Scope and Content of Collection
Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla 92093-0175
Title: Jerome Rothenberg Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 0010
93.5 Linear feet
(200 archives boxes, 6 card file boxes, 1 carton, 15 flat boxes, and 1 map case folder)
Date (inclusive): 1944 - 2007
Abstract: Papers of Jerome Rothenberg, American poet, performance artist, editor, translator, and teacher.
Jerome Rothenberg was born in New York City in 1931, the son of Morris and Estelle Lichtenstein Rothenberg. He graduated from
the City College of New York in 1952 and the following year received a Master's Degree in Literature from the University of
Michigan. He spent the years 1953-1955 in the U.S. Army, stationed in Mainz, Germany, and returned for further graduate studies
at Columbia University from 1956 to 1959.
Rothenberg's first published work, a group of translations from the German, appeared in the Winter 1957 issue of
The Hudson Review. In 1958 Lawrence Ferlinghetti asked Rothenberg to translate a collection of postwar German poetry, which City Lights Books
published in 1959 as
New Young German Poets. This work marked the first appearance in English of such poets as Paul Celan, Gunter Grass, and Ingeborg Bachman.
In 1958 Rothenberg founded Hawk's Well Press, which published early works by Robert Kelly, Diane Wakoski, Armand Schwerner,
and Rochelle Owens, as well as Rothenberg's first book of poems,
White Sun Black Sun. As an adjunct to these activities, Rothenberg edited the magazine
Poems from the Floating World, which included new works by poets Jackson Mac Low, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn, Gary Snyder, and Robert
Duncan. The magazine was superseded in 1965 by
Some/Thing, co-edited with David Antin.
Rothenberg's works during this period reflect his experimentation with image in
White Sun Black Sun (1960) and attempts at thematic enlargement in
The Seven Hells of the Jigoku Zoshi (1962) to experiments with silences and disjunctions in
Sightings (1964) to further explorations of alternate poetic structures, uses of found poetry and collage, development of forms suggested
by Gertrude Stein's work, experiments with dialogue and narrative that mark
The Gorky Poems (1966),
Conversations (1968), and
Poems 1964-1967. These concerns and the connections between them were presented in Rothenberg's next work,
Poems for the Game of Silence (1970).
Rothenberg's concern for the relationship between "primitive" and modern poetry led to the development of an anthology of
primitive and archaic poetry,
Technicians of the Sacred (1968). With the completion of this work, Rothenberg directed his attention to ethnopoetics and began a study of Senecan
Indian songs at the the Allegheny Reservation in Steamburg, New York.
In 1968 Rothenberg received a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation in Anthropological Research to conduct a two-part experiment
in the translation of American Indian poetry. The project involved a collaborative translation between Rothenberg and Seneca
songmen and the translation of a series of Navajo horse-blessing songs. This close study and involvement with American Indian
poetry and ritual promoted the development of Rothenberg's next anthology,
Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americans (1972).
Rothenberg's interest in American Indian and other tribal/oral poetries led to the development of a magazine,
Alcheringa, the first periodical devoted exclusively to ethnopoetics which he co-edited with Dennis Tedlock from 1970-1976. Concurrent
with this interest, Rothenberg began exploring his own ancestral themes and the lost world of Jewish Poland in a series of
poems which culminated in
A Book of Testimony (1971),
Esther K. Comes to America (1973), and
With George Quasha, Rothenberg published
America a Prophecy in 1974. The intent of this anthology was to redefine the past and present of American poetry over an expanse of time and
cultures. Also in that year he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1976 a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 1978 Rothenberg published
A Big Jewish Book: Poems and Other Visions of the Jews From Tribal Times to the Present. Co-edited with Harris Lenowitz and Charles Doria, this volume broke new ground in the fields of poetry and history. To document
the entire range of the Jewish poetry tradition, Rothenberg divided the book into three sections which explore the mythic,
historic, and poetic themes of Jewish poetry. Many of the works contained were newly translated or uncovered.
Rothenberg's next major anthology,
Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics, co-edited with Diane Rothenberg, appeared in 1983. This book traces an ongoing course of work and thought on poetry and
culture that has influenced the art of modern times.
Symposium follows the concept of ethnopoetics from the writings of predecessors such as Vico, Blake, Thoreau, and Tzara to more recent
essays and manifestos by poets and social thinkers, including Olson, Eliade, Snyder, and Baraka.
Since 1960, Rothenberg has served as an instructor at various colleges and universities, including: the City College of
New York (1960-1961); the Mannes College of Music, New York City (1961-1970); the University of California, San Diego (Regents'
Professor, 1971); the New School for Social Research (1971-1972); the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (1974-1976); San
Diego State University (1976-1977); the University of California, San Diego (1977-1985); SUNY Albany (Writer in Residence,
1986); SUNY Binghampton (1986-1988); and the University of California, San Diego (1988- ).
Rothenberg has translated work by Paul Celan, Eugen Gomringer, Rolf Hochhuth, Garcia Lorca, Kurt Schwitters and many other
European writers into English. In 1968 Rothenberg received a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant for the experimental translation
of American Indian poetry. Rothenberg's own selected poetry,
Poems for the Game of Silence, has appeared in French, Swedish, and Flemish/Dutch editions, and his work has been extensively translated.
