Jerome Rothenberg is the author of over seventy books of poetry including acclaimed volumes such as Poland/1931, Khurbn, and The Lorca Variations (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 ten major anthologies, including Technicians of the Sacred, Shaking the Pumpkin, and Poems for the Millennium (three volumes, co-edited with Pierre Joris and Jeffrey C. Robinson). His poetry has been translated extensively into French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, Polish, Japanese, Lithuanian, Chinese, and Finnish. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and was awarded an American Book Award, two PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Awards and two PEN Center USA West Translation Awards, among other honors. He was elected to the World Academy of Poetry in 2001.
Reviews and Comments
“Rothenberg’s poetics of sacred names and numbers is a 'poetics of the sacred.' It intends to re-empower poetry by taking it back to its (presumed) origins. The 'charming' character of his poetry and his 'poetics of the sacred' questions the validity of deconstructionist assumptions in regard to poetry. Alternatively, Rothenberg presents us with a kind of poetry that does not discount the possibility of finding healing and meaning through language."
- Christine Meilicke
"In the gematrias culiminating in his '14 Stations', the pathos of Rothenberg’s earlier Khurbn, that was based on the interaction between the subject and other voices, is replaced by the tragedy of procedural composition, enforcing the systematicity of a mathematical and linguistic link between the name of a place and the words that try to approximate the horror that was committed there. The oscillations of gematria writing locate the horror in language itself, in the words as they function both in the triviality of daily speech and in the sacredness of the Biblical text."
- Hélène Aji
“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
"Without doubt, Rothenberg's gematrias formalize the tension between the poet's voice and the voices of others. As this tension unfolds itself in the notion of "othering," it also resonates with the myth of dibbuks: in the same way as the restless souls of those who died too early return to inhabit the poet's body, the restless words of the dead return to haunt the poem, inscribing the memories tearing apart the bodies of the survivors in the body of the Hebrew letter, between radical absence and unbearable presence. … With his gematrias, Jerome Rothenberg performs the literalization of something we already knew, if only vaguely: a word never stands alone, but always in a paradigm, and the legend of the dibbuk, of this voice of the dead that speaks through the body of the living against their will and obsesses them with its repetitions, is a legend of language."
- Hélène Aji
“Rule-generated poems are nothing new, Isidore Isou (Lettrism), George Perec, John Cage, Jackson Mac Low or Lyn Hejinian are practitioners in an ancient tradition of permutations. Nor is a concern with numbers new to poets who learned their trade in meter and metrics. What is specific to Jerome Rothenberg is that his use of Gematria contributes to defamiliarize the thought process by blocking referential and metaphorical readings. This is why the device becomes a particular 'stance toward reality.’”
- Geneviève Cohen-Cheminet
“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 autochthon. 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
"Jerome Rothenberg is a DNA spaceman exploring the mammal caves of Now.”
- Michael McClure