[It was with Heriberto Yépez, first in Ojo del Testimonio (2008) and now, in the process of coediting Eye of Witness: A Jerome Rothenberg Reader, that I found myself digging into earlier work to come to terms with the idea of witnessing as a basis and prod for my own poetics. With that in mind I have come to a slow understanding of how that idea, still in process, has been central both to my poetics and to that of various others, known and unknown to me. The following are some short excerpts from Eye of Witness, but the body of my work in different genres seems permeated by the concept, and I find myself more willing than ever to stand behind it. While I know that others would come at it quite differently, I read it now as a common thread for all we hope to know. That “all,” I wrote some years ago, includes the world, the present, as it comes and goes. I am a witness to it like everyone else, and all the experiments for me … are steps toward the recovery/discovery of a language for that witnessing. It can never be more clear than that, nor should it. (J.R.)]
[What follows is Aaron McCollough’s preface to a gathering of three of my earlier books, currently out of print or with a handful of poems preserved in later editions of selected poems. The book – titled A Cruel Nirvana – marks the start of a new publishing venture, SplitLevel Texts, edited by McCollough & Karla Kelsey in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The other announced title in this new series of publications is Alan Gilbert’s The Treatment of Monuments. (J.R.)]
Every foolish drunken poet, boorish vanity without ceasing, (never may I warrant it, I of great noble stock,) has always declaimed fruitless praise in song of the girls of the lands all day long, certain gift, most incompletely, by God the Father: praising the hair, gown of fine love, and every such living girl, and lower down praising merrily the brows above the eyes; praising also, lovely shape, the smoothness of the soft breasts, and the beauty's arms, bright drape, she deserved honour, and the girl's hands.