ETHNOPOETICS.ORG : a collaboration to extend the valuing and study of global poetries

What is "Ethnopoetics"?

Ethnopoetics names an informal movement in poetry and scholarship dating to the late 1960s but has come more broadly to designate writing that reflects a heightened awareness of the artfulness of oral and traditional poetries and the ways in which diverse verbal arts illuminate world cultures; this writing can also reflect innovative theorizing and practices of representational practices, including transcription/translation. Coined by Jerome Rothenberg, ethnopoetics involves collaborations among poets, storytellers, singers, anthropologists, translators, linguists, and literary scholars.

Ethnopoetics Overview


Alcheringa/Ethnopoetics was published in 13 issues between 1970 and 1980. It remains the most ambitious and influential publication of world poetries in translation, emphasizing global continuities and the rich connections and differences among traditional, experimental, oral and print poetry. (Some content has been subsequently published in print books and anthologies.) Its emphasis on doing justice to oral performance through transcription and visual design presents a productive challenge to this day.

A digital reissue was made available via Jacket2 and Pennsound; audio MP3s of original 45rpm records have also been republished via Pennsound; Dropbox

Browse the first two, more complete issues below with wiki entries below, or see the full, contents only of Alcheringa

Currently Annotated Issues


Vol. 1, No. 1, 1970

External PDF



Vol. 1, No. 2, 1971

External PDF


Ethnopoetics Today

Fifty years after the advent of Ethnopoetics, its goals remain crucial and relevant: “exploring the full range” of human poetry; encouraging “cooperative projects” among artists and scholars, across cultures and disciplines; combatting “cultural genocide” and “encouraging a knowledgeable, loving respect” for cultures “past and present.”

On the launch of the Alcheringa reissue in 2010, Dennis Tedlock wrote:

An interest in cultural others has returned to humanities departments under the rubric of Cultural Studies, but the favored others are close at hand, already living inside the metropolis. Whatever their places of origin might be, they write in metropolitan languages, and their surest path to a place in the curriculum lies in conforming to genres that are already familiar to humanists. . . . As in the pages and sound recordings of Alcheringa, traditional forms, innovative forms, and innovative reworkings of traditional forms [should] all have places on the program. . . . .

Ancient texts, many of them in nonalphabetic scripts and some of them newly discovered, stand in need of translations that do more than recast them in familiar alphabetic forms. Ethnographic reports are filled with texts that have yet to be treated as poetry and retranslated as such, and many recordings made in the field have yet to receive the close listening required for transcriptions and translations that pay attention to sound. Nearby and far away, contemporary poets continue to speak, sing, and write in hundreds of languages that are neither colonial nor sanctioned by national governments.

See: Dreamtime: An Introduction to the Alcheringa Archive. Dennis Tedlock, 2010.

Exemplary Transcriptions

Ethnopoetic transcription aims to design the textual presentation of an oral performance, using visual elements to mark dimensions significant to speakers and hearers. Ideally, it might provide a score for re-performance. At a minimum, it should make concrete aspects of the audio-text perceived as significant by the transcriber. This was a hallmark of Alcheringa issues, which were limited in their ability to provide audio recordings. Even with the availability of audio analysis software and the ease of transmitting digitized audio, transcription retains value for transcribers, scholars, and readers.

List of: Exemplary Transcriptions

Exploring the Ethnopoetics Wiki


This site uses content tags for cross-referencing.


Indices, keywords, and metadata search of the wiki content.


Below is a visualization and access to text analysis widgets produced with Voyant Tools. For further exploration, see Further Voyant Tool Views in this wiki or open the Voyant Workspace in a separate window with corpus of all digitized issues of Alcheringa/Ethnpoetics via this link


This site was created to share informative, scholarly materials related to Ethnopoetics. The source archive is hosted by Pennsound; excerpted materials included in this project are used with the permission and acknowledgment of Pennsound and Jacket2. Original materials are produced and offered under fair-use, with Creative Commons access rights wherever possible. Novice contributors are encouraged to visit the Formatting Syntax page and then experiment with page and link creation in the playground. If you are a participating contributor and cannot log in, please email for assistance.


This project was initiated at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as a project of the graduate English course in comparative literature: Orality, Ethnopoetics, and Digital Humanities ENGL 766/866 in Summer of 2021. Students in ENGL 757-857 - Digital Composition, Literature, and Pedagogy contributed in the Fall of 2021. We hope to be able to work with a broader range of contributors in the future. Please contact the site editor ( if interested.




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