[ethnopoetics: discourse]

This section will switch from poetry as such to a historical range of discourse — both avant-garde and deeply traditional — about poetry and related matters. The emphases are on the actual processes at play and on a comparison (real or imagined) to modern/postmodern forms of poetry and poetics. The selection begins with the following encyclopedia extract.

ethnopoetics. (1) A comparative approach to poetry and related arts, with a characteristic but not exclusive emphasis on stateless, low-technology cultures and on oral and nonliterate [nonliteral] forms of verbal expression. (2) The poetry and ideas about poetry in the cultures so observed or studied. (3) A movement or tendency in contemporary poetry, literature, and social science (anthropology in particular) devoted to such interests.

The history of such an ethnopoetics covers at least the last 200 years, during which time it has functioned as a questioning of the culturally bounded poetics and poetry of "high European culture." While the designation "ethnopoetics" is a much later coinage, the interrogation has been carried forward in sometimes separated, sometimes interlocking discourses among philosophers, scholars, poets, and artists. It is clearly linked with impulses toward primitivism in both romanticism and modernism and with avant-garde tendencies to explore new and alternative forms of poetry and to subvert normative views of traditional values and the claims of "civilization" to hegemony over other forms of culture. Yet for all its avant-gardism, the principal ethnopoetic concern has been with classical, even hieratic forms, with fully realized, often long preserved traditions.

The emergence in the later 20th century of ethnopoetics as both a poetry movement and a field of scholarly study was the culmination of projects that arose within modernism itself. In that sense, ethnopoetics clearly paralleled the ethnoaesthetic concerns in the visual and performative arts with their well-documented influence on the form and content of contemporary art both in the West and in third-world cultures under European domination. In turn, the growing restiveness of the Western avant-garde allowed a contemporary viewing of culturally distant forms that revealed both those that resembled familiar Western forms and others drawn from previously unrecognized areas of visual and verbal art. The interests of poets — both formal and ideological — were accompanied or bolstered by scholarly investigations of the contexts and linguistic properties of the traditional works, including the nature of oral poetics and the particularities of translation from oral sources. Like much modern and postmodern poetry and art, these investigations involved a necessarily intermedial point of view, calling genre boundaries into question . … [From J.R., entry on "ethnopoetics" in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 1993]

Precious love.

blobs,			round as rocks, 		hard as rocks,		right as rain,
a wool beard
plastered on each face		tacked to every face