November 23, 2022

Michael Rothenberg (USA) 1951-2022

Michael Rothenberg (USA)



Born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1951, Michael Rothenberg is a poet and songwriter. He received his BA in English at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his MA in Poetics at New College of California. He has been an active environmentalist in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 25 years, where he cultivates orchids and bromeliads at his nursery, Shelldance.

      His broadside "Elegy for the Dusky Seaside Sparrow" was selected Broadside of the Year by Fine Print Magazine. The broadside of his poem "Angels" was produced in limited edition by Hatch Show Prints as part of The Country Music Foundation's museum resources. His songs have appeared in the films Shadowhunter, Black Day Blue Night, and Outside Ozona.


     He is also editor and co-founder of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge, which was an on-line magazine.

     His books of poems include Unhurried Vision, Favorite Songs, Nightmare of the Violins, What the Fish Saw, Man/Woman (with Joanne Kyger), The Paris Journals, Grown Up Cuba, and Monk Daddy.

    David Meltzer writes, "Unhurried Vision, a year in the life of Michael, is really a deeply loving celebration & farewell to mentor Philip Whalen, a poet, roshi, & all around confounder of boundaries. A day-book; a non-epic odyssey through routes & roots of living & dying; a gastronome's pleasure dome, but above all a deeply stirred & stirring affirmation of poetry's centrality in realizing mundane & profound instances in the everyday extraordinary. Rothenberg's raw footage is disarming; sly, self-effacing, proclaiming, doubting, affirming."

     Rothenberg is also author of the novel Punk Rockwell (Tropical Press) and various other fictions including  Indefinite Detention: A Dog Story. Other editorial projects include Overtime: Selected Poems by Philip Whalen (Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002), As Ever: Selected Poems by Joanne Kyger (Penguin Books, 2002), David's Copy: Selected Poems of David Meltzer (Penguin, 2004), Way More West: Selected Poems of Ed Dorn (Penguin, 2007). He recently completed the Collected Poems of Philip Whalen for Wesleyan University Press (2007).




What the Fish Saw (Berkeley: Twowindows Press, 1985); Nightmare of the Violins (Berkeley: Twowindows Press, 1986); Man/Women [with Joanne Kyger] (Pacifica, California: Big Bridge Press, 1988); Favorite Songs (Pacifica, California: Big Bridge Press, 1990); Paris Journals (New York: Fish Drum Press, 1998); Grown Up Cuba (Amsterdam: Il Begatto Press, 2003); Monk Daddy (Blue Press, 2003); Unhurried Vision (Santa Fe: La Alameda Press, 2003); The Pillars: Art & Poems (Contagion Press, 2020); In Memory of A Banyan Tree, Poems of the Outside World, 1985-2020 (Lost Horse Press 2022)



╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English




Ode to Tralfamadorian Goose


“I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”


Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter-House Five; or, The Children’s Crusade, a duty dance with death



Tralfamadorian Goose!


Global mother, lover, confidante in bubble, co-creator, wonder!

Gift, released from metal voice, iron clad guilt shackle, shrapnel of lost attachments


Chocolate beauty marks on velvet collarbone, and tangerine breast, blush

Spirit of red earth and air, tongue adoring in my ear drips honey bee, sweet care


Swinging hip dance, singing love’s low trance, oh high sensation!

Golden eggs on blue moon pillows, transcendent willows coo in outer space


Forgiving fate, unfolding, luscious ripe and lotus great, iris true

Heart, where’ve you been, your swells of daylight ease through freeze of my cold life?


So different from caged bird, me, winged dream, beyond

Come tell me how we’ll go on, you want to be stroked, I’m at your call, and on, and on


Goddess in cocoon, flesh-mate in caress, secret, soft in down

Transported, now, we can outlive, gently now, gentle you, and give, and how, just now



Tralfamadorian Goose!


Shy, robust fragrance of peach, woman, discrete plum lust

Gush of halo, resting indulgent in patter of me, flatter me, lather me in whispers


Steaming with purple borscht, piroshky, ambitious

Emotional, cautious, changeable, vulnerable council of playful, elegant pride


Tripping up bloody marching boots of muddy Red Army,

Stinging keys with classical quotes, flushing out Satan disguised as hope, Cupid


Pecking Freud on forehead, waddling over therapy of rigor mortis Shuttling a silver harp from heaven to heaven, gathering, weaving loose ends of life


Vonnegut understood this time, and you would understand it too

Basking in gardens, listless moments, ready to leap upon inspiration, waiting


No single man’s invention, Bacchanalia, Rubens, the feast is named

Picnic, banquet, treasure of favorite desire, unquenchable, hungering, basket of spice


I never trusted women, until she came along, now there’s only you

(She wrecked her car on the freeway, screamed hysterical, mourning a point already moot)



Tralfamadorian Goose!


Following you, following me, in a good old fashioned stand-off

Face to face, shouldering obligation, holstering family, how will it turn out, who knows?


Watching guards change into loons at Lenin’s tomb, May Day

KGB refuse swan egg pastries, Intourist room above staggering stream of banners


White feather quills dipped in solvent of defection, migration

Bodies daily turning up in newspaper pages, history recovering in revelation


Jews and Russians, holes in their chests as big as War and Peace

Infected caverns stuffed with poetry, longing, vodka, roses, icons, fish, horseradish


Making love in secrecy, discovery, uncovering a moist lyrical fetish

Cuddles, wriggles, moans, invisible tundras of memory, raves, a Siberian diplomacy


Giggles, baby talk, pinches, digging nails in buttocks, chirps, sleep

Dream I’m someone else, when I awake, holding you, you’re in someone else’s dream



Tralfamadorian Goose!


Chagall, Poe, Eartha Kitt, Isadora Duncan compose your choir

Painting Matrushkas of Iago, Zhivago, Lolita, Jesus, and Yeltsin’s quadruple heart bypass


Looking lost, forever homeward, swearing intimacy, constant truth

Vow your love, won’t take it back, love transient as democracy in real fists of greed


Tossing stone baggage overboard so body, spirit, floats, arise!

Fly with radio on, cigarette, rouge-chic, bearing down on pedal of empire’s success


Rushing about, picking caress off gossip, pitch of neighbor’s fence

Building fire storm with hug and smile, destruction calling me close, no more than I do



Tralfamadorian Goose!


Bigger than me, the oyster is yours, blue pearl of your eyes

Cherish me, render me, naked in gold-black boundless flesh of this starry night


There’s no one else for me, and you, but you so smooth

Fidelity comes in confession of infidelity, addiction in rejection of past, goodnight


Conclude the paragraph, the verse, the breath, you knew that if

Being here was an experiment the ideal would always remain fiction, that’s right!


This, from an imperfect world, tired of suspicion, you still want him too

Promises, only couplets, spoken in a sinking craft, so when at last, I’m gone, I’m gone



Reprinted from Golden Handcuffs Review I, no. 7 (Summer/Fall 2006). Copyright ©2006 by Michael Rothenberg.

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