Jerome Rothenberg

Jerome Rothenberg. Photo by Diane Rothenberg. Courtesy New Directions Publishing.

Jerome Rothenberg (born December 11, 1931) is an internationally known American poet, academic, translator, and anthologist, who is noted for his work in ethnopoetics and poetry performance.


Youth and educationEdit

Rothenberg was born and raised in New York City, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrant parents[1] and is a descendant of the Talmudist Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg.[2]

He attended the City College of New York, graduating in 1952, and in 1953 he received a Master's Degree in Literature from the University of Michigan. Rothenberg served in the U.S. Army in Mainz, Germany from 1953 to 1955, after which he did further graduate study at Columbia University, finishing in 1959.

He continued to live in New York City until 1972, when he moved to the Allegany Seneca Reservation in western New York State and later to San Diego, California, where he has continued until the present.

Early workEdit

In the late 1950s, he published translations of German poets, including the first English appearances of poems by Paul Celan and Günter Grass, among others. He also founded Hawk's Well Press and the magazines Poems from the Floating World and some/thing (the latter with David Antin), publishing work by a number of the most important American avant-garde poets of the day and his own first book, White Sun Black Sun 1960.

He wrote in the context of what he named “deep image” in the 1950s and early 1960s, and during that time he published eight more collections and the first of his major anthologies of traditional and modern poetry, Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poems from Africa, America, Asia, & Oceania (1968), which still remains in print in a revised and expanded edition (1985). By the end of the 1960s he had also became active in poetry performance, had adapted a play (The Deputy by Rolf Hochhuth, 1964) for Broadway production, and had opened the range of his experimental work well beyond the earlier “deep image” poetry.

Ethnopoetics and AnthologiesEdit

Technicians of the Sacred (1968), which signalled the beginning of an approach to poetry that Rothenberg named “ethnopoetics,” went beyond the standard collection of folk songs to include visual and sound poetry and the texts and scenarios for ritual events. Some 150 pages of commentaries gave context to the works included and placed them as well in relation to contemporary and experimental work in the industrial and postindustrial West. Over the next ten years, Rothenberg also founded and with Dennis Tedlock co-edited Alcheringa, the first magazine of ethnopoetics (1970–73, 1975ff.) and edited further anthologies, including:- Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas (1972); A Big Jewish Book: Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present (revised and republished as Exiled in the Word, 1977 and 1989); America Prophecy: A New Reading of American Poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present (1973), co-edited with George Quasha; and Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward An Ethnopoetics (1983), co-edited with Diane Rothenberg. Rothenberg’s approach throughout was to treat these large collections as deliberately constructed assemblages or collages, on the one hand, and as manifestos promulgating a complex and multiphasic view of poetry on the other. Speaking of their relation to his work as a whole, he later wrote of the anthology thus conceived as “an assemblage or pulling together of poems & people & ideas about poetry (& much else) in the words of others and in [my] own words. That imago – that representation of where we've been and what we've lived through – is something in fact that I would stand by – like any poem.”

The Middle Years, 1970-1990Edit

Rothenberg has continued to be a prolific poet into the present, publishing over seventy books of poetry, translation, and assemblage since 1970. In that year the first version of his selected poems appeared as Poems for the Game of Silence (2000), and soon after that he became one of the poets published regularly by New Directions. Provoked by his own ethnopoetic anthologies, he began, as he wrote of it, “to construct an ancestral poetry of my own – in a world of Jewish mystics, thieves, & madmen.” The first work to emerge from that, both thematically and formally, was Poland/1931 (1974), described by the poet David Meltzer as Rothenberg's “surrealist Jewish vaudeville.” Over the next two decades Rothenberg expanded this theme in works such as A Big Jewish Book and Khurbn & Other Poems, the latter an approach to holocaust writing, which had otherwise been no more than a subtext in Poland/1931. He also reexplored American Indian themes in A Seneca Journal (1978), and the relation of his work to Dada and Surrealism culminated in a further cycle of poems, That Dada Strain, in 1983. A merger of experimental sound poetry and ethnopoetics was the basis in the 1970s and 1980s of works composed by an approach that he was calling “total translation,” most notably “The 17 Horse Songs of Frank Mitchell” translated from Navajo with a privileging of sonic effect alongside strict or literal meaning. Compositions such as these became centerpieces of Rothenberg's expanding performance repertory and underlay his critical writings on the poetics of performance, many of which were gathered together in Pre-Faces & Other Writings (1981).

