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Poetry has lost its violence Censorious prudes miss the point of art

"Violence necessitates poetry" Scott Nelson/Getty Images

"Violence necessitates poetry" Scott Nelson/Getty Images


June 1, 2023   10 mins

Jerome Rothenberg, aged 91, has made immeasurable contributions to American poetry over the past seven decades. Born in New York in 1931, he first came onto the scene in 1959 with New Young German Poets, the unintended fruit of his just-completed service in the US Army’s occupation of Germany. This collection of Rothenberg’s translations included poems by Paul Celan, the German-language Jewish author of “Death Fugue”, a work that single-handedly refutes Theodor Adorno’s scepticism about the viability of “poetry after Auschwitz”: it turns out there can be poetry after Auschwitz, even if we may not like what we see.

But Rothenberg’s most enduring contribution would come a decade later, after a fairly radical shift from modernism to the new project of “ethnopoetics”. This shift led him to work in the vein of the anthologist, notably while compiling his Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania (1968), collecting and sharing the work of poetic traditions from around the world, rather than centring his own “sole-author” work as a poet. But the line is never so clear, and in hindsight it seems reasonable to suppose that Rothenberg’s anthological work is itself a variety of poiesis, by which he transmits to the attention of English-language readers a vastly deeper and more vital sense of what poetry might be, and of what poetry long was, than the one we got stuck with in the modern period.

What we call “poetry” today is mostly an etiolated art form, a vestige of something that in its more archaic expressions does a great deal more — does everything, in fact. Poetry, for much of human history, was not words on a page, for there were no pages, and words were not conceived as having a visible dimension at all. Nor was poetry just spoken words, but rather these words were one component of a total artistic form that also included motion, gesture, and, often, rhythm and melody. Its purpose was to realign the human with the cosmic, to affirm the embeddedness of our mundane earthly experience within a vastly larger order that also includes the animals, the elements, the heavens, the ancestors, and the gods.

The ultimate dismantling of this total art form has occurred in lockstep with the professionalisation of the scientific disciplines and with the process of secularisation over the past several centuries. Yet even in its reduced modern form, one of the things poetry still commonly aspires to do, as best it can, is to tap into the sense of the sacred — even if its creators often do so without any overt commitment to the reality of the realms their artistic sense moves them to explore.

I have for some years been working on a translation of the Siberian Sakha-language oral-epic tradition known as Olonkho. Throughout this work, for a long time, though I was becoming quite adept at simulating Sakha meter and metaphor in English, I did not think of myself as a poet. Jerry Rothenberg convinced me I was mistaken about myself. Some poets draw their material from dreams, some from childhood memories, and others from love or politics. Some poets get their source material directly from other poets working in other linguistic realities.

Yet it would be a mistake to suppose that these realities are just linguistic. For in fact the language of poetry, perhaps especially of “archaic” poetry, is typically condensed out of the entire lived translinguistic reality of the bard who channels it, and to try to reconstruct that reality in another language as if it were entirely constituted from words is to misrepresent (perhaps inevitably) the original work. For this reason, Rothenberg advocates, and practices, what he calls “total translation”: the rendering, in graphic form, of every possible element of another culture’s poetic traditions, including those elements that we do not ordinarily understand as linguistic. What results is also a pale shadow of the original, but it is at least a pale shadow that acknowledges what it is, and that points to everything our secular, textual, and de-ritualised poetry can typically no longer do.

One way of continuing to do these things today is by leaving poetry in our narrow sense behind, and pursuing the sort of performance that we today call “music”, even if archaically this too would have been conceptualised as the work of the poet. Rothenberg has himself consistently blurred the line between recitation and performance. One of the staples of his public appearances over the years has been a chant he learned among the Seneca people in Upstate New York in the Seventies, with a single line uttered in trance-like Sprechgesang — “The animals are coming” — followed by an uncannily realistic impersonation of what sounds like a bear. Many of the younger people in his audiences would likely take issue with the “appropriative” quality of this performance, were it not so compelling, were they not so undeniably in the presence — though such things are generally supposed not to happen anymore — of an old man who has just turned into a wild animal.

Such transformation as this is among the potentials of “archaic” poetry — poetry conceived as a total art form whose purest expression is ritual — unlike what we might ordinarily expect from a recitation of the work of, say, Robert Frost. Such transformation, or something like it, is also possible through a sufficiently vibrant performance in the humble genre of the rock song, and indeed a number of this genre’s familiar names (Warren Zevon, Eddie Vedder), have, over the years, drawn inspiration from Rothenberg’s work. But surely no singer-songwriter’s oeuvre is more overtly indebted to the American poet than that of Nick Cave.

I’ve been listening to Nick Cave for about 35 years, and I have long seen him as one of the few singer-songwriters currently working whose lyrics deserve attention in their own right. But it was only when I happened to learn of our shared admiration for Jerry Rothenberg’s work that I began to see Nick’s lyrical sensibility as distinctly “Rothenbergian”. It dawned on me that Nick might have a greater claim than Jerry to be in the business of creating total works of art out of the “starter culture” of poetry.

That is, Nick generates poetic lyrical ideas, but he doesn’t stop with these. He puts them to music, and then he unfolds them in performances that have, perhaps increasingly in his “late style”, the character of ritual. He appears, in fact, increasingly committed to leading and facilitating some kind of collective transformation. He’s bringing us back to church, like it or not, or perhaps to the liminal place beside the fire in the night where strange and diurnally unfathomable transformations occur.

The brilliant Mexican poet and critic Heriberto Yépez, co-editor of Eye of Witness: A Jerome Rothenberg Reader (2013), sharply observes that “[p]ure Myth cannot exist in a world after Hollywood, nor can the shaman holistically heal because he or she is historically wounded”. Both Jerry and Nick have fully reckoned with this heavy truth of our current condition, and have succeeded in cutting their shamanic potencies with the irony and humour that are the lingua franca of our secular age. Yet for them, this is never a dilution or a compromise, but only a demonstration of their mastery of the idiom of their time and place, their commitment to being “of the world”, and of their moment, even if the aspiration of all poetry is towards the eternal.

