Ethnopoetics is the approach to oral poetry that looks at "poetry on its own terms." It looks at the specific structure and code of each poem and of each tradition. The three Rs of the Ethnopoetic approach are Reading, Representing, and Reperforming. The originators of this method include Dennis Tedlock and Dell Hymes. (Foley 2002)

"Ethnopoetics aims at rebuilding the living organism of oral poetry instead of rummaging through its calcified bones." How to Read an Oral Poem

Three RsEdit


To hear and understand the performance aspects of the oral poetry. Because of its orality, the "reading" is more of an "understanding" it on it's own terms. This part includes the facts of the performance that usually get lost when transcribed onto paper such as voice quality, volume control, intonation, and silence.


Rather than looking at or trying to study an oral poem or a specific tradition through the lens of another form of poetry, generally European print poetry, the Ethnopoetic approach encourages that we look at each poem in the terms of the specific tradition of which it is a part. This also includes the importance of collecting and transcribing not only the text of a performance, but also the nonverbal aspects. The poem should be represented not just with words, but with a key as to how it was originally performed:

"I sat on the bench" would typically mean that "sat" was either louder or more forceful than the rest, while the pitch of "en" of "bench" was higher.


The Reading and Representing steps are crucial for Reperforming to occur. Without proper attention to the nonverbal details of the original performance and without including them in a transcription for yourself or another person, the reader is unable to understand the full effect or meaning of the poem.

External LinksEdit

  Twbtg2's Project on Native American Trickster Stories edit

Navigation: Twbtg2 - Abstract - Table of Contents - All Articles - Suggested Routes - Sources
Elements: Trickster story type - Coyote - List and maps of Native American tribes
Stories: The Coyote & The Prairie Dog - Coyote and Junco - Coyote and Turtle Story - Coyote Races Buffalo - Coyote Steals a Drink - Don't Be Too Curious - Rabbit's Short Tail
Approaches: Ethnopoetics - Performance Theory - Immanent Art - All
Sources: American Indian Trickster Tales - Calvin Grinnell Interview - A Coyote Reader - Coyote Stories - Finding the Center - How to Read an Oral Poem - Inconstant Companions - Tales of the North American Indians - The Telling of the World - All

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