[The following is an early announcement of a work now in progress: a full-blown anthology/assemblage of the poetry of all the Americas (“from origins to present”), co-edited with Heriberto Yépez, that the University of California Press, has just accepted for publication. As Heriberto & I move into the work, I’m posting our proposal for the book, below, as an indication of what’s in store & in the hope, as with other assemblages of mine, that others will come forward with suggestions for materials relevant as texts & commentaries that fall along the lines of those in my earlier anthologies. Even more important for a work of this scope, Heriberto & I are looking for others who can assist us in the formidable task of translation: Spanish, Portuguese, French, & the full range of indigenous languages & creoles from the two great American continents. My email address appears in the right margin of this blog, & I can also be reached, by those so equipped, through my account on Facebook. We will try to respond as far as we can to all suggestions & to acknowledge in print all those that prove pertinent to the work at hand. (J.R.)]
POETRY OF THE AMERICAS
A TRANSNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY
Edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Heriberto Yépez
“Britain is Los’ Forge; / America North & South are his baths of living waters.”
William Blake, from Jerusalem
Since 1984 the University of California Press has been the publisher of five large assemblages of poetry as part of a long-term project in which I together with a number of other poets and scholars have attempted a radical and globally decentered revision of American and world poetry. The key works here are Technicians of the Sacred, just republished in a fiftieth anniversary expanded edition, and four volumes of Poems for the Millennium, along with the critical essays found in Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics. From the start I and my various co-authors have seen our project as open to growth and change over the passing years, with a belief that every successive work is both a continuation and a new beginning, as changing possibilities present themselves to our consideration.
What I’m now proposing, along with my co-editor Heriberto Yépez, is an assemblage/anthology of the poetry of the Americas, both north and south and drawn from the diversity of languages on the two great continents. We aim to approach the project with the same openness that I and my co-authors were able to exercise in the Millennium series, to see this in some way as a particularized extension of Poems for the Millennium. Too often, the idea of America and American poetry and literature is limited to work written in English within the present boundaries of the United States. While this has been modified in several recent anthologies by the inclusion of some poetry translated from indigenous North American languages, there has never been a full-blown historical anthology of American poetry or literature viewing north and south together in a larger transnational vision of what “America” has meant in the history of our hemisphere and of the world. Such a vision of another America, deeply rooted in its pre-Conquest past and in the writings of its early European colonizers, comes to us from poets such as the Nicaraguan Rubén Darío, writing circa 1903 of
“our America, which has had poets
from the ancient times of Netzahualcoyotl
… the America of the great Moctezuma, of the Inca,
our America smelling of Christopher Columbus,
our Catholic America, our Spanish America.”
Or from José Martí, while feeling the oppression of Cuba’s stronger neighbor to the north, who wrote: “The pressing need of our America is to show itself as it is, one in spirit and intent, swift conquerors of a suffocating past.” Their Spanish America constitutes a declaration of independence from the other, English America and should be taken as such.
For the two of us, one a poet from Mexico and the other from the United States, the idea of a still larger America(s), made up of many independent parts, has been a topic of continuing shared interest. Since there currently exists no single volume of “American” poetry or literature that takes such an expansive view of its subject matter, we find ourselves free to make a new beginning, an experiment through anthologizing to explore what results might follow from a juxtaposition of poets and poetries covering all parts of the Americas and the range of languages within them: European languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, including creoles and pidgins, as well as a large number of Indigenous languages such as Mapuche, Quechua, Mayan, Mazatec, and Nahuatl. While our sense of “America” along these lines would extend and amplify the European metaphor of the Americas as a “new world,” we also recognize and embrace the reality of 2000 years or more of (native) American indigenous poetry and writing. It is precisely such complexities and contradictions, even conflicts, that will engage us here.