Jack’s guest on today’s show is Jerome Rothenberg, born in 1931 and still a volcano of activity. He has recently published a 600-page book, Eye of Witness: A Jerome Rothenberg Reader, edited by the author and Heriberto Yépez (Black Widow Press). It is a Rothenberg anthology whose subject is the multiple, elusive, illuminating, on-the-move Jerome Rothenberg. Rothenberg’s friend, the late poet Paul Blackburn, once asked, “Why has life put such / a need to talk inside us…?” (“Old Question”). The late Jackson MacLow remarked that “Jerome Rothenberg opened the poetry world to multicultural attitudes and approaches in the late fifties, sixties, and seventies, long before they were considered ‘politically correct’….” MacLow was thinking of Rothenberg’s remarkable anthologies: Technicians of the Sacred (1968), Shaking the Pumpkin (1972), A Big Jewish Book (1977—later revised and published as Exiled in the Word). But during the same period Rothenberg was also writing and publishing poetry of an extraordinary high quality. In 1960—anticipating Charles Olson’s later, famous “(boundary / Disappear”—he asserted his own need “to cut across boundaries where we can.” He has certainly done so, and not simply in the multicultural sense. Charles Bernstein writes, “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.” On today’s show Jack Foley interviews Rothenberg; the following two shows (July 9, July 16) will be devoted to Rothenberg performances.
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