Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

John Bloomberg-Rissman: Two Poems from “In the House of the Hangman”

John Bloomberg-Rissman: tattoo with quote from Walter Benjamin
John Bloomberg-Rissman: tattoo with quote from Walter Benjamin

IN THE HOUSE OF THE HANGMAN 1107

Trying to relieve the feeling of dead meat in the breast with a swim in the sea, see lots of movie type cartoon Disney Saga, work all the time, do some work to, read about body fluids, writing letters back and forth with proposals on jobs and ideas, type no answer. How do you do? Freak accident is the thing maybe? Give me a penny for your lungs man. Imagine being someone’s butler. Hey. This is Buffy and Leila, Divine and PJ in the back without them knowing about it or agree with, icons should not have to bother. This is going to go so fucking good. Otherwise, we can hold the car. Are you with me? We can hold the car to the north and playing Sheeba, Go betweens and Meat loaf on the askassa stereo. No one can reach us, we ba: generally no. No can dou. No Sir, we can accommodate. That’s a negative sir, we have escaped. We’ve set to work removing the veil of anxious subjectivity and clotted multi-syllables from their writing, to go for a walk and to take nothing (no phone, no iPod, no iPad, nothing) except for a pad and pen. When they saw an image that they would otherwise take a picture of, they were to stop, sit down, and write the image as they saw it. No commentary.

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.)]