Jerome Rothenberg
Jerome Rothenberg is the author of over seventy books of poetry including Poems for the Game of Silence, Poland/1931, A Seneca Journal, Vienna Blood, That Dada Strain, New Selected Poems 1970-1985, Khurbn, and most recently, A Paradise of Poets and A Book of Witness (all from New Directions). Describing his poetry career as "an ongoing attempt to reinterpret the poetic past from the point of view of the present," he has also edited seven major assemblages of traditional and contemporary poetry: Technicians of the Sacred (tribal and oral poetry from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania), Shaking the Pumpkin (traditional American Indian poetry), America a Prophecy (a radical revision of the poetries of the North American continent co-edited with George Quasha), Revolution of the Word (American experimental poetry between the two world wars), A Big Jewish Book (subtitled "Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present"), and Poems for the Millennium (two volumes, co-edited with Pierre Joris). He has also been involved, since the late 1950s, with various aspects of poetry performance, including two radio soundplays written and performed for Westdeuttscher Rundfunk (Cologne), the last of which ("That Dada Strain" / "Der Dada Ton") was staged in 1985 and 1987 in collaboration with bassist Bertram Turetzky and director Luke Theodore Morrison in California and New York. A theatrical version of his book, Poland/1931, by Hanon Reznikov and the Living Theater, appeared on the NewYork stage in April 1988, and a version of Khurbn (in collaboration with composer Charlie Morrow and Japanese novelist Makoto Oda) was produced by the Bread & Puppet Theater in 1995. Rothenberg was the editor/publisher of Hawk's Well Press in the early 1960s and of four poetry magazines since then: Poems from the Floating World, some/thing (with David Antin), Alcheringa: Ethnopoetics ("a first magazine of the world's tribal poetries"), and New Wilderness Letter (a magazine of poetics across the spectrum of the arts). In 1968 he received a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant-in-aid for the experimental translation of American Indian poetry, and he has also been an active translator from German, with works including New Young German Poets (City Lights, 1959), the Broadway version of Rolf Hochhuth's play "The Deputy" (1964), and books of poetry by Eugen Gomringer, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and Kurt Schwitters. His own selected poetry, Poems for the Game of Silence, has appeared in French, Swedish and Flemish editions, and he has been translated extensively into French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, Polish, Japanese, Lithuanian, Chinese, and Finnish. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974 and a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1976, was a University of California Regents Professor in 1971 and a Visiting Research Professor with the Center for Twentieth-Century Studies (University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee), where he helped to organize "the first international symposium on ethnopoetics" in 1975. From 1972 to 1974 he lived at the Allegany Seneca Reservation in western New York State, and from 1976 to 1986 he taught extensively at the University of California, San Diego. During that time he also held other visiting professorships, including the Distinguished Aerol Arnold Chair in Literature at the University of Southern California, and in 1986 he was appointed as the visiting New York State Writer in Residence of the New York State Writers Institute in Albany. From 1986 to 1988 he had a tenured appointment with the State University of New York in Binghamton, and since 1989 he has been a professor of visual arts and literature at the University of California, San Diego. Jerome Rothenberg's first collection of writings on poetics, Pre-Faces (New Directions, 1982), received the American Book Award in 1982. Symposium of the Whole, an anthology of writings on ethnopoetics co-edited with Diane Rothenberg, was published by the University of California Press in 1983, and new editions of Technicians of the Sacred (University of California Press), Shaking the Pumpkin (University of New Mexico Press), and Revolution of the Word (Exact Change) appeared in 1985, 1986, and 1998. A condensed version of A Big Jewish Book (entitled Exiled in the Word) is in print from Copper Canyon Press, and his full translation of Federico García Lorca's previously untranslated Suites was published as part of Lorca's Collected Poems by Farrar Straus Giroux, with separate publication scheduled by Sun & Moon Press for 2001. PPPPPP (Poems Performance Pieces Proses Plays Poetics), a selection of the poetry and poetics of Kurt Schwitters, co-edited and translated with Pierre Joris, appeared in 1993 from Temple University Press, and will be reprinted shortly by Exact Change. The two volumes of the Rothenberg-Joris anthology, Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern & Postmodern Poetry, appeared in 1995 and 1998, and recent books of his own poetry include Gematria from Sun & Moon Press, An Oracle for Delfi from Membrane Press / Light & Dust Books, Pictures of the Crucifixion from Granary Books, and A Paradise of Poets (1999) from New Directions. A collection of writings by various hands, The Book, Spiritual Instrument, co-edited with David Guss, was also published by Granary Books in 1996, and a larger anthology, A Book of the Book, co-edited with Steven Clay, has recently appeared from the same publisher. In 1994 Rothenberg was the winner of the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award for The Lorca Variations (poems) and the PEN Center USA West Translation Award for PPPPPP. A second Josephine Miles Award was given in 1996 for Poems for the Millennium, and in 1997 he received a Doctorate of Letters from the State University of New York. In 1999 and again in 2001 he was a co-organizer of the People’s Poetry Gathering, a three-day festival, under joint sponsorship by City Lore and Poet’s House in New York City. His translation of the Czech modernist Viteszlav Nezval (with co-translator Milos Sovak) appeared as Antilyrik & Other Poems from Sun & Moon Press (Green Integer) in 2000, for which he received a second PEN Center USA West Translation Award in 2002, and Green Integer also published his translation of García Lorca’s Suites in that same year. A selection of his later poems, A Cruel Nirvana, appeared in a Spanish translation in 2001 and in French in 2002, and a volume of new poems, Un livre de témoignage, was published in a French edition in 2002. A Book of Witness (new poems, from New Directions), A Book of Concealments (new poems, from Chax Press), and María Sabina (selections, with commentaries, from University of California Press) appeared in 2003, and titles scheduled for 2004 include Writing Through: Selected Translations and Variations (Wesleyan University Press), 25 Caprichos, after Goya (Kadle Books, Tenerife), and Picasso’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & Other Poems (Exact Change), also with Pierre Joris. He was elected to the World Academy of Poetry (UNESCO) in 2001.

