Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas

Jerome Rothenberg

From Jerome Rothenberg's "Pre-Face":

In the aftermath of Technicians of the Sacred (1968) the next step I took toward the construction of an experimental ethnopoetics was an assemblage of traditional works and commentaries thereon focused entirely on one of the world’s still surviving and incredibly diverse “deep cultures.” The resultant work, Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas, was published by Doubleday Anchor in 1972 and in revised versions by Alfred van der Marck Editions (1986) and the University of New Mexico Press (1991).

As with Technicians I drew from a wide range of previously published materials, supplemented in this instance by direct translations of my own and by those of later and very significant translators such as Dennis Tedlock and Howard Norman. I also continued to be freed by the opening of poetry among us to expand the range of what we saw as poetry elsewhere including sound works, visual works, and event and performance pieces on the model of contemporary happenings and performance art. My own translations – “total” and otherwise – from Seneca (with songmaker and ritual performer Richard Johnny John) and from Navajo (through the good offices of ethnomusicologist David McAllester) were also first presented here, and the commentaries, much like those in Technicians, provided analogues to other primal cultures and to the work of contemporary avantgardists. In the process I made no pretense about my own connection to the Indian nations in question, though for a period of a decade and more it was far from trivial, and my next ethnopoetic assemblage, A Big Jewish Book (later republished as Exiled in the Word) was in fact an exploration of ancestral sources of my own “in a world of Jewish mystics, thieves, and madmen.”

Summer 2013

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