Charles Bernstein and Jerome Rothenberg

On his blog on Jacket2, Charles Bernstein has recently posted a piece by Ernesto Livon-Grosman on Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred. The piece was originally written for the celebration of Rothenberg’s 80th birthday late last year.

In A Common Strangeness, I explore how Rothenberg’s poetics shaped Bernstein’s development as a poet in the 1970s and later informed his response to the changes wrought by the end of the Cold War and the rise of multiculturalism in the United States. Drawing on Rothenberg, Bernstein came to suggest (in his essay “Poetics of the Americas”) that poetry might transcend borders through its “commonness . . . in . . . partiality.”

As I point out in A Common Strangeness, Bernstein provides a model for comparison attuned to the rhetorical structures—the poetics—that shape cross-cultural thinking. But his vision of “unity in di­versity,” with its connotations of US imperialist ideology, also helps to crystallize the persistent tension in the various appeals to textual, per­sonal, and collective strangeness in the work of all the writers I discuss in A Common Strangeness and in comparative and global theory at large: a tension that arises from the fact that an appeal to strangeness can easily become an assertion of com­monality or global meaning, so erasing the very particularity with which it began.


About Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.
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