Thus does Nick excel in the art of the juxtaposition, the mixture of registers that would be straightforwardly comical if it were not so often poignant, as in 2001’s “Darker with the Day”: “My father sits slumped in the deepening snow / As I search in and out, above, about, and below”; or in 2008’s “More News from Nowhere”: “He asks me for my autograph / I write ‘nobody’ and then / I wrap myself up in my woolly coat / and I blind him with my pen.” Again and again, Nick conjures an image from his internal world — a memory of his long-deceased father, a more recent memory of dealing with needy fans — and then projects it into the eternal mythological register of a Rumi or a Homer.

Jerry’s poetic voice is equally compelling in A Big Jewish Book, where he sought to demonstrate why it is that “after Auschwitz there is only poetry” (my emphasis). This stark reversal of Adorno’s grim formula, I believe, has something to do with Jerry’s awareness, which cannot but assert itself after any honest engagement with “archaic” poetry of the sort anthologised in Technicians of the Sacred, that the primary function of poetry for most of human history has been one of processing or managing the unceasing violence of our lived reality.

This thesis is certainly not original with me. The great Austrian classicist Walter Burkert famously speculated that the origins of human culture lie in expiation rituals meant to counteract the cosmic taint that comes with shedding the blood of animals in hunting. Much archaic poetry seems surprisingly hung up on such vivid phenomena as the sight of a deer’s viscera pouring from its underbelly when it is cut open by the knife of a hunter. Why dwell on such things? Perhaps because violence necessitates poetry; or, to put it the other way around, poetry, properly understood, concerns itself above all with violence.

“I think on the most fundamental level he introduced me to primitive poetry,” Nick told me on the phone from London earlier this year. “I think there was a change in my writing, I can’t really pinpoint it, but I have a feeling that it coincided with me reading Technicians of the Sacred.” It is in the encounter with this anthology, too, that Nick experiences the complicated homecoming every truth-seeking colonial son must face sooner or later: “In Technicians of the Sacred, to my shame, I read my first Indigenous poetry. Even though I’m Australian, I hadn’t really read any of it.”

He recalls the excitement of discovering a new sort of poetry that was “a little violent, deeply surreal, and sexual, and also non-ironic, that was explicitly designed for ritual, and prayers, and transformation, and these sorts of things, which were really very much looked down upon by much of the modern poetry that I would read. I mean the anti-spiritual, ironic modern poetry.”

The poems in Technicians of the Sacred, Nick recollects, “reminded me of the Psalms themselves. They were these religious poems, shall we say, or spiritual or ritual poems, that were deeply violent and at the same time songs of praise, and I think that fed into something that I was blindly reaching around for… an extraordinary enmeshment of style and time, and [of] the mundane and the cosmic… It just blew my mind.” He pauses. “I mean, it’s like the fundamental… the fundamental violence of things.”

Life grows less eventful as we age, and the gap between our quotidian experience and the heroic register into which we spent our youth projecting ourselves only seems to widen. “I keep saying to my wife,” Nick tells me, “that these songs are small, unimpressive autobiographies kind of wrapped up in heroic myths, and religious writing, and wild surrealism.” He continues: “Even though I might be seeing cosmically, [the songs] are rooted in the very most fundamental and mundane events in my rather boring life. And maybe that’s what writers mostly have to do anyway. They just sit. They don’t do anything. Most of us don’t do anything.”

The great Norman O. Brown, author of Life against Death (1959) and coiner of the term “polymorphous perversity”, was himself a famously uxorious homebody. Brown insisted in interviews that there was no contradiction here, that thanks to the liveliness of his imagination, he was able to indulge all his transgressive impulses without so much as getting up from his desk. And this is what the censorious prudes of Left and Right consistently miss about the place of violence in art: it is not a “gateway” to the real thing, nor an approval of human suffering. It is rather a lucid recognition of the fundamental violence of things — even if, per impossibile, we were to render all human beings docile, we would still be getting constantly slammed by nature — and of the deep human need to come to terms with this condition through the free play of the imagination.

We’re older now, and the light is dim. Nick Cave has done much to orient me in the world, and to give expression to my own aesthetic sensibility. In the Eighties this sensibility was, or seemed to be, fundamentally exclusionary: it was all about carving out a narrow territory of style and attitude and despising everything else. In our late dim light, by contrast, we seem to have grown far more capacious, far more generous.

This generosity, too, it seems to me, is Rothenbergian in spirit. It has to do, I think, with a recognition of one’s place in the long chain of a tradition, which is another way of saying recognition of one’s debt to the ancestors, so that one can only approach creative work with humility and awe. We see this again and again in Nick’s willing adoption of the role of the apprentice, to sing a cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins or Leonard Cohen or Bertolt Brecht, without any concern to outdo the masters, but only, it seems, to experience the joy of channelling them.

Because this tradition is a mythopoetic one, the spirit channelled through its apostles takes account of the full range of human experience, and therefore often turns violent. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ landmark 1995 album, Murder Ballads, channels violence in its purest form, and perhaps gives us the nec plus ultra of homicidal ideation in its rendition of the blues classic “Stagger Lee”. Would Nick really crawl over 50 good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole? Probably not, but that is a philistine question. The faculty of the imagination is not the same thing as the will, and what an artist is channelling under the spell of mythopoetic violence is not an action plan, a manifesto or a credo, but a complete picture of human life. This is a picture that traditional and popular art forms, notably Delta blues, have excelled in capturing, in contrast with profit-driven and algorithmically optimised commercial entertainments, which unsurprisingly veer towards a conception of art as handmaiden of conventional morality and thus as appropriately inhabiting only a very limited range of possible human perspectives.

