Poetics & Polemics, 1980-2005 brings together in one volume a wide-ranging selection of essays and commentaries by one of the most significant poets, critics, and translators working with American and international poetry today.
Jerome Rothenberg’s work spans a period of over forty years and nearly one hundred books, and though perhaps best known as a poet, his critical and theoretical contributions to the fields of innovative, experimental poetry have become equally important facets of his work. Rothenberg’s earliest critical writings concerned themselves with ethnopoetics and the poetics of performance. In the last twenty years his critical thinking has evolved to encompass more explicitly issues of modernism, postmodernism, and the avant-garde, as well as meditations on the nature of the book and writing. This volume extends and elaborates all of those interests, allowing for the first time a comprehensive glimpse of the full trajectory of his thinking.
In the first section, “Poetics and Polemics,” Rothenberg’s essays address a range of issues with which he’s become closely associated, among them the anthology as a critical and polemical tool; the intersection of poetry with art, performance, and politics, in both contemporary and traditional practice; the poetics of Jewish mysticism as a traditional form of conceptual and language poetry; and the universality of poetic discourse, particularly as seen in tribal poetry or in poetic traditions long separated from the Western literary mainstream. In “A Gallery of Poets” is Rothenberg’s lively explorations of the work of other poets, as they relate to his own work, to avant-garde poetry in general, and to the poetic traditions that concern him the most. Finally, in “Dialogues and Interviews” are Rothenberg’s unbridled meditations and musings on what he calls “the life of poetry” outside the bounds of book and binding, class and category, a dynamic force at the center of all that we call human.