Jerome Rothenberg's publishing career began in the late 1950s as a translator of German poetry, first for Hudson Review and then for City Lights Books. Founding Hawk's Well Press in 1959, Rothenberg used it as a venue to publish collections by some of the up-and-coming poets of the era, including Diane Wakoski and Robert Kelly. He also self-published his first book of poems, White Sun Black Sun, under the Hawk's Well imprint. From the beginning, his work embodied experimentation with syntax, image, and form that drew on varied influences and moved in diverse directions. Poetic and artistic forebears such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Dali, the Dadaists, Ezra Pound, and Walt Whitman affected the voice and content of his early work. In a career that has already spanned half a century, including seventy books of his own poetry, plus plays, acclaimed anthologies, and other works, Rothenberg has gone on to explore primitive and archaic poetry, sound poetry, found poetry, visual poetry, collaborations, further translations, his own Jewish heritage, and much more.
In an interview with Michael Rodriguez for Samizdat, Rothenberg stated that he came to "believe early that poetry and art could make a difference . . . for the world-at-large at our most ambitious." However, Rothenberg also said that when he returned to writing at the end of his army servince in the mid-1950s, he "felt incredibly isolated as a writer," partly because of the wars during the previous decade (World War II and the Korean War) and partly because of the repressive spirit that permeated the United States due to McCarthyism. Rothenberg continued: "The emergence of the Beats at the same time was the first public signal that we weren't alone in the desire to assert or reassert what we thought of as a new revolution-of-the-word and a second awakening of a radical and unfettered modernism." For Rothenberg and other writers like himself, taking charge of their own publications was the primary means by which they were able to express their voice, and it was this realization that led him, in collaboration with David Antin and Diane Rothenberg, to found Hawk's Well Press.
Rothenberg identified with both the twentieth-century avant garde and with "a range of tribal and subterranean poetries" that can provide "a poetics big enough to account for human creativity, human language-making, over the broadest span available." Of his poetry and his experimental "anthology-assemblages," he once wrote: "My process has been like what Samuel Makindemewabe (per Howard Norman) said of the Cree Indian Trickster: 'to walk forward while looking backward.' With past and future up for grabs, the possibility opened up—by the late 1950s—to make a near-total change in poetry, perception, language, etc., tied up with earlier twentieth century 'revolutions of the word'. . . . My own contributions (nomenclature and praxis) have included 'deep image,' ethnopoetics, 'total translation,' poetics of performance, and assorted attempts 'to reinterpret the poetic past from the point of view of the present."'
Rothenberg has been particularly interested in the poetry of the North American Indians, both verbal and non-verbal: a poetry that can often be expressed, according to Rothenberg, in "music, non-verbal phonetic sounds, dance, gesture and event, game, dream, etc." It is, he explained, "a high poetry and art, which only a colonialist ideology could have blinded us into labeling 'primitive' or 'savage.'" At the same time, he wrote, "I have been exploring ancestral sources of my own in the world of Jewish mystics, thieves and madmen," the latter resulting in works like Poland/1931 and A Big Jewish Book.
Reviewing the collection titled Seedings and Other Poems for Booklist, Patricia Monaghan stated: "[He] evokes the dream in, of, and through language more effectively than any other contemporary poet," and she concluded by crediting his poems with being "simultaneously emotionally complex and linguistically experimental." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the title poem of the collection, an extended and personal contemplation on life and death, noting that its "plain style displays the influence of . . . primitive and oral tribal poetics." The same reviewer found the "Dada-influenced avant-garde" poems in Seedings and Other Poems to be less interesting, but was impressed with "'14 Stations' . . . a powerful and sad meditation on the Holocaust."
In 2000 Rothenberg published A Paradise of Poets: New Poems and Translations, a collection about which Rochelle Owens in World Literature Today observed: "In this volume the poet's stylistic mode, insistencies, and power to synthesize experience into a brilliant word-song orality are manifestations of his art and life where symbol, image, and events create new terminologies." As the titles indicates, the subject of A Paradise of Poets deals to a large extent with the lives and works of other poets (and artists) some of whom Rothenberg has known. The assemblage is international, including Garcia Lorca, Vitezslav Nezval, Paul Blackburn, Louis Zukofsky, Picasso, and Kurt Schwitters. Owens noted that "the illuminations and insights [of other poets and artists] . . . are revealed in their marvelous complexity by the poet/translator who renders the body of the poem into a transformational and personal journey of artistic risk and vitality of language."
