Poetry News

SF Gate Features Jerome Rothenberg

By Harriet Staff


SF Gate's Evan Karp profiles star of the poetic constellations, Jerome Rothenberg, in conjunction with his January 25th reading at the Bay Area Public School. Whether you were in the audience this weekend, or not, Karp's article is a great glimpse into Rothenberg's fabulous lifestyle.

Jerome Rothenberg changed the course of poetics with the opening statement to his landmark "Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries From Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania": "Primitive means complex."

The 1968 anthology was the result of his search for a better understanding of poetry. "There was a sense I had that what we knew about poetry was really very limited," the San Diego poet said by phone. "Poetry exists everywhere, and takes many different forms, and I began - just for my own pleasure and edification - to look into that (while) in the process also of writing poetry, so it was feeding my own work. And it was in conversation with many other poets.

"In the late 1960s I had been looking into all poetry from around the world, particularly in some non-state cultures, what were then being called 'primitive cultures,' and found a very rich body - many different bodies of poetry there."

The book's opening statement reflected a shift in perspective: "Primitive" had largely been understood to mean simple, or basic.

"I thought I was able to show the complexity of poetry that also intersected with music, with dance, with the uses of visual objects: masks, and face painting," he said, "and costume - all of that coming together to make a very complex art, wherever I was finding it."

Others thought so, too. "Technicians of the Sacred" effectively launched ethnopoetics, a field that ties poetry to anthropology by recording oral poetry and narrative performance onto the page in a way that reveals the poetry at its source. In practice, ethnopoetics achieves a better understanding of the fundamental nature of poetry.

Assembling that book transformed Rothenberg's own poetics, too: He became immersed in performance poetry, embracing multiculturalism by incorporating rituals from other cultures into his writing. [...]

Continue reading at SF Gate

Originally Published: January 27th, 2014