Jerome Rothenberg’s “15 antiphonals for HAROLDO” (Sine Wave Peak, 2015) is a poem sequence of alternations that originate from the author’s response to photo-portraits of Brazilian poet Haroldo de Campos. In the concise collection, Rothenberg contributes phrases which mirror fragments he imports from the poetry of de Campos (italicized to differentiate). Economy is privileged: the words appear as minutia on the page and form seems tersely manufactured. But at once the work is effortless as sounds make sense, and one can assume each extract appeals to its counterpart via both responding to an image, which unfortunately is not reproduced in this slender volume.

and a fury


in missouri

Punctuated with what the author calls ‘othering’, a deviation from de Campos’ notion of ‘transcreation’ – a departure, via translation, from the source – these correspondings tease out meaning in both poet’s words. As Rothenberg suggests, “translation and all of its related acts involve a kind of implicit collaboration,” these variations read as fade projections that serve to indicate ‘other’ and probe a deeper engagement. One trusts the regularity, the tethering acts, “of the self // of my shelf”. Less trustworthy is a tendency for the companion piece to run out of bounds, gesturing tonally away from the mark,

secure a cut
             a sure shot
                          on the bull’s eye


skewer a cunt
             the whore hot
                          on the driveby

Or perhaps, in the median between the de Campos posture and the Rothenberg variation, a sort of mémoire involontaire imparts the work, revaluing acts of conscious unmoulding. Rather like the petit jeté, one movement jumps, brushes by the heel the next arrangement which lands in its separate condition. Or perhaps these turns are as jetty, a projection of structure that reflects, or deflects, the former, both lingering the encounter, both triggering further dialogue.