Jerome Rothenberg at Kelly Writer’s House

Poems for the millennium, volume 5: ‘Barbaric Vast & Wild,’ now published & available from Black Widow Press

I went to Kelly Writer’s House tonight, on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, to hear Jerome Rothenberg, and bought a copy of what’s likely the last of his great series of Assemblages, as he prefers to call them. Outsider and subterranean poetries. Without having it in mind, I realized as soon as I opened it, that I’ve been spiritually preparing for this book for many months.
He read from this, and some of his own poetry… and from the former, some beautifully dark Mother Goose rhymes–that reveal the desperation and poverty that were their condition. I love what Rothenberg has done–a life time of opening the closed canonical doors to the vast range of poetries of all times and places.

While I appreciate Kelly Writer’s House, and feel fortunate beyond words to have heard over the years, so many poets–so many voices, representing so many different poetries, I confess to have felt tonight, a tinge of cognitive dissonance in this setting–a gathering of academics in this institution of wealth and privilege that could not possibly be more ‘insider.’ I know that, while in no way made to feel unwelcome there, a sense of myself being more and more, an “outsider” there.  I wish that more of the Philly poets I know could have been there.

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