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Rexroth and jazz at The Cellar in San Francisco in 1957

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Kenneth Rexroth Feature:
Jerome Rothenberg
Variations and Visions,
from a poem by Rexroth

Arrows break through ribs
his fingers caked with
resin where he drives the coast
its rifts beneath him

& his engine sputters
loud with repercussions    
fundamentals & harmonics
the meridian’s fatigue

He opens the blue shutters
animals like rodents
hide the sky’s perimeter
a thin elastic line

His brain snarls
like a diesel straining    water
at its portals
where he sweats & coughs

The image of a grackle
then a second & a third
rendered as triangles   a flight
of bracelets in the air

His brain can only register
an antelope atop a hill
white water & a rodent
swimming past     a hairy ovoid

How many lives, what beings
will his pencil chart?
a bottle drifting out in space
the ideogram of hill & sky

“I” is an other    blocks
the human heart
a fourth becomes a fifth
in time    a rapid envoi

What the eye first sees
the cheek feels later
like a mitten lightly brushed
against it     a resistance

One is no less than one
his going bringing him to where
a feigned bullweaver
glows a spectral white

The mediterranean is elsewhere
though he dreams it here
his scholia already scribbled
a hundred different ways

A hundred bright peninsulas
await him     a plethora
of lives & beings
flying in mindless space

Jerome Rothenberg

A Book of Witness, Jerome Rothenberg’s eleventh book of from New Directions, appeared in the spring of 2003. A volume of selected translations and related writings, Writing Through, will be published by Wesleyan University Press in 2004.

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Photo, top: Kenneth Rexroth reading his work to a jazz accompaniment
at The Cellar in San Francisco in 1957.

This material is copyright © Jerome Rothenberg and Jacket magazine 2003
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