Jerome Rothenberg | Revolutionary Propositions & A Personal Manifesto

FROM THE LEONARDO PROJECT: 10 + 2

 

 

REVOLUTIONARY PROPOSITIONS

 

(First Series)

1.

A revolution involves a change in structure; a change in style is not a revolution.

 

2.

A revolution in poetry or painting or music is part of a total revolutionary pattern. (Modern) art is fundamentally subversive. Its thrust is toward an open-ended (continuous) revolution.

 

3.

“Any form whatever, by the mere fact that it exists as such & endures, necessarily loses vigor & becomes worn; to recover vigor, it must be reabsorbed into the formless if only for an instant; it must be restored to the primordial unity from which it issued; in other words, it must return to ‘chaos’ (on the cosmic plane), to ‘orgy’ (on the social plane), to darkness’ (for seed), to ‘water’ (baptism on the human plane, Atlantis on the plane of history, and so on).”—M. Eliade

 

4.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.”— T. Jefferson. “Without contraries is no progression. Attraction & Repulsion, Reason & Energy, Love & Hate, are necessary to Human Existence.”—W. Blake

 

5.

It is possible to rationalize the history of modern poetry or art, to mask its subversive character; but even as fad & fashion, poetry continues to subvert, to destroy the constructs of an old order as it builds the shadow-constructs of a new one.

 

6.

“The development of the five senses is the work of the entire history of the world up to now.”—Karl Marx

 

7.

A change in vision is a change in form. A change in form is a change of reality.

 

8.

“The poet’s function is to spread doubt & create illusion.”—N. Calas

 

 

(Second series)

1.

Revolution are preceded & accompanied by a breakdown in communication.

 

2.

Long-lived societies, even where rooted in social injustice, will survive as long as groups that should be in conflict share a common language—i.e. a common system of values & ascribed meaning, a common religion, mythology, etc.

 

3.

Where change (mobility) becomes so rapid as to make it impossible for the “language” to change commensurately, this common language begins to break down, & groups of men, while using the same words, no longer understand each other.

 

4.

This breakdown in communication is first articulated by a poet & carried on by other poets.

 

5.

Non-poets freely adapt the language of poets, even where they fail to understand it, to provide them with a revolutionary form of communication. They soon come to consider it their own invention.

Note. This is the history of Christianity & of the French & Russian revolutions.

 

6.

The poet sees the breakdown in communication as a condition of health , as an opening-up of the closed world of the old order. He carries the revolution of language & form into the new society of the political revolutionaries.

 

7.

The political revolutionary sees the breakdown in communication as further evidence of the malaise of the old & dedicates himself to the re-establishment of a closed system he (or those he speaks for) can control. The demand for closure extends to the work of the poet.

 

8.

The confrontation between poet & political revolutionary moves toward a showdown that the poet seems fated to lose. But their lasting union would signal a turning of history & the reconstruction of Man in Eden.

Note. The sign of the Communal Paradise will be that all the languages now spoken by Man will have been made obsolete. This is the prophecy of Apollinaire.

 

[The preceding collage of propositions was read at a symposium on “Revolutions & Revolutionaries in Literature” at the Long Island University International Writers Conference in 1966. Although the process described has now gone much further, I’m even less sure about the alternative conclusion I let dangle in the eighth proposition of the second series. Enough to say that governments by nature (including post-revolutionary governments oncer they’re governing) have had little actual use for the concept of an ongoing & open-ended revolution. But that’s all the more reason for the poets to get on with it.]

 

I’kon, Number 7, January -February 1969.

 

 

 

FROM THE LEONARDO PROJECT: 10 + 2

 

 

A PERSONAL MANIFESTO (1966)

 

1) I will change your mind;
2) any means (=methods) to that end;
3) to oppose the “devourers” = bureaucrats, system-makers, priests, etc. (W. Blake);
4) “& if thou wdst understand that wch is me, know this: all that I have sd I have uttered playfully—& I was by no means ashamed of it.” ( J. C. to disciples, The Acts of St. John)

 

 

FROM
JEROME ROTHENBERG | PRE-FACES & OTHER WRITINGS
NEW DIRECTIONS PUBLISHING CORPORATION

 

 

One Comment

  1. I saw/heard Jerome Rothenberg read here in Brrrlin a few years ago at the Literaturhaus…now, that was indeed something special

    Liked by 1 person

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