Jerome Rothenberg & Javier Taboada
an omnipoetics manifesto, from Pre-face to a Hemispheric Gathering of the Poetry & Poetics of the Americas “from origins to present”, now in productionOn my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions
Endur'd by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a Serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.
O what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & my frost
Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by thy lightnings rent;
This is eternal death; and this the torment long foretold.
--William Blake, America A Prophecy
An Omnipoetics Manifesto
If the words of the British poet/artist William Blake stand as the opening for our book, it is both for his recognition of a larger America and for his regard for poetry as an instrument of prophecy. It is in this sense that we invoke him as our guardian angel, to remind us (when circumstances or history repeat themselves) of this “calling” for our continents and poets. Like Blake, whose America a Prophecy is part of a series of continental prophecies, our hemispheric assemblage tries, through the voices gathered here, to reiterate this markedly American “path,” or in our case, this series of paths. Thus, the “prophecy about America” (if there is one in the following pages, as there surely was for Blake) becomes not so much a projection of events-to-come, but a testimony of the difficulties and threats we face today, North and South and replicated ominously throughout the world.
All of this has been compounded of course by the circumstances of the time in which we’ve been working: events that have both reinforced our vision of America – as poetry and prophecy – and an upsurge of forces that have come to stand against it. More directly the time in which we have been working has been marked by an almost unprecedented pandemic and an ongoing threat of climate change, the consequences of which are continuing to assault us. But even more to the point of what we’re attempting here, we have witnessed an upsurge of new or ongoing nationalisms and racisms, directed most often against the diversity of mind and spirit of which our earlier projects were so clearly a part. To confront this implicit, sometimes rampant ethnic cleansing, even ethnocide, there is the need for a kind of omnipoetics that tests the range of our threatened humanities wherever found and looks toward an ever-greater assemblage of words and thoughts as a singular buttress against those forces that would divide and diminish us.
It is in this sense that we are attempting here an omnipoetics of the American hemisphere, as an experimental instance of what might be attempted later on a worldwide scale, toward what one of us once described elsewhere as “an anthology of everything.”
Toward that end, then, we are offering the following as a manifesto of omnipoetics and of the work that lies ahead:
1/ Omnipoetics as a rejection of the idea of a canon or of any state of mind or spirit that separates or ranks a hierarchy of high and low forms, verse and prose, sound and image, written and oral, voice and gesture, poetry and philosophy, etc., while recognizing individual works of genius in all these categories
2/ Omnipoetics as an attempt to create a horizontal corpus of works that can facilitate a mutual communication across borders, to bring the works of all into a continually expanding “symposium of the whole.”
3/ Omnipoetics as the recognition that poetry is the language art par excellence, the primary art of languaged beings – that poetry in that sense is made by all, not by one. (I. Ducasse)
4/ Omnipoetics as a late attempt (now or never) to tell the tale of the tribe, the living and the dead: the final testimony of our residence on earth. (P. Neruda)
5/ An omnipoetics of the particular and local set beside an omnipoetics of the global and distant, with mutual regard and cojoining.
6/ An omnipoetics of diversity against a false universality and in favor of a true one.
7/ An omnipoetics rooted in language and poesis – a true “language poetry” explored and reinforced by a nascent “language poetics.”
8/ An omnipoetics of resistance, open to the new and transgressive, “always on the move, always changing, morphing, moving through languages, cultures, terrains, times, without stopping.” (P. Joris)
9/ Omnipoetics as a contemporary attempt to project anew a primal (= complex) consciousness of the whole. As in the Kumeyaay myth of creation: “The great snake absorbed all knowledge, all the arts were inside her. When the fire reached her, she exploded: all knowledge gushed from her, was scattered everywhere.”
The total work that follows, then, is an experiment toward an omnipoetics in action.
Encinitas, California / Cholula, Puebla
[From A Book of Americas, scheduled for publication in 2024 by University of California Press.]