Rothenberg is widely and highly respected as a consummate anthologist and poetic theorist as well as a poet. In the massive 1,700-page, two-volume Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, edited with Pierre Joris, Rothenberg presents what Hacsi Horvath of Whole Earth considered "a brilliant kaleidoscope of writing unstuck in time, both in English and in fine translation, from numerous archaic/modern/postmodern voices." Monaghan praises the editors for providing "the kind of critical guidance so sweeping a collection requires." The first volume, From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude, covers the period from 1900 through World War II. The second volume, From Postwar to Millennium, encompasses the remainder of the twentieth century. Despite the length and worldwide scope of Poems for the Millennium, the anthology makes no attempt to be comprehensive with regard to twentieth-century poetry. Instead, it emphasizes what Rothenberg and Joris consider to be poems that point toward the future both in form and content, while passing over more conventional work. Beginning with a discussion of Rimbaud and Whitman, the editors present the poetry of Dadaism, Expressionism, Surrealism, and numerous other avant-garde movements, yet omit poets such as Frost, Auden, Derek Walcott, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Pinsky. Reviewing the first volume, a Publishers Weekly critic noted: "This invaluable collection, rather than gathering the most fully realized poetry of this century's first four decades, maps poetic possibility, thus demonstrating how poetry was literally remade during this period." Ray Olson of Booklist called it "a book to argue with, which is one of its strengths." Describing the second volume in Publishers Weekly, a reviewer stated: "This collection freely crosses national and aesthetic boundaries to include work by the Scottish concrete poet and garden designer Ian Hamilton Finlay, poems by the famed African novelist Chinua Achebe, and excerpts from Dictée, the only major writing project by the Korean American filmmaker Theresa Hak Kyung Cha," and went on to conclude: "As an introduction to the many avant-gardes of the second half of the century . . . the value of this international gatecrasher cannot be underestimated."
Writing in Vort,Kenneth Rexroth described Rothenberg and his poetry in the following way: "Jerome Rothenberg is one of the truly contemporary American poets who has returned U.S. poetry to the mainstream of international modern literature. At the same time, he is a true autochthon. Only here and now could have produced him—a swinging orgy of Martin Buber, Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, and Sitting Bull. No one writing poetry today has dug deeper into the roots of poetry." Introducing Rothenberg at a 1998 reading, Alan Filreis stated: "He has become the poet, critic, teacher, anthologist, translator, activist, archivist, assembler, organizer, and editor who has done as much as anyone of his generation to make a radical modernism available to readers."
- White Sun Black Sun, Hawk's Well Press (New York, NY), 1960.
- The Seven Hells of the Jigoku Zoshi, Trobar (New York, NY), 1962.
- Sightings I-IX, Hawk's Well Press (New York, NY), 1964.
- The Gorky Poems, El Corno Emplumado (Mexico City, Mexico), 1966.
- Between: 1960-1963, Fulcrum Press (London, England), 1967.
- Conversations, Black Sparrow Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1968.
- Poems 1964-1967, Black Sparrow Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1968.
- (With Ian Tyson) Offering Flowers, Circle Press (London, England), 1968.
- (With Ian Tyson) Sightings I-IX [and] Red Easy a Color, Circle Press (London, England), 1968.
- Poland/1931, Part I, Unicorn Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1969.
- (With Tom Phillips) The Directions, Tetrad Press (London, England), 1969.
- Polish Anecdotes, Unicorn Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1970.
- Poems for the Game of Silence, 1960-1970, Dial Press (New York, NY), 1971.
- A Book of Testimony, Tree Books (Bolinas, CA), 1971.
- Net of Moon, Net of Sun, Unicorn Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1971.
- (With Ian Tyson and Richard Johnny John) Poems for the Society of the Mystic Animals, Tetrad Press (London, England), 1972.
- A Valentine No a Valedictory for Gertrude Stein, Judith Walker (London, England), 1972.
- (With Ian Tyson) Three Friendly Warnings, Tetrad Press (London, England), 1973.
- Esther K. Comes to America, Unicorn Press (Greensboro, NC), 1973.
- Seneca Journal 1: A Poem of Beavers, Perishable Press (Madison, WI), 1973.
- Poland/1931 (complete), New Directions (New York, NY), 1974.
- The Cards, Black Sparrow Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1974.
- The Pirke and the Pearl, Tree Books (Berkeley, CA), 1975.
- (With Philip Sultz) Seneca Journal: Midwinter, Singing Bone Press (St. Louis, MO), 1975.
- A Poem to Celebrate the Spring and Diane Rothenberg's Birthday, Perishable Press (Madison, WI), 1975.
- Book of Palaces: The Gatekeepers, Pomegranate Press (Boston, MA), 1975.
