Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

Murat Nemet-Nejat: From “Questions of Accent” (What Is Then Accented Writing?)

[NOTE. The following was originally published in The Exquisite Corpse in 1993 & again in Thus Spake The Corpse (An Exquisite Corpse Reader, 1988-1999). Brought into the present context its central argument – as presented here – has much to say about the nature of language & identity beyond more orthodox ideas of nativism & foreignness. The emphasis on American & Jewish writings rhymes as well with matters of concern to the present editor & touched on from different perspectives in previous postings on Poems and Poetics. It is also an acknowledgement of the role played by major figures in our recent poetry & literature who have come into English writing as a second or even a third language, but in the extract cited here goes well beyond that. A complete version of Nemet-Nejat’s once controversial essay can be found elsewhere on the web. (J.R.)]

 I speak no language like a native. Though I have lived in the States since 1959, my accent still sounds foreign. I was born in Turkey, but I am not Turkish. I am Jewish. In the fifties most Jews in Turkey were Sephardim and spoke Ladino Spanish.

Jerome Rothenberg: From A CRUEL NIRVANA: Two Narratives from The Lives of the Caesars

I. Augustus

Caesar of ribald songs & nose & blemishes
of seven birthmarks on his stomach
ringworm
gravel in his urine
negligent of personal appearance when granted
an audience with the Great Bear
& on dropping off in summer
slept with the bedroom door open
to protect himself
especially by not bathing with an oil rub
after which he took a douche of water
(sulfur water)
on a wooden bath seat
ended
with a sharp sprint in the company of little boys
regarding them as freaks

Pierre Joris: From “Double-Gazing Semes after Babel Sequestering” (Some Notes on Collaboration)

Pierre Joris, Jerome Rothenberg, Robert Kelly, circa 1990s, a collaborative port
Pierre Joris, Jerome Rothenberg, Robert Kelly, circa 1990s, a collaborative portrait

[What follows is the opening of Pierre Joris’s introduction to Synopticon: A Collaborative Poetics by Louis Armand & John Kinsella (Litteraria Pragensia, 2012). That my own interplay with Joris has been essential to my life as a poet goes almost without saying. Along with him & others I have come to see collaboration, not as a threat to identity, but as part of the arsenal of poetic means that has long been at our disposal. There is more to be said about this and the collective enterprise that it implies, but I‘m willing to take his testimony here as truly more than a beginning. (J.R.)]

Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (47): Jonathan Williams on “Howard Finster, Man of Visions”

[Reprinted from the Jargon Society web site at http://jargonbooks.com/index.html]

The first time I ever heard of Howard Finster was in the pages of Missing Pieces (Georgia Folk Art 1770-1976), that useful catalogue in honor of the American Bi-Centennial issued by the Georgia Council for the Arts and Humanities. I made a note to visit Pennville and see the “Paradise Garden,” which I persisted in calling the “New Improved Garden of Eden,” just to be ornery. It is not my custom to have too much truck with country preachers.

David Matlin: From Prisons / Inside the New America, “Kenneth’s” Poems & Poetics

In August of 1994, President Clinton’s Crime Bill destroyed the monies designated on a nation-wide basis for all Prison Education programs. The Federal or Pell Grants were for books; without books, like it or not, there are no programs. Those monies constituted less than one percent of all federal funds designated for higher education and were beginning to offer proof, at least in the program of which I was a part, that this form of rehabilitation might be the cheapest, most far reaching yet devised.