Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

From "Shaking the Pumpkin Revisited: A Range of Poems from the Indian Americas"

[In advance of the forthcoming republication of Shaking the Pumpkin by Station Hill Press of Barrytown I’m posting again the following selection which appeared, with accompanying commentaries, in a recent issue of Poetry International, San Diego State University, & as an excerpt on Poems and Poetics. Additional excerpts from Shaking the Pumpkin were posted earlier & more will be posted here between now & the actual republication.]

Pre-Face

In the aftermath of Technicians of the Sacred (1968) the next step I took toward the construction of an experimental ethnopoetics was an assemblage of traditional works and commentaries thereon focused entirely on one of the world’s still surviving and incredibly diverse “deep cultures.” The resultant work, Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas, was published by Doubleday Anchor in 1972 and in revised versions by Alfred van der Marck Editions (1986) and the University of New Mexico Press (1991).

Three Poems by Paul Celan from Snowpart

Translated & annotated by Pierre Joris

EIN BLATT, baumlos,
für Bertolt Brecht:

Was sind das für Zeiten,

wo ein Gespräch
beinah ein Verbrechen ist,
weil es soviel Gesagtes
mit einschließt?

A LEAF, treeless,
for Bertold Brecht:

Crossing the Andes — 2004 — with an Excerpt from Diane Rothenberg’s Journal (redux)

Jerome Rothenberg, Cecilia Vicuña, Nicanor Parra Photo by Francis Cincotta
Jerome Rothenberg, Cecilia Vicuña, Nicanor Parra Photo by Francis Cincotta

The Andes crossing was part of my reading trip with Cecilia Vicuña through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, & Brazil. Our other companions were Diane Rothenberg, the photographer & filmmaker Francis (Frank) Cincotta, & Ariane Braillard. Besides Cincottas photographs & films, the only records of the crossing are my series of poems (later published in Ram Devinenis Ratapallax) & Diane Rothenbergs ongoing journal, both excerpted below.

CROSSING THE ANDES
for Cecilia Vicuña


La Difunta Correa

 She died & from
her breasts
her newborn babe
sucked life.
Her sanctuary
at the Inca’s lake
still fills
the flattened earth.

From Jess (Collins): A two-sided collage, plus a memoir

In celebration of a new book of collages

The two-sided collage shown here was in the possession of myself and Diane Rothenberg for something like a half-century before we sold it earlier this year with the intention of divesting ourselves of some of our accumulated art works and in this instance turning the proceeds toward the funding of a granddaughter’s college education. We had first met Jess and Robert Duncan in 1959 on what was also our first visit to fabled San Francisco. Before that Robert and I had begun a correspondence around the miniature magazine, Poems from the Floating World, that I was then editing, and when Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights published my first book, New Young German Poets, a trip to the Bay Area became inevitable. That was in early summer, following a crosscountry car ride with friends and a bus trip up the coast from Los Angeles. We stayed in a small hotel on Geary Street and I rented a still smaller room nearby to use as a writing studio. On our third or fourth day there we went over to City Lights to meet with Ferlinghetti and ran into a photo shoot by Harry Redl that included Philip Lamantia along with Robert and Lawrence.

Sarah Fox: from COMMA

[The entire poem appears in The First Flag, forthcoming from Coffee House Press]

I Slid Out of My Mother’s Body
Of being numinous. Of drift and syringe.
Of metal atonement. Of a tube-fed
melancholy. Of post-terror karmic.
Of a certain amount of ear. Of the smog
smear around the blood hollow. Of the
ossified berry like a cave cataract. Of
my mind branched out through the fontanel,
antlering, leaves letting go of me.

Exogeny
I entered air a poisonous object subtracted
from a poisoned mother. Her radiance
scathes me. I'm a pharmaceutical interpolator.
My mother and I have the same (m)Other, 
man-made (m)Om. I came astride the butcher's
alchemical homologue. The butcher said,
we'll grow up on this street. We'll wear masks
to conceal our monstrous mutual disease.
He said, look at my throbbing moneybags.
I roam over a burial site, my cosmovisage, 
some myness that is not quite dead yet. 
A birth plan spilling cosmovergence.

Doll Box
Questioning began to break circuitry into the air 
between myself and the listening surround. 
At first my mouth formed only a zero
and I was mistaken by some for a doll. 
This air shielded the world from my sound, 
which was clotted and seizing, a stirring interior. 
I only want to feel myself the mother of something. 
I want, and want to redeem my fire. But a menacing 
voice perseveres, blacks out my no more logos!

 Brain Letter
One day I woke up rearranged like a sleepwalker 
misplaced upon a terrain of erotic grenades. 
Am I a manifesto? Am I cloudless, now? 
Little fuses sizzled and unfurled smoke signals
targeting thoughtpods in outerspace. 
Each grenade was a tiny twin of my own brain, 
a memory vessel: my buried fetal cunt, its plastic crust.