POLAND/1931 by Jerome Rothenberg


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When Rothenberg does not let himself become preoccupied with visual forms or musical pauses, his poetry becomes extended improvisational clusters of meaning -- Jewish meaning. Poland/1931 (that's his birth year) is an ironic, personal celebration of identity. ""The Mothers,"" ""The Grandmothers,"" ""The Fathers,"" and ""The Brothers"" explore the desperate loss/attachment ambivalence in the family milieu. Other poems are rich in symbols of sexuality and selfhood (beards, circumcision) and rituals (""The Wedding""). ""The Key of Solomon,"" ""Milk and Honey,"" and ""Ancestral Scenes"" pursue a concern with ethnic culture and paradigm, and its possibilities for the heritage of the diaspora. Yet one of the poet's virtues is that he balances compassion and empathy with satire: ""OY OY OY IT'S HARD TO BE A JEW."" His Final poem, ""Cokboy,"" epitomizes this: ""saddlesore I came/ a jew among/ the indians/ vot em i doink in dis strange place""; ""ballots bullets barbers/ who threaten my beard your hair/ but patronize me."" These poems reveal a poignant authenticity: both affirmation and perspective. A profound and affecting search for tribal and individual definition.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1974
Publisher: New Directions