Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

Amish Trivedi: Excerpt of 'Automata,' from 'FuturePanic,' with a note by the author

NOTE: FuturePanic encompasses macro and micro concerns to transform the reader’s sense of space and time and force them to engage with the present era’s perceptions of death, politics, and the border at which they meet. The opening (presented here and separately titled “Automata”) considers the Von Neumann Machine, an as-yet impossible organic machine designed to replicate itself across the galaxy over the next four hundred thousand years. Conceptual, expensive, and perplexing, the Von Neumann Machine raises questions present throughout FuturePanic — who benefits from the long reach of technology? How do the earth-bound conceive of transformation light years away? And how do mortals deign to simultaneously explore the potential for never-ending life at the cost of killing death for machines, while grappling with their own limitations — corporeal death, political conceit, and economic destruction of the world around them? Is the quest for knowledge that may outlast us all worth stargazing above the screams of others in the here and now and the cries of our own limited bodies and minds?

To keep waking up

missing the suns

beyond our own. The future

is a hard limit, the arc of history


long enough that no one here

will ever see enough of it.

Long after humans, maybe

two-hundred thousand years old,


Jerome Rothenberg: Three Poems after Images by Nancy Tobin

[As I pass the ten-year mark of Poems and Poetics, I thought it appropriate to repost in celebration the initial offering in the series, first posted (on my blogger site only) on June 7, 2008. Published later that year as a small book from a resuscitated Hawk’s Well Press (my own first press from the 1960s). Copies of the original work can still be ordered, I believe, from Small Press Distribution. My own brief comments on our collaboration and Tobin’s more extensive description of her aims and working process follow the poems, below.

Toward a poetry and poetics of the Americas (11): from the Popol Vuh (Mayan)

The Popol Vuh, literally “the book of the community” (or “commonhouse” or “council”), was preserved by Indians in Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, Guatemala, and in the eighteenth century given to Father Francisco Ximénez who transcribed it in roman letters and put it into Spanish; vanished again and rediscovered in the 1850s by Carl Scherzer and Abbé Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg.

Translation from the Mayan by Dennis Tedlock


this is the beginning of the ancient word,

here in this place called k’iche’


Here we shall inscribe,

               we shall implant the Ancient Word,

Heriberto Yépez: What Are the United States and Why Are There So Many of Them (Work in Progress)

Originally published in S/N New World Poetics, a publication edited by Charles Bernstein and Eduardo Espina. Copyright © 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Clayton Eshleman: 'Chauvet. First Impressions' (a new poem)

NOTE: See also the poem “Chauvet: Left Wall of End Chamber” in Reciprocal Distillations (Hot Whiskey Press, 2007) reprinted in CE / The Essential Poetry (1960–2015). With James O’Hern, I visited Chauvet Cave with Jean-Marie Chauvet (one of the 1994 discoverers) on January 8, 2004. My gratitude to Dominique Baffier for arranging our visit. Excellent color photographs of the wall with the paintings addressed in my poem may be found in Chauvet Cave / The Art of Earliest Times, directed by Jean Clottes (The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2003).

The depth of body.

The depth    of a hollow

     animal belly

imagination fills out to an agreeable convexity, &

the tenderness in a bear drawing

like a loom within stone.

Seesaw pitch of breath & stasis:

my heart pounding   Take Heed   halfway