That Nick has not sought to live down any of his decades-old “excesses”, but has only kept refining them into an even purer distillation of violence (“Stagger Lee” remains a staple of his performances) is a testament to his mature inhabitation of the role of mythopoetic bard and of transgenerational mediator of tradition. In a personal sense, he seems only to grow more gentle; I’ve watched a number of tense early interviews with him, and these are a universe away from the amicable and kind spirit he maintains in interaction with strangers today, at least some of whom must objectively be quite dull. On the fence about Christianity for many years, and as far as I know resigned to some permanent condition of agnosticism, Nick has for all that arrived at Christianity’s ethical core, where loving the stranger obviates any perceived need to fix your beliefs, since this love is itself a “proof” of the reality of the divine. And yet through all this moral growth Nick just keeps putting holes in Billy Dilly’s motherfucking head, night after night, year after year. This is good for his art, of course, but it is also, if violence must exist, a pretty good way of dispatching it, through sublimation, from our own midst.

There are precious few graceful old rock stars out there, and to become one seems to me almost the same thing as transcending the limitations of the genre. In Nick’s case, I think this apparent transcendence has something to do with his positioning of himself, by design or by instinct, in the lineage of the poets — and with his understanding, no doubt helped by his discovery of Jerry Rothenberg’s work, that poetry properly understood is the total art form, from which all the other modern art forms have been parted out. It is the art form that reckons with the violence of things, and continually sets our broken world back in order again.


Justin Smith-Ruiu is the author of The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is. He also writes on Substack.


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Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

The Gorman recital at the Biden inauguration tells you all you need to know about the state of poetry in the US at the moment.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

The Gorman recital at the Biden inauguration tells you all you need to know about the state of poetry in the US at the moment.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Censorious prudes are everywhere – but nowadays the prudishness is not so much about sex as social wrong-think. And there are so many wrong-thinkers about, a censor’s work is never done.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Censorious prudes are everywhere – but nowadays the prudishness is not so much about sex as social wrong-think. And there are so many wrong-thinkers about, a censor’s work is never done.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I’m not a fan of Nick Cave, and I’m certainly not a student of poetry, but I enjoyed this article.
Forty years ago, or more, the mythologist Joseph Campbell said modern society was now a terminal moraine of myth: fragments of older myths with no coherent form. He questioned whether humanity was still capable of believing in myths, although myths are desperately needed. For him, the task of myth creation belonged to artists of all sorts, but even in his day they seemed unable to find a unifying path forward. Maybe Nick Cave really is a prophet and I’m too dim-witted to see it.
I have little knowledge of poetry, but for an example of violence in poetry, a violence that teaches us something about the uncaring brutality of death and, hence, of life, I’d go to “Traveling Through the Dark” by William Stafford. Not exactly Nick Cave, but it works for me.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42775/traveling-through-the-dark

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

When I were a lad, there were several world class British and Irish poets still publishing – Philip Larkin, John Betjeman, WH Auden, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney. And the last generation – Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Cecil Day Lewis, Walter De La Mare, even Siegfried Sassoon – had only been dead for a few years. And every generation before them produced a handful of poets who we still read today.
Yet I struggle to name one from the last 20 years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

‘Yet I struggle to name one from the last 20 years.’

Dennis O’Driscoll

David Vest
David Vest
1 year ago

Geoffrey Hill

David Vest
David Vest
1 year ago

Geoffrey Hill

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

‘Yet I struggle to name one from the last 20 years.’

Dennis O’Driscoll

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

When I were a lad, there were several world class British and Irish poets still publishing – Philip Larkin, John Betjeman, WH Auden, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney. And the last generation – Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Cecil Day Lewis, Walter De La Mare, even Siegfried Sassoon – had only been dead for a few years. And every generation before them produced a handful of poets who we still read today.
Yet I struggle to name one from the last 20 years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I’m not a fan of Nick Cave, and I’m certainly not a student of poetry, but I enjoyed this article.
Forty years ago, or more, the mythologist Joseph Campbell said modern society was now a terminal moraine of myth: fragments of older myths with no coherent form. He questioned whether humanity was still capable of believing in myths, although myths are desperately needed. For him, the task of myth creation belonged to artists of all sorts, but even in his day they seemed unable to find a unifying path forward. Maybe Nick Cave really is a prophet and I’m too dim-witted to see it.
I have little knowledge of poetry, but for an example of violence in poetry, a violence that teaches us something about the uncaring brutality of death and, hence, of life, I’d go to “Traveling Through the Dark” by William Stafford. Not exactly Nick Cave, but it works for me.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42775/traveling-through-the-dark

