Jerome Rothenberg (1931-2024)

Pierre Joris and Jerome Rothenberg  c.1994 – Photo by Nicole Peyrafitte

Jerome  Rothenberg – photo by Aldon Lynn Nielsen

The death of Jerome Rothenberg this past Sunday has left a gaping hole in our hearts.
We haven’t come to terms with it yet. We’re still processing it.

“Who else”, writes Michael S Hennessey, (in a moving note and early summarizing, on PennSound),  “could find profound commonalities that transcended time and space, or trace mercurial ideas into the most obscure corners of expression?”. He goes on – “Who else could subvert the anthology’s colonial trappings, creating cherished collections — Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, [Europe], & Oceania; Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas; and A Big Jewish Book: Poems & Other Visions of the Jews from Tribal Times to the Present; among others — that envision a pluralistic and egalitarian, almost utopian, worldview entire generations before the literary mainstream caught up with him?”

He, rightly, points to our need now to go back to the work, and cites PennSound’s extraordinary treasures – (“well over 350 individual tracks taken from dozens of events spanning more than half a century. These include readings, interviews, panel discussions and talks, albums, performances, podcasts, films, and more”)

He also quotes the family’s somber and loving announcement (from Jerry’s son, Matthew),  on Facebook:

“After a lifetime spent passionately discovering new poetic possibilities, Jerry passed away on April 21, 2024, at the home he shared with Diane Rothenberg, his wife and collaborator of 71 years.

Until the end of his life, he remained actively engaged as a poet, anthologist and performer — and as a devoted friend to his global community.

His final projects will come out in 2024, including a massive “omnipoetics” anthology of the Americas co-authored with Javier Taboada (The Serpent and The Fire); a new studio project with bassist Mark Dresser; and the first performance of “Abraham Abulafia visits the Pope: A fragment of a Steinian opera,” conceived and planned with composer Charlie Morrow.”

Read Amish Trevidi’s loving tribute in Jacket 2 

There’ll be plenty more appreciations and memories to come

Here’s a few (a small sample) of the Facebook responses:

Charles Bernstein – Infinite sadness to get this news, infinite happiness for his life, work, lifelong friendship”.

Pierre Joris – “Waking up to a sunny NYC morning & first thought was how just a couple weeks ago, Jerry had told me how much he wanted to come back & spend some time in his old hometown. & then thought about all our times together elsewhere, on this continent & in Europe, & one of my fave photos came to mind, taken by Nicole in the Pyrenees where Jerry & Diane had visited us many years ago. & now my friend has reached (Saint) Beatitude!”

Margaret Randall – Jerry Rothenberg, one of the great poets and performers of our generation, died peacefully on April 21st at the home he shared with his companion of 71 years, Diane. Jerry was an anthropologist of the word, an investigator of indigenous texts, an expert editor, and an innovative performer, often accompanying himself with makeshift instruments of his invention… I will miss knowing Jerry is in our world, but read what he left behind in gratitude.

Peter Marvelis  (City Lights)
When a great one passes into the void, the ripples can be felt. To have had the pleasure of spending time with Jerome Rothenberg is one of those rare lifetime blessings. His kindness, generosity, humor, advice, and mentorship will be remembered and deeply treasured. Others will speak of his significant contributions to the world of poetics and the avant garde. They were many..

Michael Davidson
A huge loss, a true servant of the art and a good friend. We will miss his genial, warm friendship and extend our condolences to Diane, Matthew and his family.

Jack Foley
Impossible to calculate the loss but wonderful that we have so much of his work. He was a marvelous poet and a marvelous, brilliant, infinitely kind man. Was there anyone who didn’t love him! Goodbye, dear Jerry: we have work to do to measure the great value of the gifts you left us. Tears.

Julien Blaine
So sad I’m
My dear Jerry
So dear
My friend…

Richard Meier
“Dans la communauté mondiale des poètes ” il a trouvé le large horizon, c’était sa Vie

Jed Rasula
The hundreds of responses here are a testament to Jerry’s impact. He was a perennially welcoming presence, a trailblazer, and a great friend for nearly fifty of my 71 years. The loss is acute, and hard to bear even though we knew the end was near.

Maria Damon
oh no, i thought he was immortal

Emmanuel Ponsart provides these stunning photos:

For Jerry Rothenberg on the  Allen Ginsberg Project – see here, here, here and here. – and indeed – here

We mourn the loss of a great artist and true mensch – much love, Jerry! – “warm embraces”!

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