During this time and beyond it, he also engaged in a number of collaborations with musicians – Charlie Morrow, Bertram Turetzky, Pauline Oliveros, and George Lewis, among others – and took part, sometimes performing, in theatricalizations of his poetry: Poland/1931 for The Living Theater and That Dada Strain for Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Germany and the Center for Theater Science & Research in San Diego and New York. His New Selected Poems, 1970-1985, covering the period since Poems for the Game of Silence, appeared in 1986.

After 1990Edit

In 1987 Rothenberg received his first tenured professorship at the State University of New York in Binghamton, but returned to California in 1989, where he taught for the next ten years as a professor of visual arts and literature at the University of California, San Diego. The works published since 1990 include over fifteen books of his own poetry as well as four books of poetry in translation – from Schwitters, Lorca, Picasso, and Nezval – and a book of selected translations, Writing Through, which extends the idea of translation to practices like collage, assemblage, and appropriation. In 1994 he published Gematria. In 1995 and 1998 he published, in collaboration with Pierre Joris, the two-volume anthology-assemblage, Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry, and in 2000, with Steven Clay, A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing. Waiting for publication in 2008 is volume three of Poems for the Millennium, co-edited with Jeffrey C. Robinson as a nineteenth-century prequel to the first two volumes, and a new book of selected essays, Poetics & Polemics 1980-2005. Numerous translated editions of his writings have appeared in French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, and other languages, and a complete French edition of Technicians of the Sacred appeared in 2008. Charles Bernstein has written of him: “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.”



  • White Sun Black Sun. New York: Hawk's Well Press, 1960.
  • The Seven Hells of the Jigoku Zoshi. New York: Trobar, 1962.
  • Sightings I-IX. New York: Hawk's Well Press, 1964.
  • The Gorky Poems. Mexico City: El Corno Emplumado, 1966.
  • Between, 1960-1963. London: Fulcrum Press, 1967.
  • Conversations. Los Angeles, CA: Black Sparrow, 1968.
  • Poems 1964-1967. Los Angeles, CA: Black Sparrow, 1968.
  • Offering Flowers (With Ian Tyson). London: Circle Press, 1968.
  • Sightings I-IX [and] Red Easy a Color (With Ian Tyson). London: Circle Press, 1968.
  • Poland/1931, Part I. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1969.
  • The Directions. London: Tetrad Press, 1969.
  • Polish Anecdotes. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1970.
  • Poems for the Game of Silence, 1960-1970. New York: Dial Press, 1971.
  • A Book of Testimony. Bolinas, CA: Tree Books, 1971.
  • Net of Moon, Net of Sun. Santa Barbara, CA: Unicorn Press, 1971.
  • Poems for the Society of the Mystic Animals (with Ian Tyson and Richard Johnny John). London: Tetrad Press, 1972.
  • A Valentine No a Valedictory for Gertrude Stein. London: Judith Walker, 1972.
  • Three Friendly Warnings (with Ian Tyson). London: Tetrad Press, 1973.
  • Esther K. Comes to America. Greensboro, NC: Unicorn Press, 1973.
  • Seneca Journal 1: A Poem of Beavers. Madison, WI: Perishable Press, 1973.
  • Poland/1931 (complete). New York: New Directions, 1974.
  • The Cards.Los Angeles, CA: Black Sparrow, 1974.
  • The Pirke and the Pearl. Berkeley, CA: Tree Books, 1975.
  • Seneca Journal: Midwinter (With Philip Sultz). St. Louis, MO: Singing Bone Press, 1975.
  • A Poem to Celebrate the Spring and Diane Rothenberg's Birthday. Madison, WI: Perishable Press, 1975.
  • Book of Palaces: The Gatekeepers. Boston, MA: Pomegranate Press, 1975.
  • I Was Going through the Smoke (With Ian Tyson). London: Tetrad Press, 1975.
  • Rain Events. Milwaukee, WI: Membrane Press, 1975.
  • The Notebooks. Milwaukee, WI: Membrane Press, 1976.
  • A Vision of the Chariot in Heaven. Boston: Hundred Flowers Bookshop, 1976.
  • Narratives and Realtheater Pieces (with Ian Tyson). Bretenoux, France: Braad Editions, 1977.
  • Seneca Journal: The serpent (with Philip Sultz). St. Louis, MO: Singing Bone Press, 1978.
  • A Seneca Journal (complete). New York: New Directions, 1978.
  • Abulafia's Circles. Milwaukee, WI: Membrane Press, 1979.
  • B.R.M.Tz.V.H.. Madison, WI: Perishable Press, 1979.
  • Letters and Numbers. Madison, WI: Salient Seedling Press, 1980.
  • Vienna Blood and other poems. New York: New Directions, 1980.
  • For E.W.: Two Sonnets. London: Spot Press, 1981.
  • Imaginal Geography 9: Landscape with Bishop. San Diego, CA: Atticus Press, 1982.
  • The History of Dada as My Muse. London: Spot Press, 1982.
  • Altar Pieces. Tarrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1982.
  • That Dada Strain. New York: New Directions, 1983.
  • 15 Flower World Variations (with Harold Cohen). Milwaukee, WI: Membrane Press, 1984.
  • A Merz Sonata (illustrated by Debra Weier), Easthampton, MA: Emanon Press, 1985.
  • New Selected Poems, 1970-1985. New York: New Directions, 1986.
  • Gematria 5. Binghampton, NY: Bellevue Press, 1987.
  • Khurbn and other poems. New York: New Directions, 1989.
  • A Gematria for Jackson Mac Low. London: Imprints, 1991.
  • The Lorca Variations I-XXXIII. Tenerife, Canary Is.: Zasterle Press, 1990; New York: New Directions, 1993.
  • Gematria. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1994.
  • An Oracle for Delphi (illustrated by Demosthenes Agrafiotis). Kenosha, WI: Light and Dust Books, 1994.
  • Two Songs about Flowers & Where I Was Walking. San Francisco: privately published by New College Book Arts, 1995.
  • Pictures of the Crucifixion, and other poems (illustrated by David Rathman). New York: Granary Books, 1996.
  • Seedings, and other poems. New York: New Directions, 1996.
  • Twin Gematria (with Ian Tyson). 1997.
  • Gematria 643 (illustrated by Ian Tyson). 1997.
  • Delight/Délices, and other gematria (illustrated by Ian Tyson; French translations by Nicole Peyrafitte). Nimes, France: Editions Ottezec, 1998.
  • At the Grave of Nakahara Chuya. Ellsworth, ME: Backwoods Broadsides, 1998.
  • The Treasures of Dunhuang. Bloomington, IN: Graphic Arts Press, 1998.
  • The Leonardo Project: 10+2 (visual poems). San Diego, CA: privately printed, 1998.
  • Paris Elegies and Improvisations. Buffalo, NY: Meow Press, 1998.
  • A Paradise of Poets: New poems & translations. New York: New Directions, 1999.
  • The Case for Memory, and pther poems. New York: Granary Books, 2001.
  • A Book of Witness: Spells and gris-gris. New York: New Directions, 2002.


