Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

Homero Aridjis: On Riding the Beast

The search for asylum winds through Mexico
The search for asylum winds through Mexico

[NOTE. Aridjis of course is a major Mexican poet & environmental activist, & his close account of the current border refugee crisis calls further attention to the longer & more difficult part of the journey that the refugees have undertaken.   It seems to me important to see what has been happening in a context other than its relation to domestic United States politics or its coverage by the entertainment news media that so much dominates our political & social thinking & reporting.  Homero’s account appeared first in The Huffington Post (07/08/2014), from which it is respectfully borrowed.  I see it here also as a part of his & our total poetics: a continuation of the work of poetry by other means. (J.R.)] 

Armand Schwerner: Hall of Mirrors, an Auto-Dialogue, with accompanying tribute

[The following dialogue or auto-conversation was salvaged from Schwerner’s notebooks by Mark Weiss & previously unpublished. The most recent version of The Tablets, mentioned throughout this commentary, was published by the National Poetry Foundation, Orono, Maine, in 1999 – a necessary modern/postmodern work & still readily available.]

 

December 14, 1991

S.A.: You mirror me.
A.S.: You humor me.
S.A.: Inside this glass case there's an ancient Chinese mirror.

Jerome Rothenberg: Translation, Transcreation, & Othering, An Homage to Octavio Paz & Haroldo de Campos

[NOTE. The following commentary was written to accompany a series of poems commisioned & prepared for "Trans-Poetic Exchange: A Colloquium on Haroldo de Campos and Octavio Paz's poem ‘Blanco’” at Stanford University, January 29-30, 2010.

Avrom Sutzkever: “Green Aquarium,” a poem newly translated from Yiddish by Zackary Sholem Berger

(l. to r.): Avrom Sutzkever, Abba Kover and Gershon Abramowicz in the Vilna Ghet
(l. to r.): Avrom Sutzkever, Abba Kover and Gershon Abramowicz in the Vilna Ghetto, 1942.

[The post-Holocaust fate of Yiddish writing is something that’s troubled my mind since the murders of the last century appeared to have decimated both language & culture.  Avrom Sutzkever (1913-2010), who fought as a partisan during the years of the khurbn, was one of the outstanding survivors with many kudos & honors in his later years, but the secular mysticism & near surrealism/realism of some of his work wasn’t easy to grasp as he came over to us largely in that more ethnic context & in a translated language not his own.  W

Will Alexander: from “The Ganges,” excerpt with glossary

[The following is an excerpt from a long poem, “The Ganges,” which runs around a hundred pages & is itself a third of a giant book entitled The Combustion Cycle. The book contains two other poems, “Concerning The Henbane Bird,” & “On Solar Physiology,” the former in the voice of a hummingbird, the Andean Hillstar, &  the latter spoken in the voice of an Angolan shaman. As for “The Ganges,” Alexander tells us, “it pours from the voice of an untouchable.” Of Alexander himself  I’ve written elsewhere: “Will Alexander, more than any of our other American contemporaries, is the inheritor of an ecstatic surrealism derived from European sources, colored by factual & scientific particulars, & drawing with great intelligence & passion from an international avant-garde & from the negritude writings of Aimé Césaire & others, for whom he acts as a true successor.”  His use here of historical & appropriated materials is also worth noting. (J.R.)]