Jerome Rothenberg, Who Heard Poetry Beyond the West, Dies at 92


His parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland, and he wrote several books exploring the enthnopoetics of Jewish mysticism, starting with “Poland/1931,” a collection of his poetry that he published in 1970, and continuing through “Khurbn” (1989), about the Holocaust, and “The Burning Babe” (2005).

“Poland/1931” was a celebration of what Mr. Rothenberg called “Jewish mystics, thieves and madmen,” and he performed parts of it in jazz clubs and other venues, sometimes accompanied by wailing voices.

It was also, he added, an often irreverent look at juxtapositions in his own life, as the son of Eastern European immigrants who spent two years living among the Seneca Indians of western New York State, where his wife, Diane, an anthropologist, was conducting research. In one poem, “Cokboy,” he wrote:

saddlesore I came

a jew among

the indians

vot em I doink in dis strange place

mit deez pipple mit strange eyes

could be it’s trouble

could be could be

Jerome Dennis Rothenberg was born on Dec. 11, 1931, in New York City. His parents, Morris and Estelle (Lichtenstein) Rothenberg, operated a dry goods store in the Bronx, where Jerome grew up speaking Yiddish at home.

He received a bachelor’s degree in literature from the City College of New York in 1952 and a master’s in the same subject from the University of Michigan a year later.

He married Diane Brodatz in 1952. Along with their son, she survives him, as do two granddaughters.

Mr. Rothenberg spent two years in Germany with the Army, then returned to New York, where he began writing poetry and continued translating. In 1959, he published “New Young German Poets,” his first book and the first time the work of Günter Grass, Paul Celan and others appeared in English.



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