Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

With Michael McClure & Jack Foley: Writing between the lines 1955/2013/2014

[The following work began with Jack Foley’s writing “between the lines” of Michael McClure’s famous poem, “For the Death of 100 Whales,” first recited at the famed Six Gallery reading in 1955 San Francisco.  With my own proclivity toward collaborative writing & thinking I came into the process a few months after Foley, which stretches the time frame of the final work to the almost present.  Typographically McClure’s original poem appears in roman type, Foley’s respones in italic, & mine in bold italic.  The McClure poem of course is the true jewel in the crown, and “the rest,” as someone said, “is commentary.” (J.R.)]

John Bloomberg-Rissman: 'In the House of the Hangman' 1731

[NOTE. The text that follows is a further installment from Bloomberg-Rissman’s epic assemblage, Zeitgeist Spam, a work constructed (almost) entirely, he tells us, from words or sounds appropriated from other writers.  In the present instance the over-all source is Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Assemblage of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, which he & I have recently completed as Poems for the Millennium, volume 5, for publication later this year by Black Widow Press.  The subsection of Zeitgeist Spam, “In the House of the Hangman,” itself in multiple installments, derives its title from an essay by Theodor Adorno: “In the house of the hangman one should not mention the noose; one might be suspected of harboring resentment.”]

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.