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I found this article well-written and insightful. However, when the writer refers to ‘art’ and includes pretty much all aspects of the various art forms open to humanity including music and rhythm (dance), there’s an omission – visual art.
Reference is made to poetic (in the older sense that he describes) depictions of the violence involved in the killing of animals, with the poetry as an attempt to ‘revive’ them in order to expiate the guilt of their slaughter, necessary to sustain ourselves with food; but of course the earliest extant artistic depictions of those animals appears on the walls of caves and ancient rocks, not requiring revival by the rocking to ancient tradition of Nick Cave.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Good point. With his weird and powerful engravings he called “illuminations”, I’d say William Blake made an enduring contribution to the sort of “total poetic art” that Smith celebrates Of course Blake was self-consciously operating in a prophetic and bardic tradition, which didn’t help his reputation for mental health among his contemporaries (William Blake vs. the World, by John Higgs, is a highly readable and intriguing new book, which I sometimes disagreed with but strongly recommend).
“Revival by the rocking to ancient tradition”–great! In the hybrid or total-art vein, I wonder if some of those paleolithic cave paintings inspired, or were in turn inspired by, archaic music or chanting or proto-lyric song. I’m guessing yes. Some hybrid-art attempts become a kaleidoscopic or garbled mess, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice, I think, when we try to wall off the permeable passageways between visual art, music, poetry, narrative, and oratory.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, i agree. There’s a common sensibility between them, and scientific discoveries around how our brains re-create the light which passes through our eyes into images has links with the linguistic areas of our brains:
Visual and linguistic semantic representations are aligned at the border of human visual cortex – PubMed (nih.gov)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Interesting, thank you. Most of the linked article was beyond my non-researcher’s comprehension but I was intrigued by the abstract’s corroborated hypothesis of a kind of mirroring between responses to visual and linguistic stimuli.
With my speculative habits and amateur interest in psychology, I’m reminded of other probable intersections, like those between our subjective/intuitive interpretations of the world and what the brain is “physically up to”, and between individual mythopoetic inventions and Jung’s belief in a collective unconscious.
Or the dispute-inducing parallels recently drawn by some commenters here between the more physics and extrapolated-observation-based “story” of the Big Bang and a universe spoken into being as in Genesis. I see a strong, kind of mutually non-exclusive interconnection.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I once got into an argument at uni with a Philosophy don with a strong interest in Theology who insisted that the “days” listed in Genesis during which God created the world couldn’t be disproven. I pointed out that the concept of a “day” involves the Earth spinning once on its axis whilst orbiting the sun, and therefore there could be no “first day” prior to “let there be light”, which seemed to be the way those events were ordered.
I suspect a lot of our differences in outlook derive from whether we wish to see language as a literal truth or accept it as a version of the reality we create for ourselves. That, incidentally, is why i took up painting, to try to get beyond that point. The whole issue fascinates me… beyond words!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Fair enough. But a scientist determined to retain a literalist faith in creation could posit a slower orbit…no? Then he or she could go on to explain why the sun stood still outside Jericho when it always does, what the four corners of the earth are, how Noah gathered and determined the sex of every insect, etc.
I think there is something transcendent and sentient–unlikely ever to be irrefutably proven or conclusively explained away–from which our individual understanding or sense of reality is imperfectly derived. However real or imagined, It is indeed beyond words–but I rarely let that stop me.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“the concept of a “day” involves the Earth spinning once on its axis whilst orbiting the sun”
Surely that is the modern explanation of a “day”. The concept of “day” is, more primordially, that period of light and warmth as counterposed to its opposite (with which it alternates) the period of darkness and cold known as “night”. We don’t have to know any astronomy at all to be familiar with (and understand the concepts of) day and night.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Fair enough. But a scientist determined to retain a literalist faith in creation could posit a slower orbit…no? Then he or she could go on to explain why the sun stood still outside Jericho when it always does, what the four corners of the earth are, how Noah gathered and determined the sex of every insect, etc.
I think there is something transcendent and sentient–unlikely ever to be irrefutably proven or conclusively explained away–from which our individual understanding or sense of reality is imperfectly derived. However real or imagined, It is indeed beyond words–but I rarely let that stop me.

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“the concept of a “day” involves the Earth spinning once on its axis whilst orbiting the sun”
Surely that is the modern explanation of a “day”. The concept of “day” is, more primordially, that period of light and warmth as counterposed to its opposite (with which it alternates) the period of darkness and cold known as “night”. We don’t have to know any astronomy at all to be familiar with (and understand the concepts of) day and night.

Jenya Mirnenko
Jenya Mirnenko
3 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’ve been following these writers for a long time and I don’t understand why they haven’t made a movie or TV series based on their works yet. It could be released on platforms like vue customer service . It is a great platform to watch movies and serials. I think it can even be arranged with them to show such a movie.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I once got into an argument at uni with a Philosophy don with a strong interest in Theology who insisted that the “days” listed in Genesis during which God created the world couldn’t be disproven. I pointed out that the concept of a “day” involves the Earth spinning once on its axis whilst orbiting the sun, and therefore there could be no “first day” prior to “let there be light”, which seemed to be the way those events were ordered.
I suspect a lot of our differences in outlook derive from whether we wish to see language as a literal truth or accept it as a version of the reality we create for ourselves. That, incidentally, is why i took up painting, to try to get beyond that point. The whole issue fascinates me… beyond words!

Jenya Mirnenko
Jenya Mirnenko
3 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’ve been following these writers for a long time and I don’t understand why they haven’t made a movie or TV series based on their works yet. It could be released on platforms like vue customer service . It is a great platform to watch movies and serials. I think it can even be arranged with them to show such a movie.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Interesting, thank you. Most of the linked article was beyond my non-researcher’s comprehension but I was intrigued by the abstract’s corroborated hypothesis of a kind of mirroring between responses to visual and linguistic stimuli.
With my speculative habits and amateur interest in psychology, I’m reminded of other probable intersections, like those between our subjective/intuitive interpretations of the world and what the brain is “physically up to”, and between individual mythopoetic inventions and Jung’s belief in a collective unconscious.
Or the dispute-inducing parallels recently drawn by some commenters here between the more physics and extrapolated-observation-based “story” of the Big Bang and a universe spoken into being as in Genesis. I see a strong, kind of mutually non-exclusive interconnection.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes, i agree. There’s a common sensibility between them, and scientific discoveries around how our brains re-create the light which passes through our eyes into images has links with the linguistic areas of our brains:
Visual and linguistic semantic representations are aligned at the border of human visual cortex – PubMed (nih.gov)