  • New Young German Poets (edited & translated). San Francisco: City Lights, 1959.
  • The Flight of Quetzalcoatl (Aztec). Brighton, UK: Unicorn Bookshop, 1967.
  • Hans Magnus Enzenberger, Poems for People Who Don't Read Poems (Translated with Michael Hamburger). New York: Atheneum, 1968
    • published as Selected Poems. New York: Penguin, 1968.
  • Eugen Gomringer, The Book of Hours and Constellations. New York: Something Else Press, 1968.
  • Frank Mitchell, The Seventeen Horse Songs, Nos. X-XIII. London: Tetrad Press, 1970.
  • Gematria 27 (translated with Harris Lenowitz). Milwaukee, WI: Membrane Press, 1977.
  • Federico Garcia Lorca, Four Lorca Suites. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1989.
  • A Flower like a Raven (translated from Kurt Schwitter's works; an artist's book edition by Barbara Fahrner). New York: Granary Books, 1996.
  • Vitezslav Nexval, Antilyrik, and other poems (translated with Milos Sovak). Copenhagen & Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2001.
  • Federico García Lorca, The Suites. Copenhagen & Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2001.
  • "Writing Through": Translations and variations. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002.
  • Pablo Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, and other poems (& edited with Pierre Joris). Exact Change, 2002.


