Jay Rogoff writes poetry, dance criticism, and criticism of the other arts, including literature. Author of six collections of poetry, he has published his poems widely; his criticism has appeared in such journals as The Georgia Review, The Hopkins Review, The Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, Salmagundi, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review. Clicking on each subheading below will take you to a page where you can find out more about his published work.
On Groundhog Day, 1954, American Christmas changed forever. That evening the New York City Ballet premiered George Balanchine’s full-length Nutcracker, whose immediate success at the box office and with most critics solidified the company’s finances and inaugurated a new holiday tradition. . . . The dance world quickly reached consensus that, as with all Balanchine’s other attempts to please crowds and boost attendance (his 1949 one-act Firebird, his 1951 one-act Swan Lake), The Nutcracker, too, counted among his masterpieces. . . . This past holiday season, America’s dance lovers and dutiful parents could escort their Maries and Fritzes to any of over two hundred full-length productions. Children invariably seem to love The Nutcracker in any form, regardless of the company’s professional skill, and watching the best and most inventive versions can sweep even jaded grownups into its balletic illusion and radical innocence.
Death Goes to a Party
Death does the hokey pokey and he turns
himself around. Music makes you believe
hair grows on scalpless skulls and bare bones jive:
look at those party-animal skeletons,
piles of knuckles, pothooks, and plumbers’ joints
reveling naked. They’ve got to grin, they wave
to a corpse tumbling in an open grave
with worms bopping about its sunshine bones.
Thus concludes the history of the world,
no whimpering but a great rowdy shout,
a clatter and crash like crockery, pots hurled
about the kitchen, hipbones shaking it
in and out, all bones set on making it
one last smashing time. That’s what it’s all about.
If a single book of poems resembles a painter's exhibition of new work, a selected volume is the retrospective, enabling us to chart the poet's career and watch the work’s themes and obsessions bud, blossom, and ripen. A chronologically arranged selected poems invites us to evaluate the progressive search for themes and struggle with style that define a considerable segment of the poet's career. In such an evaluation, we look less for the satisfying unity of the book as a work of art, and more for the literary-historical unity of the poet—not the biographical poet, but the artistic construct created by the accumulation of years of poems—as a force to be reckoned with. We start to judge the poetry not just as something produced by the poet, but as a set of credentials that is the poet, and which will permanently identify the poet as having some claim in the kingdom. In such a book, the poet begins the process of becoming the work.