- (With Ian Tyson) I Was Going through the Smoke, Tetrad Press (London, England), 1975.
- Rain Events, Membrane Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1975.
- The Notebooks, Membrane Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1976.
- A Vision of the Chariot in Heaven, Hundred Flowers Bookshop (Boston, MA), 1976.
- (With Ian Tyson) Narratives and Realtheater Pieces, Braad Editions (Bretenoux, France), 1977.
- (With Philip Sultz) Seneca Journal: The Serpent, Singing Bone Press (St. Louis, MO), 1978.
- A Seneca Journal (complete), New Directions (New York, NY), 1978.
- Abulafia's Circles, Membrane Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1979.
- B.R.M.Tz.V.H., Perishable Press (Madison, WI), 1979.
- Letters and Numbers, Salient Seedling Press (Madison, WI), 1980.
- Vienna Blood and Other Poems, New Directions (New York, NY), 1980.
- For E. W.: Two Sonnets, Spot Press (London, England), 1981.
- Imaginal Geography 9: Landscape with Bishop, Atticus Press (San Diego, CA), 1982.
- The History of Dada as My Muse, Spot Press (London, England), 1982.
- Altar Pieces, Station Hill Press, (Tarrytown, NY), 1982.
- That Dada Strain, New Directions (New York, NY), 1983.
- (With Harold Cohen) 15 Flower World Variations, Membrane Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1984.
- A Merz Sonata, illustrated by Debra Weier, Emanon Press (Easthampton, MA), 1985.
- New Selected Poems, 1970-1985, New Directions (New York, NY), 1986.
- Gematria 5, Bellevue Press (Binghamton, NY), 1987.
- Khurbn and Other Poems, New Directions (New York, NY), 1989.
- A Gematria for Jackson Mac Low, Imprints (London, England), 1991.
- The Lorca Variations I-XXXIII, Zasterle Press (Tenerife, Spain), 1990, New Directions (New York, NY), 1993.
- Gematria, Sun & Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1994.
- An Oracle for Delphi, illustrated by Demosthenes Agrafiotis, Light and Dust Books (Kenosha, WI), 1994.
- Two Songs about Flowers & Where I Was Walking, privately printed, New College Book Arts (San Francisco, CA), 1995.
- Pictures of the Crucifixion and Other Poems, drawings by David Rathman, typography by Philip Gallo, Granary Books (New York, NY), 1996.
- A Flower like a Raven, translated from Kurt Schwitter's works, an artist's book edition by Barbara Fahrner, Granary Books (New York, NY), 1996.
- Seedings and Other Poems, New Directions (New York, NY), 1996.
- (With Ian Tyson) Twin Gematria, 1997.
- Gematria 643, art by Ian Tyson, 1997.
- Delight/Délices & Other Gematria, drawings by Ian Tyson, French translations by Nicole Peyrafitte, Editions Ottezec (Nimes, France), 1998.
- At the Grave of Nakahara Chuya, Backwoods Broadsides (Ellsworth, ME), 1998.
- The Treasures of Dunhuang, Graphic Arts Press (Bloomington, IN), 1998.
- The Leonardo Project: 10+2 (visual poems), privately printed (San Diego, CA), 1998.
- Paris Elegies and Improvisations, Meow Press (Buffalo, NY), 1998.
- A Paradise of Poets: New Poems & Translations, New Directions (New York, NY), 1999.
- (With Ian Tyson) The Case for Memory, and Other Poems, Granary Books (New York, NY), 2001.
- A Book of Witness: Spells and Gris-Gris, New Directions (New York, NY), 2002.
- Origins and Meanings, Folkways, 1968.
- From a Shaman's Notebook, Folkways, 1968.
- Horse Songs and Other Soundings, S-Press, 1975.
- 6 Horse Songs for 4 Voices, New Wilderness Audiographics, 1978.
- Jerome Rothenberg Reads Poland/1931, New Fire, 1979.
- Jerome Rothenberg, New Letters (Kansas City, MO), 1979.
- Rothenberg, Turetsky: Performing, Blues Economique, 1984.
- The Birth of the War God (with Charles Morrow) and The Western Wind, Laurel, 1988.
- (With Charles Morrow) Signature, Granary, 2001.
- The Deputy (adaptation of a play by Rolf Hochhuth; produced in New York, NY, 1964), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1965.
- That Dada Strain, music by Bertram Turetsky, produced by Center for Theater Science and Research, San Diego, CA, 1985, produced in New York, NY, 1987.
- Poland/1931, produced by The Living Theater, New York, NY, 1988.