  • Ritual: A Book of primitive rites and events (anthology). New York: Something Else Press, 1966.
  • Technicians of the Sacred: A range of poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania. New York: Doubleday, 1968
  • Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional poetry of the Indian North Americans. New York: Doubleday, 1972
  • America a Prophecy: A mew reading of American poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the resent (edited with George Quasha). New York: Random House, 1973.
  • Revolution of the Word: A new gathering of American avant garde poetry, 1914-1945. New York: Seabury-Continuum Books, 1974.
  • Ethnopoetics: A first international symposium (edited with Michel Benamou). Boston: Alcheringa, 1976.
  • A Big Jewish Book: Poems and other visions of the Jews from tribal times to present (edited with Harris Lenowitz & Charles Doria). New York: Doubleday, 1978
    • revised as Exiled in the Word: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1989.
  • Pre-Faces, and other writings. New York: New Directions, 1981.
  • Symposium of the Whole: A range of discourse toward an ethnopoetics (Edited with Diane Rothenberg). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983.
  • Kurt Schwitters, Poems, Performance Pieces, Proses, Plays, Poetics (editor and co-translator). Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.
  • Poems for the Millennium: The University of California book of modern and post-modern poetry (edited with Pierre Joris). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
    • Volume One: From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude, 1995
    • Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium, 1998.
  • The Book, Spiritual Instrument (edited with David Guss). New York: Granary Books, 1996.
  • A Book of the Book: Some works & projections about the book & writing (edited with Steven Clay). New York: Granary Books, 2000.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[3]


  • The Deputy (adaptation of a play by Rolf Hochhuth; produced in New York, NY, 1964). New York: Samuel French, 1965.
  • That Dada Strain (music by Bertram Turetsky, produced by Center for Theater Science and Research, San Diego, CA, 1985, produced in New York, NY, 1987).
  • Poland/1931 (produced by The Living Theater, New York, NY, 1988).
  • (With Makoto Oda and Charles Morrow)? Khurbn/Hiroshima (produced by Bread and Puppet Theater, Glover, VT).

Except where noted, information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[3]

Audio / videoEdit



Jerome Rothenberg (1) — The Poetry Center

Jerome Rothenberg (1) — The Poetry Center

Jerome Rothenberg Poetry Reading

Jerome Rothenberg Poetry Reading


  • Origins and Meanings. Folkways, 1968.
  • From a Shaman's Notebook. Folkways, 1968.
  • Horse Songs and Other Soundings. S-Press, 1975.
  • 6 Horse Songs for 4 Voices. New Wilderness Audiographics, 1978.
  • Jerome Rothenberg Reads Poland/1931. New Fire, 1979.
  • Jerome Rothenberg. Kansas City, MO: New Letters, 1979.
  • Rothenberg, Turetsky: Performing. Blues Economique, 1984.
  • The Birth of the War God (with Charles Morrow) and The Western Wind. Laurel, 1988.
  • Signature (with Charles Morrow). Granary, 2001.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[3]

See alsoEdit


  • Sherman Paul, Search of the Primitive: Rereading David Antin, Jerome Rothenberg and Gary Snyder, Louisiana State University Press, 1986.
  • Barbara Gitenstein, Apocalyptic Messianism and Contemporary Jewish-American Poetry, State University of New York Press, 1986.
  • Eric Mottram, "Where the Real Song Begins: The Poetry of Jerome Rothenberg," in Dialectical Anthropology, vol. 2, nos. 2-4, 1986.
  • Harry Polkinhorn, Jerome Rothenberg: A Descriptive Bibliography, Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, McFarland Publishing Company and American Poetry Contemporary Bibliography Series, 1988.
  • Hank Lazer, “Thinking Made in the Mouth: The Cultural Poetics of David Antin & Jerome Rothenberg” (& passim), in H. Lazer, Opposing Poetries, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois, 1996.
  • Jed Rasula, “Jerome Rothenberg,” in Dictionary of Literary Biography 193: American Poets since World War II, Sixth Series, ed. Joseph Conte, 1998.
  • Essay by Pierre Joris in Contemporary Jewish-American Dramatists and Poets, ed. by Michael Taub and Joel Shatzky, Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn. and London, 1999.
  • Robert Archambeau, ed., special issue on Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, Samizdat, no. 7, Winter 2001.
  • Heriberto Yépez, “Jerome Rothenberg, chamán crítico,” in H. Yépez, Escritos heteróclitos, Instituto de Cultura de Baja California, 2001.
  • Christine Meilicke, Jerome Rothenberg’s Experimental Poetry and Jewish Tradition, Lehigh University Press, 2005.


  1. Finkelstein, Norman (Autumn, 1998). Contemporary Literature Vol. 39, No. 3; The Messianic Ethnography of Jerome Rothenberg's "Poland/1931". Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  2. Waldman, Anne (1978). Talking Poetics; Jerome Rothenberg “Changing The Present, Changing The Past: A New Poetics” [August 10, 1976]. Boston: Shambhala. ISBN 0-87773-117-9.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jerome Rothenberg b. 1931, Poetry Foundation, Web, Nov. 22, 2012.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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