1. Cuna: Muu's Way
  2. Chippewa: Songs & Song Pictures
  3. Hidatsa: Lean Wolf's Complaint
  4. Jewish Visual Poetry
  5. Mayan Hieroglyphs
  6. Navajo Visual Poetry
  7. Paleolithic Palimpsests
  8. Shaker Visual Poetry
  9. Apollinaire and Anonymous Roman
  1. Aloïse
  2. Adolf Wölfli



While the initial focus of ethnopoetics was on orality and performance, the discourse turned as well to the visible aspects of language — writing & inscription — both as a persistent contemporary concern & as an often unacknowledged kingpin of a revitalized & expanded ethnopoetics. In an age of cybernetic breakthroughs, the experimental tradition of modernist poetry & art has expanded our sense of language in all its forms, the written along with the oral. In doing this, it should also have sensitized us to the existence of a range of visual/verbal traditions and practices, not only in literate cultures but in those also that we have named "non"- or "pre"-literate — extending the meaning of literacy beyond a system of (phonetic) letters to the fact of writing itself. But to grasp the actual possibilities of writing (as with any other form of language or of culture), it is necessary to know it in all its manifestations — new & old. It is our growing belief (more apparent now than at the start of the ethnopoetics project) that the cultural dichotomies between writing and speech — the "written" & the "oral" — disappear the closer we get to the source. To say again what seems so hard to get across: there is a primal book as there is a primal voice, & it is the task of our poetry & art to recover it — in our minds & in the world at large. [J.R., adapted from The Book, Spiritual Instrument, Granary Books, 1996]

Back to UbuWeb | Back to UbuWeb Ethnopoetics