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was wondering what to say in my response to this evocative article, Steve, when I came to the final comments and realized that you and J. Bryant had already taken the words, as it were, from my mouth.
In some ways, I feel like a refugee from somewhere, or somewhen, else. I’m thinking of painting in the early twentieth century. Although I feel no particular affinity for the Post-Impressionist theorizing that prevailed in France, I do for the Expressionist intensity that prevailed in Germany both before and after World War I. What members of Die Bruecke and Der Blaue Reiter were trying to restore in the arid context of modernity and therefore secularity was not so much the “violence” that Smith discusses in this article but a direct experience of the sacred, which had been discarded in the modern West (except, perhaps, in nostalgic paintings about it by the nineteenth-century German Romantics, such as Caspar Friedrich, and the English Pre-Raphaelites).
Expressionist painters understood that the sacred is not pretty, not comfortable, not tame, not moralistic, not even beautiful (although I find many of their works esthetically beautiful nonetheless) but powerful (which could include violent), primitive (in the sense of primordial or eternal), ecstatic and, of course, non-cognitive. Their medium was lurid color. And while Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde were rediscovering the archaic wildness of pre-Christian Northern Europe through painting, Igor Stravinsky was rediscovering the archaic energy of pre-Socratic Greece through music and Richard Wagner was rediscovering in opera as the “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk). I’m no expert on literature, including poetry, but I strongly suspect that parallel yearnings were there, too. I take AJ’s comment on William Blake as evidence.
At stake was the need for a resurgence of some anarchic life force, terrifying but also inviting. The same desperate yearning appeared in philosophy. I’m thinking of Martin Buber’s I-Thou relationship, for example, which has a distinctly numinous quality. Even in philology, Rudolf Otto claimed (with partial success) to have rediscovered the holy, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, as the ancient Israelites had understood it (in contrast to the moralistic interpretations of later centuries in both Judaism and Christianity).
The problem that underlay all of this passionate creativity and spiritual exuberance was what followed in its wake: the shadows of World War I (the hysterical joy that overtook the capitals of Europe in August 1914) , the Nazis and World War II. For me, personally, Nolde was the greatest twentieth-century painter by far. I find his biblical paintings and his water-color landscapes profoundly moving. And I say that as a Jew even though Nolde was a Nazi (at least until the Party classified his work as “degenerate” and refused him permission to exhibit his work or even to paint at all). I mention all this here not to scold Justin Smith for arguing in favor of poetry that amounts to more than clever word games (or of any contemporary art that amounts to more than sophisticated and deconstructive agitprop). Smith has isolated a universal, though sometimes dangerous, feature of human experience–one that has always required art to give it expression.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I don’t think Smith advocates poetry that presents sound without sense or mere word games at all, but rather an erosion of the false barriers that have been built between music and poetry, and the decline of a poetic tradition of “total” performance–a more comprehensive art from which I suspect he would not exclude painting and sculpture, etc. I might be misreading your take on Smith’s argument, especially in this sentence: “I mention all this here not to scold Justin Smith for arguing in favor of poetry that amounts to more than clever word games (or of any contemporary art that amounts to more than sophisticated and deconstructive agitprop)”.
Some of Smith’s words mirror yours, Paul: “Yet even in its reduced modern form, one of the things poetry still commonly aspires to do, as best it can, is to tap into the sense of the sacred — even if its creators often do so without any overt commitment to the reality of the realms their artistic sense moves them to explore”. He is highlighting the co-emergence (or common origin, antecedents) of instrumental music and spoken verse, in oral traditions that had bardic and prophetic qualities too. Some of it, of course, would have also been earthy, even rude and violent–like parts of the Homeric epics that arose from an oral tradition, probably over the course of many centuries.
Based on the full article and how it connects with my own aesthetics, I think what Smith calls violence includes the turbulent, transcendent, and disruptively intense–not just blood and guts. He is drawn to poetry from ages when the sense of what is sacred (and mysterious I’d say) was less walled off in temples, theology departments, or even “sacred verse” on a page. A total performance that doesn’t disavow musicality or the sacred, and which needn’t be devoid of cleverness either.
There’s quite a bit of contemporary verse that is gory and brutal, with closeups of horrors and atrocities, but thin on perspective, consolation, or insight (I’ll mention the recent collection Afterland by Hmong American poet Mai Der Vang), which is something I’ve termed “bloody witness” (and wrote a poem of the same name about).
The poetry of sacredness, transformative turbulence, and “cleansing” violence hasn’t vanished. But it’s crowded out by a lot of trivial, sensationalized, cheaply preachy, or deconstructed garbage at present. There are many exceptions in this overall fallow time, such as Tracy K. Smith and the late Tony Hoagland (1953-2018). Any poet is certain not to please everyone–even Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, or Blake–but those who say poetry ain’t for them shouldn’t be too sure, at least if they like music and some lyrics that run a little deeper than the norm, like those of Leonard Cohen, who started out as and never really stopped being a poet (singing sure wasn’t his strong suit!). Glad I saw him in San Jose during his last world tour, in 2012. His backup singers were/are phenomenal.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sorry, AJ, my comment must have been unclear. Look again at my words (some of which I now emphasize): “I mention all this not to scold Justin Smith for arguing in favor of poetry that amounts to more than clever word games …”. I was trying to say that, far from advocating  “poetry that presents sound without sense or mere word games,” Smith advocates precisely the opposite and for good reason. In short, I agree with Smith and also with you.
My only attempted contributions were (a) to place his yearning in a historical context that includes poetry but also painting, music, philosophy, even philology and (b) to observe that this universal yearning for liberation from the mundane is powerful in both positive and negative ways (an additional analogy would have been nuclear energy).

