Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

The Lermontov translations (1): 'Untitled Poem' & 'The Dream'

Transcreations from Russian by Jerome Rothenberg & Milos Sovak

Mikhail Lermontov - Selfportrait - 1837
Mikhail Lermontov - Selfportrait - 1837

[The appeal to me in the works that follow was in the harshness and fury of Lermontov’s romanticism, but it was just this note of contempt, as in his “iron verses / bursting with bitterness / & rage,” that marked him as a poet who displayed, as Nietzsche wrote of Heine, “that divine malice without which I cannot conceive perfection.” It was that spirit – not necessarily our own – that Milos Sovak & I tried to capture in a project to translate Lermontov anew, sadly terminated by Milos’s death in 2009. I’ll present the four poems we did accomplish in two installments. (J.R.)]

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.]


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.

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.