Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

Mikhl Likht: From 'Procession Three'

For Yankev Beri

Translation from Yiddish by Merle Bachman

Heriberto Yépez: Introduction to 'Eye of Witness,' a Jerome Rothenberg reader

[In advance of publication September 2013 by Black Widow Press, co-edited by Heriberto Yépez & Jerome Rothenberg]

A Re-Vision of Jerome Rothenberg’s Poetry and Poetics

Jerome Rothenberg’s poetic work began in the late fifties. It was after his stay in Europe that his writing took the form of what would become a life-long program. His first published book, New Young German Poets (1959), already showed his characteristic interest in translation, poetics, avant-garde writing, and their relation to the human condition as a deeper presence restructuring the poem. Although his work can be associated with that of his early group—David Antin and Armand Schwerner, among others—Rothenberg’s work is unique. He shares techniques, contexts  and a literary/cultural field with others, but his ends are sui generis.

Pablo Picasso: A translation in progress of 'The Four Little Girls'

[24 November 1947 – 13 August 1948]

Harpy with Bull’s Head and Four Little Girls on Top of a Tower with Black Flag Plate 13 from the Vollard Suite, December 1934

Translation from French by Jerome Rothenberg

The scene – a vegetable garden almost smack in its center a well.

four little girls singing – we’re not gonna go to the woods no more the laurel trees are down on the floor hey the beautiful babe will go pick them up then we’ll come out to dance hey just like they dance oh you sing dance & hug anybody you want

Kevin Power: Introduction to 'Where You’re At: Poetics & Visual Art' (Redux)

[The news has just reached me of the sudden death of Kevin Power, a friend of mine for over forty years & an independent writer & chronicler of contemporary poetry (particularly postwar/postmodern North American) & art (particularly Latin American & Spanish).  British when we first met, he was for many years the distinguished chair of American Literature at the University of Alicante in Spain & a deputy director of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.  On September 15, 2011 I posted the following introduction to Where You’re At: Poetics & Visual Art (for Alastair Johnston’s Poltroon Press, 2011), his collection of eight interviews with American poets conducted in the mid-1970s as a mapping of American poetry during the second great awakening of twentieth-century poetry & art. The force of Kevin’s interaction with  & meticulous understanding of American poetry & poets is clear from this introduction & even more so from his role as interlocutor in the interviews themselves.  Since Poems and Poetics wasn’t then co-posted with Jacket2, I’m reposting this now as the most immediate homage I can offer to Kevin for the years of dedication & energy that he privileged me to share.  (J.R.)]

Outside & subterranean poems, a mini-anthology in progress (56): Some quatrains from 'Sidi Abderrahman el Mejdub' (Al Jadida, early 16C. – Meknes 1568)

Translation from Arabic by Abdelfetah Chenni & Pierre Joris

[As originally published in Joris & Tengour, Poems for the Millennium, volume 4: The University of California Book of North African Literature, 2012]

dirty and ugly they saw me there goes an empty head they said
in fact I am more like an open book        there’s much useful stuff
        inside this head


o my heart I burn you       and if you want I will do more
o my heart you shame me             because you like who doesn't
        like you.


neither think nor search too much        don’t always be
the planets are not fixed                and life’s not eternal


don't play with your best friend's feelings          & if people insult
        him, ease his mind
who loves you, love him more      but if he betrays you, don't ever 
        be his friend again


all I’ve had in life is one goat                    but I’ve written beautiful 
many are fulfilled through God’s favor              yet claim those favors as
        their own labors


travel and you’ll get to know people       and owe obedience to the
the fathead with the pot-belly      sell him for a dime


my heart’s between a hammer & an anvil        & that damned 
        blacksmith has no pity
he keeps hammering & when it cools     he kindles the fire
        with his bellows