ethnopoetics : soundings

ethnopoetics : visuals

ethnopoetics : poems

ethnopoetics : discourses


The breakthroughs of the last 100 years in poetry and elsewhere have been marked by new approaches to language and performance. Largely this has been the work of several generations of experimental writers and performers, many of them now archived and available thru Ubuweb and related web sites. It fell to some of us, starting with forerunners like Tristan Tzara and Antonin Artaud, to track related but traditional approaches over a wide range of once impenetrable cultures throughout the world. In my own work I was able to bring some of these lines together in gatherings of the 1960s and 1970s like Technicians of the Sacred and Shaking the Pumpkin, as well as in the magazine Alcheringa that I co-edited for several years with Dennis Tedlock. The name that we gave this enterprise, as it applied to the world’s deep cultures – those surviving in situ as well as those that had vanished except for transcriptions in books or recordings from earlier decades – was ethnopoetics.

In the present Ubuweb collection of ethnopoetic openings, it’s our intention to build a sampler of what we take to be the second great breakthrough of the modernist poetry project. The search here is for a range of poetries outside the domain of customarily accepted literature. In particular we’re interested, in the spirit of other segments of Ubuweb, in soundings and visionings that are the traditional and often culturally acceptable counterparts to what in our own surroundings have been seen and heard as radical, even disturbing departures from conventional practice. In exploring these we will also be mindful of occasions on which the avant-garde experimental line has merged with or deliberately drawn from other culturally specific traditions.

We proceed in the spirit of Gertrude Stein, often quoted by me: The exciting thing about all this is that as it is new it is old and as it is old it is new, but now we have come to be in our way which is an entirely different way.

  - Jerome Rothenberg, October 2002