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Thank you. I read that to mean you were letting him off the hook for something he hadn’t done but which you seemed to perceive he had. I should have known you hadn’t mistook Smith thus, despite words I found misleading. I think such a misreading, often through inattention or haste, would be far more likely to come from me than you, Paul. Your other remarks make my misreading of your sentence pretty absurd too. My mistake. I apologize.
I think your contribution is a significant and essential part of this discussion. Such violent energies–powerful, primordial, ecstatic, and non-cognitive, in your apt terms–are volatile and do not have their dangers removed by existing in the unmanifest realm of a brain, or finding expression on a page, or in song or painting, etc. instead of acts of bodily violence. At their most powerful they often exist at the intersection of the sublime and the terrible.
Sometimes they may degrade or destroy without apparent upside, but there should be no prior, externally imposed restraint on the artist beyond what applies to any citizen under the law. There may come a catharsis in the Aristotelian sense or some other beauty amid the horror that readers, listeners, and viewers can individually and collectively reckon with, perhaps across centuries. As far as outraged shock or prudery, those should also be “allowed”. They are part of the legitimate public reaction, even when they are “on the wrong side of history”. I say this as someone who can be a bit squeamish or prudish/scolding myself (I hope no one’s noticed), especially at first. Have a great day, sir.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Whew! I’m glad that we got past that misunderstanding. You’ve continued with a discussion of censorship. Like you, I don’t support it (except for expressions that directly incite violence). But just to be clear: I don’t think that art in the early twentieth century led to ecstatic martial hysteria and then unleashed pathological hatreds. On the contrary, art gave outward expression to yearnings that were already latent in an “overly civilized” society–which is to say, one that repressed primal ecstasy in order to cultivate the bureaucratic regimentation on which industrialization and modernity depended.
Too bad that no one reads these later comments.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Interesting contention. I’m inclined to think it leans a bit into a Freudian over-pathologization of society and the human brain itself, but still seems credible to the extent I understand it (the detailed historical context eludes me in some measure). I knew you weren’t arguing that people went bloodletting mad as a result of art, and you’ve given me something to consider concerning the potential life-and-death stakes of art in an ailing world–not a past tense condition of course.
On to the next board, where our many admirers–especially in your case–can better access our contributions. 😉

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Interesting contention. I’m inclined to think it leans a bit into a Freudian over-pathologization of society and the human brain itself, but still seems credible to the extent I understand it (the detailed historical context eludes me in some measure). I knew you weren’t arguing that people went bloodletting mad as a result of art, and you’ve given me something to consider concerning the potential life-and-death stakes of art in an ailing world–not a past tense condition of course.
On to the next board, where our many admirers–especially in your case–can better access our contributions. 😉

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Whew! I’m glad that we got past that misunderstanding. You’ve continued with a discussion of censorship. Like you, I don’t support it (except for expressions that directly incite violence). But just to be clear: I don’t think that art in the early twentieth century led to ecstatic martial hysteria and then unleashed pathological hatreds. On the contrary, art gave outward expression to yearnings that were already latent in an “overly civilized” society–which is to say, one that repressed primal ecstasy in order to cultivate the bureaucratic regimentation on which industrialization and modernity depended.
Too bad that no one reads these later comments.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Thank you. I read that to mean you were letting him off the hook for something he hadn’t done but which you seemed to perceive he had. I should have known you hadn’t mistook Smith thus, despite words I found misleading. I think such a misreading, often through inattention or haste, would be far more likely to come from me than you, Paul. Your other remarks make my misreading of your sentence pretty absurd too. My mistake. I apologize.
I think your contribution is a significant and essential part of this discussion. Such violent energies–powerful, primordial, ecstatic, and non-cognitive, in your apt terms–are volatile and do not have their dangers removed by existing in the unmanifest realm of a brain, or finding expression on a page, or in song or painting, etc. instead of acts of bodily violence. At their most powerful they often exist at the intersection of the sublime and the terrible.
Sometimes they may degrade or destroy without apparent upside, but there should be no prior, externally imposed restraint on the artist beyond what applies to any citizen under the law. There may come a catharsis in the Aristotelian sense or some other beauty amid the horror that readers, listeners, and viewers can individually and collectively reckon with, perhaps across centuries. As far as outraged shock or prudery, those should also be “allowed”. They are part of the legitimate public reaction, even when they are “on the wrong side of history”. I say this as someone who can be a bit squeamish or prudish/scolding myself (I hope no one’s noticed), especially at first. Have a great day, sir.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sorry, AJ, my comment must have been unclear. Look again at my words (some of which I now emphasize): “I mention all this not to scold Justin Smith for arguing in favor of poetry that amounts to more than clever word games …”. I was trying to say that, far from advocating  “poetry that presents sound without sense or mere word games,” Smith advocates precisely the opposite and for good reason. In short, I agree with Smith and also with you.
My only attempted contributions were (a) to place his yearning in a historical context that includes poetry but also painting, music, philosophy, even philology and (b) to observe that this universal yearning for liberation from the mundane is powerful in both positive and negative ways (an additional analogy would have been nuclear energy).

