woensdag 2 januari 2013

EthnoPoetics in the Amazon

One of the strangest oversights in "Technicians of the Sacred" (Jerome Rothenberg's big book of EthnoPoetics, first published in 1968) is the complete absence of material from the Amazon. However, now I have noticed that Rothenberg did pay attention to the region in the third issue of Alcheringa (winter 1971, all issues online here) with a 23-page mini-anthology. 

EthnoPoetics was a great, important and inspiring movement but it always suffered from two major problem. 1) It often failed to provide meaningful ethnographic context. 2) Texts from with different historical pedigrees are all translated (often with poetic freedom) into the idiom of avant-garde modernist poetry. Imagine Shakespeare, the King James bible, Coleridge and Tom Jones' Lalya translated into the hurried journalese of an Armenian self-publisher. EthnoPoetics assumes the right to take literature/poetry from every language of the world and reshape it in order to make it confirm to your own agenda. Some people find it colonialist, which I find too easy and too paternalistic. EthnoPoetics offers freedom but does not accepts its responsibilities. The result is often rote blandness where the uniqueness of languages and cultures should be. But let that not deter you from its achievements.

One of the songs in the anthology is a Jivaro shaman song recorded by Michael Harner which makes a nice addition to this earlier Jivaro Shamanic chant (recorded by Philippe Descola).    


I, I, I, I, I

I, I, I, I

I am ... like First Shaman
I am like First Shaman
When I drink natem
My whole body becomes cold
& I easily suck out that spirit-dart
I, I, I, I

I'm always above the clouds
& that's how corne I have power
Because I drank natem
I drank enough to have power
My whole body is cold
That's how I have power to suck out that spirit-dart
I, I, I, I

There's a very large body of water
So that I'm like a great body of water
I have a crown but it's gold
A crown & it looks so lovely
Lovely when I drink natem
That's why it's easy to suck out that spirit-dart
I, I, I, I

I'm always above the clouds
That's why I can cure so easily
I have the spirit-darts of natem
I'm seated but I do feel cold
There must be lots of breezes around me
I, I, I, I

My spirit-darts are like birds
& the wings & bodies are dreams
I'm. ready to start with them now
My spirit-darts are sitting all over me
& as I get to feel cold
I'll get to have power
I can easily suck out that spirit-dart
I, I. I, I

I'm. like som.e anaconda in the Napo River
That's why I have power to suck out that spirit-dart
I, I, I, I

Wait, wait a little
Now I'm. going to be dizzy
I'll be starting to see when I'm high
(pause, followed by sucking & dry vomiting)
Now I've sucked out that spirit-dart
Now the pain will soon go away

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