Best of Drunken Boat
Issue Three: The Ethnopoetics Issue
by Leslie McGrath

     I’ve been with Drunken Boat since 2006 and, to be honest, hadn’t read a couple of the earliest issues. So when I drew the third, it was a great opportunity to go deep and muck about in all the corners of the ethnopoetics issue. What is ethnopoetics? I didn’t know either, and I claim to be a poet. The word was first used by Jerome Rothenberg, whose “A Pre-Face to a Symposium on Ethnopoetics, 1975” is included in this issue. Rothenberg makes a clear and compelling argument that “On the one hand the contemporary forms (the new means that we invent) make older forms visible: & on the other hand, the forms that we uncover elsewhere help us in the reshaping, the resharpening, of our own tools. The past, come alive, is in motion with us. ”

Listen closely to Charles Bernstein’s “Close Listening,” in which he discusses the central importance of sound in poetry. This audio piece is distorted by synthesizer, which mutes the hard-to-describe sonic effects of spoken language.

Dive into the issue’s fiction, Ivan Brady’s anthropological poems, “Pacific Islands Works” contain that “motion of the past” of which Rothenberg wrote. The poem “When You were Here” is my favorite, recounting life in mid-nineteenth century Nanumea Island .

Carol Maso’s “Second Lyrical Etude” is the best piece of microfiction I think I’ve ever read (though I welcome all challengers!)

Explore the issue’s poetry, which ranges from the overtly political “Dear Africans” by Eritrea’s Poet Laureate, Reesom Haile (translated by Charles Cantalupo), to Donald Green’s “Possession”, a meditation on the loneliness of the soul.

Watch Zoe Beloff’s video clips from “The Influencing Machine of Miss Natalija A.,” an interactive video installation, which is commentary on both psychiatry and the evolution of real “influencing machines.”

The greatest of these is, arguably, the internet—Drunken Boat’s homeport and asymptotic waters, both.