- (With Makoto Oda and Charles Morrow) Khurbn/Hiroshima, produced by Bread and Puppet Theater, Glover, VT.
- (Editor and translator) New Young German Poets, City Lights (San Francisco, CA), 1959.
- (Editor) Ritual: A Book of Primitive Rites and Events (anthology), Something Else Press (New York, NY), 1966.
- (Translator) The Flight of Quetzalcoatl (Aztec), Unicorn Bookshop (Brighton, England), 1967.
- (Translator, with Michael Hamburger) Hans Magnus Enzenberger, Poems for People Who Don't Read Poems, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1968, published as Selected Poems, Penguin (New York, NY), 1968.
- (Editor and author of commentaries) Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1968, 2nd revised edition, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1985.
- (Translator) Eugen Gomringer, The Book of Hours and Constellations, Something Else Press (New York, NY), 1968.
- (Translator) The Seventeen Horse Songs of Frank Mitchell, Nos. X-XIII, Tetrad Press (London, England), 1970.
- (Editor) Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americans, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1972, 2nd revised edition, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1991.
- (Editor, with George Quasha) America a Prophecy: A New Reading of American Poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present, Random House (New York, NY), 1973.
- (Editor) Revolution of the Word: A New Gathering of American Avant Garde Poetry 1914-1945, Seabury-Continuum Books (New York, NY), 1974.
- (Editor with Michel Benamou) Ethnopoetics: A First International Symposium, Alcheringa (Boston, MA), 1976.
- (Translator, with Harris Lenowitz) Gematria 27, Membrane Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1977.
- (Editor, with Harris Lenowitz and Charles Doria) A Big Jewish Book: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to Present, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978, contents revised as Exiled in the Word: Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1989.
- Pre-Faces and Other Writings, New Directions (New York, NY), 1981.
- (Editor and author of commentaries, with Diane Rothenberg) Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse toward an Ethnopoetics, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1983.
- The Riverside Interviews 4: Jerome Rothenberg, edited by Gavin Selerie and Eric Mottram, Binnacle Press (London, England), 1984.
- (Translator) Four Lorca Suites, Sun and Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1989.
- (Editor and co-translator) Kurt Schwitters, Poems, Performance Pieces, Proses, Plays, Poetics, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1993.
- (Editor, with Pierre Joris) Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Post-Modern Poetry, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), Volume One: From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude, 1995, Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium, 1998.
- (Editor, with David Guss) The Book, Spiritual Instrument, Granary Books (New York, NY), 1996.
- (Editor, with Steven Clay) A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing, Granary Books (New York, NY), 2000.
- (Translator, with Milos Sovak) Vitezslav Nexval, Antilyrik and Other Poems, Green Integer, 2001.
- (Translator) Frederico García Lorca, The Suites, Green Integer, 2001.
- (Co-editor with Pierre Joris, and translator) Pablo Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and Other Poems, Exact Change, 2002.
- "Writing Through": Translations and Variations, Wesleyan University Press, 2002.
Contributor of poetry to anthologies, including A Controversy of Poets, edited by Paris Leary and Robert Kelly, Doubleday-Anchor, 1965; New Modern Poetry, edited by M. L. Rosenthal, Macmillan, 1967; Notations, edited by John Cage, Something Else Press, 1969; Caterpillar Anthology, edited by Clayton Eshleman, Doubleday-Anchor, 1971; East Side Scene, edited by Allen DeLoach, Doubleday- Anchor, 1972; New Directions Annual, edited by James Laughlin, New Directions, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980; Preferences, edited by Richard Howard, Viking, 1974; The New Naked Poetry, edited by Stephen Berg and Robert Mezey, Bobbs-Merrill, 1976; Talking Poetics at Naropa, edited by Anne Waldman and Marilyn Webb, Shambala Books, 1978; Esthetics Contemporary, edited by Richard Kostelanetz, Prometheus Books, 1979; The New American Poetry, edited by Donald M. Allen and George Butterick, Grove Press, 1980; The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust, edited by Harriet L. Parmet, Lehigh University Press, 2001; and Jewish American Literature: An International Anthology of Sound Poetry, edited by J. Chametzky, J. Felstiner, H. Flanzbaum, and K. Hellerstein, W. W. Norton, 2001. Contributor to numerous journals, including Caterpillar, Trobar, Kulchur, El Corno Emplumado, Action Poetique, American Book Review, American Poetry Review, Contact II, Boundary 2, Change, Dialectical Anthropology, Io, l-a-n-g- u-a-g-e, Partisan Review, Poetry Review, River Styx, and Vort. Founder and editor, Hawk's Well Press andPoems from the Floating World (magazine) 1959-64; co-editor, Some/ Thing, 1965-69; ethnopoetics editor, Stony Brook, 1968-71; co-editor, Alcheringa: A First Magazine of Ethnopoetics, 1970-76; editor, New Wilderness Letter, 1976—. Rothenberg's manuscript collection is housed as the University of California, San Diego. Rothenberg's work has been translated into French, Swedish, Flemish, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, German, Serbian, Finnish, Portuguese, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Japanese.
