Even though ethnopoetic has been going on for many years, the term itself had been popularized in 1968 by a journalist, Jerome Rothenberg, and an anthopologist, Dennis Tedlock, when they collaborated to edit the magazine, Alcheringa, from 1971 to 1980. Alcheringa was an avenue to promote ethnopoetics. Consequently, 2 international symposia on the movement were held in 1978 and 1985. Unfortunately, ethnopoetic did not stir a considerable interest to the literary scholars and social scientists. Currently, it is in hibernation and would surely disappear into its eternal death if no one would attempt to revive it.
I really am feeling bad for the imminent demise of ethnopoetic, because ethnic languages are just as beautiful, interesting, complex, and unique as others. Let us take dasang, a poetic hortatory discourse of the Higa-onon (hii-gah-OH-noon) of southern Philippines. German ethnomusicologist, and my good friend, Hans Brandeis, who extensively did his research in the Philippines, categorized it as a speech-song. (see Hans Brandies Homepage)
I lived and worked among the Higa-onon tribe in the 70s and constantly heard dasang (dah-SANG) in tribal meetings to investigate lawlessness and resolve issues on intra-village problems. It is delivered, full of imagery, to avoid direct insult, shame, and embarrassment to a suspected culprit. At the same time, it is a way to win a case, negotiate for a lighter penalty, to advise the culprit, and to showcase the oratorical skill and artistry of the chieftain.
Dasang , by itself, is a beauty and art when performed. The lifting of the orator's behind and the swaying of the arms when the orator says a unique interjection, "git" or"kit" ( which I equate it with the English term, hey), is so entertaining that the villagers will congregate to witness an hour or so, of otherwise, boring meetings.
Despite its beauty and uniqueness, dasang is disappearing. Since it is transmitted orally, the younger generation, who are more inclined to adapt the national or world's pop culture for social acceptance, most definitely, has to be motivated to learn, embrace (as they embrace hip-hop), and have the self-pride to preserve it. One way for scholars to help in motivating the young generation is to promote and elevate dasang as a poetry form, which is adapted and accepted internationally.
I, as a member of another Philippine tribe (the Bukidnons), is advocating the revival of ethnopoetic. I have introduced dasang, as a hey poem, in my book, KOILAWAN (koi-lah-ONE): Letters and Poems of a Jungle Dad-Mom, which has been marketed worlwide. My upcoming book, 150+1 Poems of THE EXPERIMENTAL DASANG (Hey Poem) and 45 OTHER POETRY FORMS: An Anthology, have a dozen more hey poem to promote it. I hope that more literary scholars and social scientists will join the bandwagon in promoting, preserving, and reviving the movement of ethnopoetics.
(Note: A sample of Dasang or hey poem will be posted here sometime this weekend.)