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I don’t think Smith advocates poetry that presents sound without sense or mere word games at all, but rather an erosion of the false barriers that have been built between music and poetry, and the decline of a poetic tradition of “total” performance–a more comprehensive art from which I suspect he would not exclude painting and sculpture, etc. I might be misreading your take on Smith’s argument, especially in this sentence: “I mention all this here not to scold Justin Smith for arguing in favor of poetry that amounts to more than clever word games (or of any contemporary art that amounts to more than sophisticated and deconstructive agitprop)”.
Some of Smith’s words mirror yours, Paul: “Yet even in its reduced modern form, one of the things poetry still commonly aspires to do, as best it can, is to tap into the sense of the sacred — even if its creators often do so without any overt commitment to the reality of the realms their artistic sense moves them to explore”. He is highlighting the co-emergence (or common origin, antecedents) of instrumental music and spoken verse, in oral traditions that had bardic and prophetic qualities too. Some of it, of course, would have also been earthy, even rude and violent–like parts of the Homeric epics that arose from an oral tradition, probably over the course of many centuries.
Based on the full article and how it connects with my own aesthetics, I think what Smith calls violence includes the turbulent, transcendent, and disruptively intense–not just blood and guts. He is drawn to poetry from ages when the sense of what is sacred (and mysterious I’d say) was less walled off in temples, theology departments, or even “sacred verse” on a page. A total performance that doesn’t disavow musicality or the sacred, and which needn’t be devoid of cleverness either.
There’s quite a bit of contemporary verse that is gory and brutal, with closeups of horrors and atrocities, but thin on perspective, consolation, or insight (I’ll mention the recent collection Afterland by Hmong American poet Mai Der Vang), which is something I’ve termed “bloody witness” (and wrote a poem of the same name about).
The poetry of sacredness, transformative turbulence, and “cleansing” violence hasn’t vanished. But it’s crowded out by a lot of trivial, sensationalized, cheaply preachy, or deconstructed garbage at present. There are many exceptions in this overall fallow time, such as Tracy K. Smith and the late Tony Hoagland (1953-2018). Any poet is certain not to please everyone–even Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, or Blake–but those who say poetry ain’t for them shouldn’t be too sure, at least if they like music and some lyrics that run a little deeper than the norm, like those of Leonard Cohen, who started out as and never really stopped being a poet (singing sure wasn’t his strong suit!). Glad I saw him in San Jose during his last world tour, in 2012. His backup singers were/are phenomenal.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Good point. With his weird and powerful engravings he called “illuminations”, I’d say William Blake made an enduring contribution to the sort of “total poetic art” that Smith celebrates Of course Blake was self-consciously operating in a prophetic and bardic tradition, which didn’t help his reputation for mental health among his contemporaries (William Blake vs. the World, by John Higgs, is a highly readable and intriguing new book, which I sometimes disagreed with but strongly recommend).
“Revival by the rocking to ancient tradition”–great! In the hybrid or total-art vein, I wonder if some of those paleolithic cave paintings inspired, or were in turn inspired by, archaic music or chanting or proto-lyric song. I’m guessing yes. Some hybrid-art attempts become a kaleidoscopic or garbled mess, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice, I think, when we try to wall off the permeable passageways between visual art, music, poetry, narrative, and oratory.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was wondering what to say in my response to this evocative article, Steve, when I came to the final comments and realized that you and J. Bryant had already taken the words, as it were, from my mouth.
In some ways, I feel like a refugee from somewhere, or somewhen, else. I’m thinking of painting in the early twentieth century. Although I feel no particular affinity for the Post-Impressionist theorizing that prevailed in France, I do for the Expressionist intensity that prevailed in Germany both before and after World War I. What members of Die Bruecke and Der Blaue Reiter were trying to restore in the arid context of modernity and therefore secularity was not so much the “violence” that Smith discusses in this article but a direct experience of the sacred, which had been discarded in the modern West (except, perhaps, in nostalgic paintings about it by the nineteenth-century German Romantics, such as Caspar Friedrich, and the English Pre-Raphaelites).
Expressionist painters understood that the sacred is not pretty, not comfortable, not tame, not moralistic, not even beautiful (although I find many of their works esthetically beautiful nonetheless) but powerful (which could include violent), primitive (in the sense of primordial or eternal), ecstatic and, of course, non-cognitive. Their medium was lurid color. And while Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde were rediscovering the archaic wildness of pre-Christian Northern Europe through painting, Igor Stravinsky was rediscovering the archaic energy of pre-Socratic Greece through music and Richard Wagner was rediscovering in opera as the “total work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk). I’m no expert on literature, including poetry, but I strongly suspect that parallel yearnings were there, too. I take AJ’s comment on William Blake as evidence.
At stake was the need for a resurgence of some anarchic life force, terrifying but also inviting. The same desperate yearning appeared in philosophy. I’m thinking of Martin Buber’s I-Thou relationship, for example, which has a distinctly numinous quality. Even in philology, Rudolf Otto claimed (with partial success) to have rediscovered the holy, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans, as the ancient Israelites had understood it (in contrast to the moralistic interpretations of later centuries in both Judaism and Christianity).
The problem that underlay all of this passionate creativity and spiritual exuberance was what followed in its wake: the shadows of World War I (the hysterical joy that overtook the capitals of Europe in August 1914) , the Nazis and World War II. For me, personally, Nolde was the greatest twentieth-century painter by far. I find his biblical paintings and his water-color landscapes profoundly moving. And I say that as a Jew even though Nolde was a Nazi (at least until the Party classified his work as “degenerate” and refused him permission to exhibit his work or even to paint at all). I mention all this here not to scold Justin Smith for arguing in favor of poetry that amounts to more than clever word games (or of any contemporary art that amounts to more than sophisticated and deconstructive agitprop). Smith has isolated a universal, though sometimes dangerous, feature of human experience–one that has always required art to give it expression.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I found this article well-written and insightful. However, when the writer refers to ‘art’ and includes pretty much all aspects of the various art forms open to humanity including music and rhythm (dance), there’s an omission – visual art.
Reference is made to poetic (in the older sense that he describes) depictions of the violence involved in the killing of animals, with the poetry as an attempt to ‘revive’ them in order to expiate the guilt of their slaughter, necessary to sustain ourselves with food; but of course the earliest extant artistic depictions of those animals appears on the walls of caves and ancient rocks, not requiring revival by the rocking to ancient tradition of Nick Cave.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago

Ah, Nick Cave. Lemon, good squeezer, some more juice.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
1 year ago

Ah, Nick Cave. Lemon, good squeezer, some more juice.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