- Anaya, José Vicente, Los poetas que cayeron del cielo: La Generación Beat Comentada y en su propria voz, Instituto de Cultura de Baja (Juan Pablos, Mexico), 1998.
- Bardic Deadlines: Reviewing Poetry 1984-95, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1998.
- Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature, edited by George Perkins, Barbara Perkins, and Phillip Leininger, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
- Contemporary Jewish-American Dramatists and Poets, edited by Michael Taub and Joel Shatsky, Greenwood Press, 1999.
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume VI, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1976.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 193: American Poets since World War II, edited by Joseph Conte, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
- Finkelstein, Norman,Not One of Them in Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish-American Identity, State University of New York Press, 2001.
- Gilbert, Roger,The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry, edited by Ian Hamilton, Oxford University Press, 1994.
- Opposing Poetries, Northwestern University Press Avante-Garde and Modernism Studies (Evanston, IL), 1996.
- Ossman, David, editor, The Sullen Art, Corinth Books, 1963.
- Packard, William, editor, The Craft of Poetry, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1974.
- Parmet, Harriet L., The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust, Lehigh University Press, 2001.
- Poetics, Politics, Polemics, Marsilio Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.
- Polkinhorn, Harry, Jerome Rothenberg: A Descriptive Bibliography, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1988.
- Rational Geomancy: The Collected Research Reports of the Toronto Research Group, Talon Books (Vancouver, Canada), 1992.
- Repositionings: Readings of Contemporary Poetry, Photography, and Performance Art, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.
- Selerie, Gavin and Eric Mottram, editors, Jerome Rothenberg, Binnacle Press (London, England), 1984.
- Sherman, Paul, In Search of the Primitive: Reading David Antin, Jerome Rothenberg, and Gary Snyder, Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA), 1986.
- Booklist, September 15, 1996, Patricia Monaghan, review of Seedings and Other Poems, p. 205; November 15, 1995, Patricia Monaghan, review of Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, Volume 1, p. 532; March 15, 1999, Ray Olsen, review of Poems for the Millennium, Volume 1, p. 1275.
- Boundary 2, April, 1975.
- New York Quarterly, winter, 1970.
- Publishers Weekly, August 26, 1996, review ofSeedings and Other Poems, p. 94; September 25, 1995, review of Poems for the Millennium, Volume 1, p. 50; March 30, 1998, review of Poems for the Millennium, Volume 2, p. 76.
- Samizdat, winter, 2001, interview with Michael Rodriguez.
- Vort, Volume 3, number 1, 1975.
- Whole Earth, summer, 1997, Hacsi Horvath, review of Poems for the Millennium, p. 90.
- World Literature Today, summer, 2000, Rochelle Owens, review of A Paradise of Poets: New Poems and Translations, p. 600.
- Alsop Review, http:// www.alsopreview.com/ (April 20, 1998), Jack Foley, "Flowers Normally Irregular: An Interview with Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris."
- Jerome Rothenberg: Electronic Poetry Center, http://wings.buffalo.edu/epc/authors/rothenberg (February 28, 2002).
- Writers House, http:/ /www.english/upenn.edu/ (September 28, 1998), Alan Filreis, "Introduction to Jerome Rothenberg."
- Jerome Rothenberg Papers: Biography/History, http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/ (January 21, 2001).
Poems By Jerome Rothenberg
Articles about Jerome Rothenberg
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Jerome Rothenberg's publishing career began in the late 1950s as a translator of German poetry, first for Hudson Review and then for City Lights Books. Founding Hawk's Well Press in 1959, Rothenberg used it as a venue to publish collections by some of the up-and-coming poets of the era, including Diane Wakoski and Robert Kelly. He also self-published his first book of poems, White Sun Black Sun, under the Hawk's Well imprint. From the beginning, his work embodied experimentation with syntax, image, and form that drew on varied influences and moved in diverse directions. Poetic and artistic forebears such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Dali, the Dadaists, Ezra Pound, and Walt Whitman affected the voice and content of his early work. In a career that has already spanned half a century, including seventy books of his own poetry, plus plays, acclaimed anthologies, and other works, Rothenberg has gone on to...