Jerome Rothenberg's Experimental Poetry and Jewish Tradition

Christine Meilicke
Lehigh University Press - Jerome Rothenberg's Experimental Poetry and Jewish Tradition
This book examines the Jewish writing of the contemporary experimental poet Jerome Rothenberg. Exploring the interplay of American poetry and American Judaism, it demonstrates ways in which he contributes to the creation of an American Jewish avant-garde poetry and a contemporary Jewish diaspora identity.
Rothenberg's Jewish writing represents various trends in contemporary American and American Jewish writing, and in Jewish culture. It demonstrates the functions and strategies of the reappropriation of tradition.
On a more specific level, this book analyzes Rothenberg's use of postmodrn "appropriative strategies," such as collage, assemblage, palimpsest, parody, pastiche, forgery, found poetry, and theft. These strategies illustrate the concept, practice, and problematics of appropriation.
In reappropriating Jewish tradition Rothenberg attempts to create a generational connection with the Jewish past, which is essential to the construction of a Jewish identity. His poetic rewriting coincides with other contemporary approaches to tradition as exemplified by the Jewish counterculture and Jewish Renewal. Rothenberg's reappropriation of Jewish tradition is affected by his association with the avant-garde. Modifying a number of experimental "appropriative strategies," he explores how these various devices can be used for the recovery of repressed or lost aspects of Judaism.
The two main parts of this book examine Rothenberg's reappropriation of Jewish tradition with reference to religion and history. The theme of loss and recovery provides the overall framework for the different chapters. While the first three chapters deal with the poet's reappropriation of Jewish mysticism, ritual, and magic, the last three examine his evasion of nostalgia in Poland/1931 and his confrontation with the Holocaust in Khurbn and "14 Stations."
Rothenberg's reappropriation of Jewish tradition contributes to the consruction of a poetics of the sacred. In exploring how poetry satisfies our need for meaning, he differs from the Language Poets. Although Rothenberg's postmodern stance is marked by appropriations in the form of palimpsest, plagiarism, and misquotation, his rewritings of Jewish texts also intimate the need to go beyond contemporary trends. This desire is manifest in Rothenberg's search for meaning, origin, and presence, and the implicit denial of deconstructionist presuppositions.
Embracing postmodern experimentation and drawing on heterodox Jewish sources, Rothenberg constructs a contemporary American Jewish identity that does not rely on institutionalized Judaism. His poetry invigorates the American and the American Jewish poetry scene.
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