“Poetry properly understood is the total art form from which all the other modern art forms have been parted out”?
Nah…I don’t buy that. I particularly don’t buy the notion that we must “properly understand it” to understand that it is the ‘total art form’. Kinda like saying, “chocolate cake, properly understood, is the total food from which all other foods have been parted out”. Thus, when we object to that characterization, our objection disqualifies itself because — in true KafkaTrap fashion — we must not ‘properly understand it’ if we’ve objected to it.
That’s just silly.
Reasonably, logically, we might conceivably posit that music (meaning the production of rhythmic sound with intent) is the prime source of human art, predating language…but even that becomes a dubious proposition if we consider that the production of visual ‘signing’ of any sort might even predate music. In the end, it’s a distinction without meaning.
It is the nature of Man to communicate. We communicate with each other, and we communicate (or seek to communicate) with the world around us as that world seems itself to have a ‘presence’ requiring communication. We do this to convey information about life-critical needs (food here, water there, danger all around)…to convey more abstract notions surrounding birth, death, et al. And we communicate in an effort to understand… everything, as best we can.
Sometimes that’s with sound — ‘pure & slow, with plenty of precision, with a backbeat narrow, and hard to master’ (coming as no surprise to either Beethoven or Tchaikovsky)… Sometimes with color, light, shadow, and shape… Sometimes with form as modeled in clay, in marble, in bronze… And sometimes with words: the use of language, both its meaning and its sonoral impact to create and convey another meaning which transcends sheer definition. Sometimes we combine all of that: call it opera, ballet, performance…or even ‘poetry properly understood’.
Is any of it ‘violent’ (in the poetic sense)? Sure, some, sometimes. Is it shocking? Does it awake? Does it shake, rattle, and roll? Sure it does, at least occasionally. But is it ‘but a shadow’ of you-name-it? Absolutely. It all is, actually. Boxed in this time-bound mortal reality, limited by the clumsy tools it’s taken us millennia to develop and hone, practiced by some of our best & brightest — still, what we create with Art as part of our unending search for Truth with a Capital ‘T’… it’s all but a shadow on the wall of the cave, lit by flickering light.
As Helprin put it, ““To be mad is to feel with excruciating intensity the sadness and joy of a time which has not arrived or has already been. And to protect their delicate vision of that other time, madmen will justify their condition with touching loyalty, and surround it with a thousand distractive schemes. These schemes, in turn, drive them deeper and deeper into the darkness and light (which is their mortification and their reward), and confront them with a choice. They may either slacken and fall back, accepting the relief of a rational view and the approval of others, or they may push on, and, by falling, arise. When and if by their unforgivable stubbornness they finally burst through to worlds upon worlds of motionless light, they are no longer called afflicted or insane. They are called saints.”  And maybe, sometimes, artists.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

“Poetry properly understood is the total art form from which all the other modern art forms have been parted out”?
Nah…I don’t buy that. I particularly don’t buy the notion that we must “properly understand it” to understand that it is the ‘total art form’. Kinda like saying, “chocolate cake, properly understood, is the total food from which all other foods have been parted out”. Thus, when we object to that characterization, our objection disqualifies itself because — in true KafkaTrap fashion — we must not ‘properly understand it’ if we’ve objected to it.
That’s just silly.
Reasonably, logically, we might conceivably posit that music (meaning the production of rhythmic sound with intent) is the prime source of human art, predating language…but even that becomes a dubious proposition if we consider that the production of visual ‘signing’ of any sort might even predate music. In the end, it’s a distinction without meaning.
It is the nature of Man to communicate. We communicate with each other, and we communicate (or seek to communicate) with the world around us as that world seems itself to have a ‘presence’ requiring communication. We do this to convey information about life-critical needs (food here, water there, danger all around)…to convey more abstract notions surrounding birth, death, et al. And we communicate in an effort to understand… everything, as best we can.
Sometimes that’s with sound — ‘pure & slow, with plenty of precision, with a backbeat narrow, and hard to master’ (coming as no surprise to either Beethoven or Tchaikovsky)… Sometimes with color, light, shadow, and shape… Sometimes with form as modeled in clay, in marble, in bronze… And sometimes with words: the use of language, both its meaning and its sonoral impact to create and convey another meaning which transcends sheer definition. Sometimes we combine all of that: call it opera, ballet, performance…or even ‘poetry properly understood’.
Is any of it ‘violent’ (in the poetic sense)? Sure, some, sometimes. Is it shocking? Does it awake? Does it shake, rattle, and roll? Sure it does, at least occasionally. But is it ‘but a shadow’ of you-name-it? Absolutely. It all is, actually. Boxed in this time-bound mortal reality, limited by the clumsy tools it’s taken us millennia to develop and hone, practiced by some of our best & brightest — still, what we create with Art as part of our unending search for Truth with a Capital ‘T’… it’s all but a shadow on the wall of the cave, lit by flickering light.
As Helprin put it, ““To be mad is to feel with excruciating intensity the sadness and joy of a time which has not arrived or has already been. And to protect their delicate vision of that other time, madmen will justify their condition with touching loyalty, and surround it with a thousand distractive schemes. These schemes, in turn, drive them deeper and deeper into the darkness and light (which is their mortification and their reward), and confront them with a choice. They may either slacken and fall back, accepting the relief of a rational view and the approval of others, or they may push on, and, by falling, arise. When and if by their unforgivable stubbornness they finally burst through to worlds upon worlds of motionless light, they are no longer called afflicted or insane. They are called saints.”  And maybe, sometimes, artists.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago

Yes, songwriters are the new (or archaic) poets! Their lyrics even scan (how simplistic!) and even rhyme (how yesterday!) like the example you gave. I despair of getting anything published that is short, scans, rhymes, is even violent, and is meant to be read not ‘performed’. When coming to a fork in the woods, as one does, I often wonder whether Robert Frost and his like would be frozen out today.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago

Yes, songwriters are the new (or archaic) poets! Their lyrics even scan (how simplistic!) and even rhyme (how yesterday!) like the example you gave. I despair of getting anything published that is short, scans, rhymes, is even violent, and is meant to be read not ‘performed’. When coming to a fork in the woods, as one does, I often wonder whether Robert Frost and his like would be frozen out today.

V Solar
V Solar
1 year ago

Thank you Justin E. H. Smith I had never heard of Jerome Rothenberg but there is a lot of his work on Youtube. It’s very interesting. Thank you!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Who is this man called Cave
about whom so many rave?
never heard of the dude,
but he sounds such a pseud,
I’dismiss this tosh with a wave….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Who is this man called Cave
about whom so many rave?
never heard of the dude,
but he sounds such a pseud,
I’dismiss this tosh with a wave….