Politics

Jerome Rothenberg, Who Expanded the Sphere of Poetry, Dies at 92

Jerome Rothenberg, a poet, translator and anthologist whose efforts to bring English-language readers into contact with creative traditions far outside the Western establishment — a field he called ethnopoetics — had an enormous impact on world literature and made him a hero to rock musicians like Nick Cave, Jim Morrison and Warren Zevon, died on April 21 at his home in Encinitas, Calif. He was 92.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his son, Matthew Rothenberg.

By ethnopoetics, Mr. Rothenberg meant poetry from Indigenous and other non-Western cultures, often rendered in ways very different from the strictly textual, including oral, performance, ritual and myth.

He introduced the idea in 1967 with his book “Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries From Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania,” a wide-ranging anthology that introduced readers to ancient Egyptian coronation events, Comanche peyote songs and Gabonese death rites.

Mr. Rothenberg’s “Technicians of the Sacred,” first published in 1967 and later reissued twice with new material, introduced readers to ancient Egyptian coronation events, Comanche peyote songs and Gabonese death rites.Credit…University of California Press

Such work, he said, was just as complex and vibrant as the Western canon, if not more so. He went on to deepen his argument across scores of books, many of them anthologies, in which he wove together different traditions — Jewish mysticism, American Indian, Dada — and then connected and contextualized them with extensive commentary.

“I’ve expanded my searches into forms of poetry that have been hidden from our view but have much to teach us about the sources and resources of poetry that would allow us to fill out the picture,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2017. “I also believe that the new forms of poetry developed by our own experimental poets can allow us to see a greater range of poetry in places and cultures distant from us.”

Related Articles

Back to top button