To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gematria Complete: A New Publication

Publisher: Marick Press
Paperback Publication Date: 2009
170 Pages
ISBN 10: 1934851086
ISBN 13: 9781934851081

USD $14.95

Gematria Complete brings together all of Jerome Rothenberg's poems composed by quasi-aleatory numerical methods, from first experiments in his earlier book, Gematria (Sun & Moon Press, 1994), through 14 Stations, a terminal series derived from the Hebrew/Yiddish spellings of the names of fourteen World War Two extermination camps.

"Based on traditional Jewish numerology, gematria is grounded on the principle that every letter of the Hebrew alphabet stands for a specific number, thus connecting specific words and phrases the sum of whose letters are equal and endowing them with special meaning and significance. Unlike his forebears, however, Rothenberg sees these synhcronicities not as hermeneutic stand-ins for religious doctrines, but as an entry into the sort of aleatory or chance-derived correspondences central to much modernist and contemporary poetry. Several poems in Gematria Complete are dedicated to contemporary and predecessor poets, since they invoke connections to these writers' poetics. But over all, these poems belong to Rothenberg alone, straddling as they do an ancient metaphysics and contemporary poetry and aesthetics." [From Douglas Messerli's cover notes for the original Gematria]

“Rothenberg’s poetics of sacred names and numbers is a 'poetics of the sacred.' It intends to re-empower poetry by taking it back to its (presumed) origins. The 'charming' character of his poetry and his 'poetics of the sacred' questions the validity of deconstructionist assumptions in regard to poetry. Alternatively, Rothenberg presents us with a kind of poetry that does not discount the possibility of finding healing and meaning through language."
--Christine Meilicke

"In the gematrias culiminating in his '14 Stations', the pathos of Rothenberg’s earlier Khurbn, that was based on the interaction between the subject and other voices, is replaced by the tragedy of procedural composition, enforcing the systematicity of a mathematical and linguistic link between the name of a place and the words that try to approximate the horror that was committed there. The oscillations of gematria writing locate the horror in language itself, in the words as they function both in the triviality of daily speech and in the sacredness of the Biblical text."
--Hélène Aji

"Without doubt, Rothenberg's gematrias formalize the tension between the poet's voice and the voices of others. As this tension unfolds itself in the notion of "othering," it also resonates with the myth of dibbuks: in the same way as the restless souls of those who died too early return to inhabit the poet's body, the restless words of the dead return to haunt the poem, inscribing the memories tearing apart the bodies of the survivors in the body of the Hebrew letter, between radical absence and unbearable presence. … With his gematrias, Jerome Rothenberg performs the literalization of something we already knew, if only vaguely: a word never stands alone, but always in a paradigm, and the legend of the dibbuk, of this voice of the dead that speaks through the body of the living against their will and obsesses them with its repetitions, is a legend of language."
-- Hélène Aji

“Rule-generated poems are nothing new, Isidore Isou (Lettrism), George Perec, John Cage, Jackson Mac Low or Lyn Hejinian are practitioners in an ancient tradition of permutations. Nor is a concern with numbers new to poets who learned their trade in meter and metrics. What is specific to Jerome Rothenberg is that his use of Gematria contributes to defamiliarize the thought process by blocking referential and metaphorical readings. This is why the device becomes a particular 'stance toward reality.’”
-- Geneviève Cohen-Cheminet

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