The Age of the Open Secret (1975)

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This piece was written as a companion to “DiaLogos: Between the Written and the Oral in Contemporary Poetry,”
on the occasion of Ethnopoetics: A First International Symposium, a special issue of Alcheringa: Ethnopoetics
(New Series Volume 2, Number 2: Boston University, 1976) edited by Michel Benamou and Jerome Rothenberg,
representing the event at the Center for 20th Century Studies of the University of Wisconsin,
Milwaukee, on April 10-12, 1975. The Symposium set out to create a context of definition of a new field:
Ethnopoetics, a word created at my request when I edited Stony Brook Magazine in 1968 and asked
Rothenberg to be the editor of a field combining “ethnos” and “poetics” (on the model of “ethnomusicology”),
in particular relating to the anthology he was then completing, Technicians of the Sacred:
A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceania,
a section of which first appeared in Stony Brook 1/2.
The present piece recast what I delivered at the Symposium and became a meditation on the possible meanings
of Ethnopoetics (particularly in relation to what I had called variously Metapoetics and Parapoetics),
the word and the projected field of study, which poet/anthropologist Nathaniel Tarn called
“the intersection between poetry and anthropology in our time.”
The journal Alcheringa: Ethnopoetics, edited by J. Rothenberg and Dennis Tedlock carried on the exploration
which eventually led to Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics,
ed. Jerome Rothenberg, Diane Rothenberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).

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