[Wgcp-whc] WG/CP--minutes for 10/13, Rothenberg's visit

richard.deming at yale.edu richard.deming at yale.edu
Sun Oct 22 17:56:14 EDT 2006


Dear Friends,

On Friday the 13th, 2006 we were lucky enough to have Jerome Rothenberg join us.
 Rothenberg is a remarkably prolific poet, translator.  From being the first
translator to bring Paul Celan into English to his editing of a range of
poetries from Asia, Africa, and Native America, Rothenberg has played a
crucially important role in widening that which is available to the English
language.  Indeed, much of Rothenberg?s ethnographic work involves
translations and transcriptions of oral and visual traditions.  For a useful
sense of ethnopoetics follow this link to a dossier available on line

Our discussion with Rothenberg centered around his latest work, the editing of
the third volume of his massive anthology, Poems for the Millennium.  This
volume will extend the first two volumes back into the 19th Century. 
Rothenberg described in his work in anthologizing in classically avant-garde
terms, seeing his editing as a critical practice that attacks or at least
problematizes institutionally legitimized literary history. He recognized the
paradox of wanting to create an anthology of anti-institutional poetries.  He
and his co-editor Pierre Joris saw Poems for the Millennium as a kind of
?anti-anthology anthology,? one that contested ideas of coherent,
teleological developments of literature. In that both were ?suspicious of
anthologies? they wanted to fashion a collection that embodied some of that
skepticism of institutions and canon-formation.  Rothenberg discussed that
prior anthologies frequently marginalized the poetics that most spoke to him
and many of his peers.  Moreover, he found that his restless pursuit of new
imaginations of form compelled him to look to other language and culture; this
restlessness was the mechanism of his prolific translation but he wanted to
make records of the work of poetry in other languages and cultures,
particularly those texts that were excluded because of the radicality of their
from.  However, he noted that anthologies that sought to be definitive and
authoritative opted for consistent consensus.  Rothenberg felt a need to create
an anthology that enacted arguments over forms and that widened modernist models
beyond Anglo-American and European canonical figures and believed that the act
of anthologizing does not need to set itself up as definitive. This generative
dissensus would, he hoped, keep the collection from positing a fixed set of
aesthetic values. The more compelling responsibility he felt is to be widely
inclusive and to create a map of contesting, complementary, and compensatory
modalities of poetry.  While Rothenberg feels poetry itself often has this
critical dimension, the processes of translation and editing can play at least
as powerful role in disrupting established aesthetic values.  He noted that his
anthologies might work somewhat subversively, given that the volumes are
?authorized? by a well-respected university press.

Rothenberg talked repeatedly about his desire to incorporate alternate
possibilities of literary discourse into the conversations that were already
possible.  In this way, he has been moved to locate poetry that expanded both
formal possibilities as well as acceptable content.  His work with performance
art and chant also allowed for new ideas of literature that is not strictly
lexical in nature.   Rothenberg discussed his double understanding of the term
?appropriation.?  He acknowledged being very sensitive to the possibilities
of uses of form and ethnographic specificities as at its worst constituting a
kind of cultural assimilation.  On the other hand, ?appropriation? can also
describe a practice of cross-cultural exchange that allows one poet to be in
touch with another through linguistic acts.  In that sense it is a kind of
translation (literally ?bringing across?) of form that expands
possibilities of exchange for either side.

All acknowledged Rothenberg?s warm and generous intelligence and thank him for
his provocative, insightful conversation.

Our next meeting will be Nov 3.  For that session we will read the work of Fanny
Howe, who just read at the Beinecke last Wednesday.  We are putting together a
reading packet drawing from poems throughout Howe?s career and this will be
available at the beginning of the week.  When it is in place I?ll post word.

An interview with Howe on poetry and theology is available here

A very good interview is also here

And here one will find audio clips and video clips of Howe reading

?The Working Group in Contemporary Poetry and Poetics meets every other Friday
at 3.00 PM in room 116 at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University to
discuss problems and issues of contemporary poetry within international
alternative and /or avant-garde traditions of lyric poetry. All are welcome to


Richard Deming, Group Recorder

P.S.  One of our founding members, Bert Hirschhorn, now located at our branch
office in London, has a new chapbook forthcoming. Information for ordering is
available here:
  Main Street Rag press www.mainstreetrag.com go to <books> and <coming soon>. 
Please note the two listings, one for the USA, one for Great Britain -- the
latter more expensive to cover shipping.  Payments are made to the publisher
via Paypal.

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