Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Excerpt from 15 Flower World Variations - Jerome Rothenberg

flower
         with the body of a fawn
                   under a cholla flower
standing there
         to rub your antlers
                   bending
turning where you stand to rub
         your antler
                  in the flower world
the dawn
         there in its light
                  under a cholla flower
standing there
         to rub your antlers
                  bending turning where you stand
to rub your antlers
         flower
                  with the body of a fawn
under a cholla flower
         standing there
                  to rub your antlers
bending
         turning where you stand to rub
                   your antlers

The 15 Flower World Variations (Membrane Press, 1984) are derived from Yaqui Deer Dance songs by poet-translator-anthologist Jerome Rothenbergusing literal translations by Carleton Wilder et al. 
The full work can be found at the wonderful Ubuweb ethnopoetics site. 


Rothenberg's work has been called "anthology-assemblages." He identified with both the twentieth-century avant garde and with tribal poetry. The poems here are a literary manifestation of Yaqui (northern Mexican) cosmology. 


The Yaqui conception of the world is considerably different from that of their Mexican and United States neighbors. For example, the world (in Yaqui, anĂ­a) is composed of five separate worlds: the desert wilderness world, the mystical world, the flower world, the dream world, and the night world. Much Yaqui ritual is centered upon perfecting these worlds and eliminating the harm that has been done to them, especially by people (source)


Recently, I have had the privilege of reading the poetry of both Caroline Goodwin and Robert Hass, whose attention to the natural world I found refreshing but also sort of out of place in modern life -- which may explain the former. 

Hass laments 'the declining value we ascribe to the natural world', and assigns a duty to poets to correct this. Tuesday Poem thrives on contemporary poetry but it's hard not to appreciate the variational verse that carries this poem, and for me it resonates with the idea of nature as part of a diurnal cycle that constantly turns on itself.


Bernadette Keating is the editor of this week's Tuesday Poem. She is currently studying towards a postgraduate diploma in art history at Victoria University. She also writes poetry and occasionally blogs about writing and art. Bernadette lives in Wellington, New Zealand.


Curator's Note: One week after the earthquake that devastated Christchurch, it is good to be reminded of the beauty of the natural world - as evoked in the Rothenberg work - as well as its terrors. All Tuesday Poets living in the area (and the families of Tuesday Poets living there) are safe and well despite coping with hardships as the city continues to recover the dead and get back on its feet. All our thoughts are with you, Christchurch. 

2 comments:

Mary McCallum said...

I love the soft sounds here, repeated, the repeated words like the deer rubbing and turning and turning, and finally the shape of the poem, in and out, returning to this gentle, lovely scene. This is a poet I don't know - his methods fascinate me, I would like to know more about them now - thank you Bernadette.

Jennifer Compton said...

most interesting - thank you - very attracted by the rhythms