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This review is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

Speak Your Presence jerome rothenberg, Retrievals: Uncollected & New Poems 1955-2010 (Junction Press) $21

Poet, anthologist, translator and essayist Jerome Rothenberg (b. 1931) celebrated his eightieth birthday last year. In this new assemblage of previously unpublished material from across the lifespan of this prolific poet (eighty books of poetry and counting), we start to get a tantalising glimpse of the likely impact of an anticipated collected poems. Divided into three sections (1955-1970, 1970-1990 and 1990-2010), the current collection arose from work by Mark Weiss - himself a distinguished poet, translator and anthologist - in the University of California's archives, and Weiss is indeed the not-quite dedicatee of this collection for which he also took a striking cover photograph of the author.

I first saw Rothenberg perform at the Sub-Voicive poetry reading series in North London in 1992. In a dark suit and ponytail, he paced the room, almost bent double at times with the rhythm of the reading, as he offered renditions of Poland /1931, and, most memorably for me, a performance of his translation of Kurt Schwitters' 'Wand' ('Wall') which began quietly but built up to a crescendo with Rothenberg shouting the word 'walls' at the top of his voice. To this day it remains one of the most intense poetry readings I've ever attended. I think the reason for this provides a key into Rothenberg's work - its function as a kind of index of presence. I'd even risk the much misunderstood term shamanic as a way to point to Rothenberg's remarkable ability to enter into the world of ...


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