Cover to Cover with Jack Foley

Cover to Cover- with Jack Foley – July 16, 2014

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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.”

Today’s show features performances by Jerome Rothenberg taken from the Penn Sound website ( These selections are taken from two CDs: Sightings: Poems 1960-1983 and Seedings: Poems 1984-2003, both available at Penn Sound. Heriberto Yépez writes, “The eye of performance is the eye of the hurricane: the central ego disappears and is replaced by the void produced by the intense movements of energetic language around it…performance gives full life to poems through the revival of voices coming, [Rothenberg] seems to tell us, from the elsewhere…The individual is not a single entity but an indivisible congeries of others…These multiple landscapes…call us to become many, an other or a series of others, of voices coming from all roles, levels and directions.”