Jerome Rothenberg

Poems and poetics

Osiris Ánibal Gómez: The ghost poet

Writing and translating indigenous poetry in twenty-first century Mexico

Osiris Anibal Gómez, right, with Mazatec poet Juan Gregorio Regino
Osiris Anibal Gómez, right, with Mazatec poet Juan Gregorio Regino, director of Mexico’s National Institute of Indigenous Languages (INALI).

For the past ten years there’s been an ongoing discussion among writers and critics concerning the conditions and the transcendence of translation in contemporary Indigenous literary production. On the one hand, there are those who express that the birth of bilingual literature in Mexico has been shaped by federal writing grants offered mainly to writers who agree to self-translate their work to the Spanish language for publishing. On the other hand, there are writers who take on the double artistic responsibility as a necessity for greater dissemination.

For the past ten years there’s been an ongoing discussion among writers and critics concerning the conditions and the transcendence of translation in contemporary Indigenous literary production. On the one hand, there are those who express that the birth of bilingual literature in Mexico has been shaped by federal writing grants offered mainly to writers who agree to self-translate their work to the Spanish language for publishing.

Jerome Rothenberg and Ariel Resnikoff

'A Poem Beginning with Two Lines by Likht' (in English and Yiddish)

[Author’s Note:“A lid vos heybt on mit tsvey shuros fun likhtn”(“A Poem Beginning with Two Lines from Likht”) is a translingual epistolary experiment and collaborative double-iteration between English and Yiddish poetic tongues. Mikhl Likht (1893–1953), our radical Yiddish modernist ancestor (New York and “Objectivist” based) calls out from the interstices of an expanded-Yiddish praxis, coaxing our poem into the the wor(l)d with two lines from his “poem-of-a-life,” Protsestiyes (Processions).

Paul Celan: from 'Microliths,' translated by Pierre Joris

[The following selection (theoretical and critical fragments from between 1967 and 1969) is taken from Paul Celan, Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen, the collected posthumous prose as edited by Barbara Wiedemann and Bertrand Badiou and published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2005.

Irakli Qolbaia: 'Healing Poem'

An example of the geographic and cultural range of English-language writing, this one a recent work from the Georgian poet and translator Irakli Qolbaia.

[An example of the geographic and cultural range of English-language writing, this one a recent work from the Georgian poet and translator Irakli Qolbaia.

Mark Weiss: 'By Way of the Season,' from 'As Luck Would Have It' (Shearsman, 2015)

[EDITOR’S NOTE. Writes Ron Silliman of Weiss’s workings here and across the years: “This is a barefoot poetry, almost in the very oldest Asian sense of that phrase, a poetry of voice and body that recognizes that even body-language has accents, which surely it does. The eye is keen, the humor self-deprecating. Mark Weiss has reached that point on life’s mesa where forgiveness (to oneself as well as others) may well be the most important of gestures. A book to make you glad to be in the world.”] 

BY WAY OF THE SEASON

1

After its struggle the gazelle
surrenders to the lions grip, useless
to fight. Does it think then, does it think
‘if only Id dodged to the right. If only.
Maybe next time.’
As the cat disembowels it and begins to feed.

Farewell to the hills
farewell to the herd
farewell to water hole and tender grasses
and the joy of the young at the teat.

2