The wish for monolithic culture, chiefly perpetrated by global capitalism, is at best misguided, and at worst completely toxic. To modify Rimbaud’s famous axiom, j’est un autre, we are not we, the glue posited by the collective pronoun no longer binds. As Harold Bloom stated in his controversial introduction to the Best of the Best American Poetry, culturally we are in Thermopylae, sentient in a more fractured historical moment than has been seen since the Peloponnesian War. While Bloom intended this analogy despairingly, we see it positively, as an assurance that no master narrative will subsume the particularity of varied, individual perspectives; as consolation that no one school of aesthetic philosophy will trump any other; as security that no arbitrary confine will be taken to have the materiality of an actual wall.

In this issue of Drunken Boat, we’ve attempted to embody this polyphony by bringing together a collection of voices and visions that may never before have inhabited the same space. To bring your attention to just three of the many extraordinary artists who’ve contributed, we point you to David Daniels, Tai Ford and Naomi Maruta. The spawn of George Herbert and Lenny Bruce perhaps, Daniels, in his profusion of concrete poems, displays an utterly unique coherence of vision. His collected works, bound and self-published under the title The Gates of Paradise, is a wild ride through the imagination and possibly the most important, least recognized work we’ve ever come across. Tai Ford’s poetry, for which we’ve included audio, is harrowing, kinetic and emotionally ample, exploding the myth that perfunctorily segregates the work of performance poetry from the written lyric. Her work skillfully deploys rhyme and varied meter to draw the reader/listener in, perhaps auguring, in all its rawness, the evolution of classicism. Finally, Naomi Maruta’s photographs of Japanese cityscapes, display the tender eye of someone who is both participant in and voyeur of urban surfaces. Whether her work is situated in a casino or on a halogen-lit highway, the photographs have an enigmatic sheen that fulfills Bertolt Brecht’s dictum that art make the familiar strange.

If poetry, in its larger sense, can be said to be any act born of precise observation and transformed into metaphoric representation, then thriving around us, in the guise of science or upon chipped brick city walls, an uncanonical poetry blooms, vital precisely because its home is outside the status quo. This ethnopoetry, if you will, provides us a vision of how we may be able to integrate the arts into quotidian existence. Because we are living in an exceedingly materialistic moment, one in which art is mass-produced for the least common denominator and Chaucer’s dictum that story should have equal measures sentence (instruction) and solace (delight) has been skewed greatly in favor of the latter (with delight resembling nothing so much as distraction), we are compelled to look for works of import in non-traditional places. Such places, which are easy to exoticize and harder yet to anthologize, provide a kind of basin where the sources for generative energy can be renewed and reintegrated into the larger populace.

However, when we first began preparing this issue we were a little hesitant to use the term ethnopoetics, because the term seemed to have a subliminal connotation of being somehow more, or less, or other, than poetics itself. Our intention was to enlarge the scope of what an ethnopoetics could be by showing that cultures are permeable enough that to set off work as exclusively representative of one particular tribe is a near impossible task. In fact, to ferret out the meaning of ethnopoetics from its etymological roots, the prefix comes from the Ancient Greek, ethnos, or people, and poetry itself comes from the Greek, poeisis, or to create. Literally then, and in a way we hope this issue demonstrates, ethnopoetics is not separatist, not reflective of some narrow stratum of non-Western poetry, but rather is a maker, a joiner, of people.

As our alternate map navigational system demonstrates, in this installment of Drunken Boat we’ve brought together artists from every corner of the world. This issue is for all intents and purposes a double-issue due to the sheer volume of contributions, and so we encourage you to bookmark the page to return to it. Along with organizations like the Endangered Language Fund http://sapir.ling.yale.edu/~elf/, the Order of the Wandering Peace Poets and Ubuweb http://www.ubu.com, we are laboring to recover a collective spirit without sacrificing any nuances of individuality. However idealistic, we support the use of technology–in an effort parallel yet counter to the spread of capital along international channels–to reassert the primal and communal importance of making.

-Editors, Drunken Boat

Summer/Fall 2001

all works on Drunken Boat are the sole property of the artists and may not be reproduced without permission