Since the 1980s, Rothenberg has continued to author poetry books including
Vienna Blood (1980),
Pre-faces and Other Writings (1981),
That Dada Strain (1983),
New Selected Poems 1970-1985 (1986),
Khurbn and Other Poems (1989),
The Lorca Variations (1993),
An Oracle for Delfi (1995),
Pictures of the Crucifixion: Poems (1996),
Seedings & Other Poems (1996),
Paradise of Poets (1999), and
Poems for the Game of Silence (2000). He has also continued translating other poet's work including Lorca, Gomringer, Schwitters, Picasso, and Nezval.
In 1983, he published, with wife Diane Rothenberg,
Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics. In 1995 and 1998, he co-edited with Pierre Jorie, a two-volume anthology of twentieth-century poetry,
Poems for the Millennium and A Book of the Book: Some Work and Projections about the Book and Writing, (2001) with Steven Clay from Granary Books.
Rothenberg has always been involved with poetry performance, including a Broadway adaptation of Rolf Hochhuth's
The Deputy(1964), radio soundplays written and performed for Westdeuttscher Rundfunk (Cologne), a theatrical version of
Poland/1931, by Hanon Reznikov and the Living Theater (1988), a theatrical staging of
That Dada Strain, by Luke Theodor Morrison, and a musical version of
Khurbn, (with composer Charlie Morrow and Japanese novelist Makoto Oda), produced for the Bread & Puppet Theater (1995).
In addition to the Wenner-Gren Foundation award, Rothenberg's work has been recognized with a Guggenheim fellowship (1974),
a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1976), PEN-Oakland awards including two Josephine Miles Awards (1994 and 1996), a
USA West Award (1994) and a PEN American Center award, the Alfonso el Sabio Translation Award (2004), and an American Book
Award (1982). He also received an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York.
Rothenberg's most recent works include
A Book of Witness: Spells & Gris-Gris (2003),
Writing Through: Translations & Variations (2004) his thirteenth book of poems from New Directions,
Triptych: Poland/1931, Khurbn, The Burning Babe (2007),
Gematria Complete(2010) and
Concealments & Caprichos (2010).
Rothenberg resides in Encinitas, California and has been a San Diego County resident since 1976. He is professor emeritus
of visual arts at the University of California, San Diego.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Jerome Rothenberg Papers extensively document the professional life of the poet and writer, including original manuscripts,
editorial work, articles and reviews, interviews, and voluminous correspondence with colleagues involved in contemporary art
The collection was processed in three major parts, in 1990, 2005 and 2007.
Accessions Processed in 1990
Arranged in eight series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) ANTHOLOGIES EDITED BY ROTHENBERG,
5) JOURNALS AND PUBLICATIONS EDITED BY ROTHENBERG, 6) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 7) SUBJECT FILES, and 8) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION
Accessions Processed in 2005
This section of the collection includes more of Rothenberg's writing and editorial work, as well as materials relating to
his teaching, correspondence with people in the contemporary art and literature scene, and his participation in conferences,
festivals and readings throughout the United States and around the world. A small amount of personal materials is included.
Although there are some materials from earlier periods, the bulk of the papers date from the 1980s through 2001.
Arranged in twelve series: 9) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 10) CORRESPONDENCE, 11) WRITINGS, 12) ANTHOLOGIES EDITED BY ROTHENBERG,
13) COLLABORATION, 14) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 15) TEACHING MATERIALS, 16) INTERVIEWS AND CRITICISMS, 17) READINGS, FESTIVALS
AND CONFERENCES, 18) WRITING SEMINARS AND WORKSHOPS, 19) POETRY READING TOURS, and 20) AUDIOCASSETTE RECORDINGS.
Accessions Processed in 2007
Additional material that complements the earlier body of papers. Additions from a second 2007 accession were incorporated
into this part of the collection in 2017.
Arranged in nine series: 21) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 22) CORRESPONDENCE, 23) WRITINGS BY ROTHENBERG, 24) CRITICISM, INTERVIEWS
AND REVIEWS, 25) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 26) TEACHING MATERIALS, 27) EVENTS, 28) POETRY READING TOURS, and 29) AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS.
Original sound recordings throughout the collection are restricted. Patrons must request user copies be produced.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Jerome Rothenberg Papers. MSS 10. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
American poetry -- 20th century
Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- -- Archives
Blackburn, Paul -- Correspondence
Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005 -- Correspondence
Di Prima, Diane -- Correspondence
Eshleman, Clayton -- Correspondence
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence -- Correspondence
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1927 -- Correspondence
Gunn, Thom -- Correspondence
Ignatow, David, 1914-1997 -- Correspondence
Kelly, Robert, 1935- -- Correspondence
Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997 -- Correspondence
Mac Low, Jackson -- Correspondence
McCaffery, Steve -- Correspondence
Nichol, B. P., 1944-1988 -- Correspondence
Oppen, George -- Correspondence
Rothenberg, Diane -- Correspondence
Silliman, Ronald, 1946- -- Correspondence
Snyder, Gary, 1930- -- Correspondence
Wakoski, Diane -- Correspondence
Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978 -- Correspondence