Web sites for Jerome Rothenberg




(4) new ethnopoetics web site:

(5) “Jerome Rothenberg en español”: or

The following are some comments on his work

"Jerome Rothenberg is one of the truly contemporary American poets who has returned U.S. poetry to the mainstream of international modern literature. At the same time he is a true auctochthon. Only here and now could have produced him -- a swinging orgy of Martin Buber, Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, and Sitting Bull. No one writing poetry today has dug deeper into the roots of poetry."

-- Kenneth Rexroth
"I will always like best poets like Ginsberg and Rothenberg who write about serious, passionate, often doleful concerns. . . . Yes, I like best the poetry which has historical and archetypal themes, which can be described as representing a culture and which tries to present, through a prescribed set of imagery and stylized vocabulary, a whole mode of perception. This is Jerome Rothenberg."
-- Diane Wakoski
"Rothenberg's creative and mediating work with archaic and primitive poetries has helped to define a changing weather, a climate in which a transnational poetry becomes possible, anchored consistently in the matrix of his sense of the vivid language of mid-century America . . . [and] of what Cassirer called 'the consanguinity of all living things' as perceived and experienced in older cultures. . . . He has been a central and fructifying presence in the spirit of American poetry."
-- Armand Schwerner
"Mr. Rothenberg's aim--as is evident in his extraordinary work in ethnopoetics and in the anthologies he has edited . . .--is that of rediscovering the 'archaic' worlds of myth, vision and revelation, all the while connecting these worlds of mostly oral tradition to the poetic 'revolution of the word' epitomized by writers such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Charles Olson."
-- Jonathan Cott, The New York Times Book Review
"Jerome Rothenberg is an exception to the general misuse of Native America. His book, A Seneca Journal, misses the quality of voyeurism that too often characterizes poetic attempts at Indianismo, and becomes a record of the meaning of life within the American land. . . . This is an example of the kind of borrowing that is possible: one that allows the dignity of giver and taker to remain not only undisturbed, but celebrated, illuminated, made clear. Because Jerome Rothenberg understands his own origins, because he knows his fathers and how his being arises of/from theirs, he can accept and articulate his Seneca experience justly."
-- Paula Gunn Allen
"Rothenberg in his Poland brings us what we much needed--the dialectical imagination that so vivifies what we took to be contradictory dialects that they leap to dance in the comedy of a new multiple identity's language. With what a humanizing redemptive gusto, once our animal spirits are brought back into play, and yet throughout alive--with the cutting edge of an open attack, this Chasidic cowboy-and-Indian American Bicentennial comic voice comes."
-- Robert Duncan
“The significance of Jerome Rothenberg's animating spirit looms larger every year. … [He] is the ultimate ‘hyphenated’ poet: critic-anthropologist-editor-anthologist-performer-teacher-translator, to each of which he brings an unbridled exuberance and an innovator’s insistence on transforming a given state of affairs.”
-- Charles Bernstein
"Jerome Rothenberg is a DNA spaceman exploring the mammal caves of Now."
-- Michael McClure