Jerome Rothenberg
(USA, 1931)   
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Jerome Rothenberg

Poetry International has an extensive online collection of poetry and poets, but our offline archive is even bigger. As part of the run-up to our 2014 festival, we asked each of the festival poets to choose a former festival guest from our archives – someone who made an impact on their poetry or the poetry of their home country.

Jerome Rothenberg (guest in 1974 and 1986) was chosen by 2014 festival poet Julian Brolaski.

Jerome Rothenberg is an American poet, writer, anthologist, and much more. He was raised in New York, was a graduate student at Colombia (1956), and was stationed in Germany while fulfilling his military service from 1953-1955. After this experience, Rothenberg’s writing career started as a translator of German poetry in the 1950s. He went on to published over seventy books of his own poetry, as well as dozens of anthologies and a handful of plays. Jerome Rothenberg has been a major influence in several literary fields, most prominently that of ‘ethnopoetics’.

The first collection of his own poetry Rothenberg published was White Sun Black Sun (Hawk’s Well Press, 1960). This was the first in a long line of publications by the remarkably prolific poet, well-known titles include A Seneca Journal (1978), That Dada Strain (1983), Seedings & Other Poems (1996), and Poems for the Game of Silence (2001). A key book for Rothenberg’s relationship with ethnopoetics is Technicians of the Sacred (1968). This movement was tremendously influenced and shaped by Rothenberg in its efforts to “hear and read the poetries of distant others, outside the Western tradition as we know it now”, as Dennis Tedlock put it.  Closely linked to oral poetic and narrative traditions, it is no wonder that Rothenberg was also known for his interest in poetry performance.

Besides his own poetry, plays, and performances, Rothenberg has also contributed his poetry to, and assisted in the composition of, various anthologies. In fact, he is so multi-talented a poet that Charles Bernstein has even dubbed him “the ultimate ‘hyphenated’ poet: critic-anthropologist-editor-anthologist-performer-teacher-translator” adding “to each of which he brings an unbridled exuberance and an innovator’s insistence on transforming a given state of affairs”. Rochelle Owens’ description of Rothenberg was as “a pioneer [who] has manifested a daring dynamic sensibility that has brought the innovative excitement of contemporary painting and sculpture to poetry”.

Throughout his lengthy career Rothenberg has received numerous awards and grants, including a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation, two PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Awards, and two PEN Center USA West Translation Awards. He visited the Poetry International Festival on two occasions, first in 1974 and then in 1986. In 2001 Jerome Rothenberg was elected to the World Academy of Poetry.

© Sanna McGregor

Extended biography and bibliography on Poetry Foundation


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