give it up
O Brad of the struggles!
willingness towards those below the radar
willingness to protect and vocalize the
particulars of the suffering of others
get down in the zones, in the streets
get down, record those voices
a will held to the line a will to the fire
willowy in this wounded body
with a willingness to go the whole ride
the whole journey travel
the maps for change and reclamation
the action of willing or deciding to do something
intention, intent, purpose, determination
All the currents that willed this will To be willing and reverse this killing
May his life & death benefit others
It will will will will will will will will will will will will will will will will will will WILL WILL WILL!
(I bow to Brad’s aspiration.)
Anne Waldman is the Artistic Director of the Jack Kerouac School's Summer Writing Program.