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Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania

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Since its first publication in 1968, Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred has educated a generation of poets, artists, and readers to the multiple faces and possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Hailed by Robert Creeley as "both a deeply useful work book and an unequivocal delight," and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the hundred most recomm Since its first publication in 1968, Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred has educated a generation of poets, artists, and readers to the multiple faces and possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Hailed by Robert Creeley as "both a deeply useful work book and an unequivocal delight," and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the hundred most recommended American books of the last thirty-five years, it appears here in a revised and expanded version several years in the making. Rothenberg's revision follows the structure and themes of the original version while reworking the contents to include a European section and a large number of newly gathered and translated poems that reflect the work set in motion since 1968.


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Since its first publication in 1968, Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred has educated a generation of poets, artists, and readers to the multiple faces and possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Hailed by Robert Creeley as "both a deeply useful work book and an unequivocal delight," and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the hundred most recomm Since its first publication in 1968, Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred has educated a generation of poets, artists, and readers to the multiple faces and possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Hailed by Robert Creeley as "both a deeply useful work book and an unequivocal delight," and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the hundred most recommended American books of the last thirty-five years, it appears here in a revised and expanded version several years in the making. Rothenberg's revision follows the structure and themes of the original version while reworking the contents to include a European section and a large number of newly gathered and translated poems that reflect the work set in motion since 1968.

30 review for Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania

  1. 4 out of 5

    Miggy Angel

    This book archives the poetries of indigenous cultures, & is a reminder to the modern reader that poetry preceded literature, was born on the tongue, is a child of magic, cousin to wonder, the spouse of enchantment, wears a crow's claw around its neck, dances beneath a full moon, sings its song to the blood, has a communal role, is ready, willing, able & waiting to perform its ritual function, as soon as we awaken & utter the magic word . . . This book archives the poetries of indigenous cultures, & is a reminder to the modern reader that poetry preceded literature, was born on the tongue, is a child of magic, cousin to wonder, the spouse of enchantment, wears a crow's claw around its neck, dances beneath a full moon, sings its song to the blood, has a communal role, is ready, willing, able & waiting to perform its ritual function, as soon as we awaken & utter the magic word . . .

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tami

    Technicians of the Sacred was compiled by Rothenberg after attending two 1964 readings of "Primitive and Archaic Poetry" at The Poet's Hardware Theater and the Café Metro in New York city. Intrigued with the deep intuition of these works, Rothenberg decided to collect poetry, songs, and chants from around the world. Rothenberg's intention was not to focus on any one particular aspect of the sacred but merely to compile material that was available in English and the book's organization directly r Technicians of the Sacred was compiled by Rothenberg after attending two 1964 readings of "Primitive and Archaic Poetry" at The Poet's Hardware Theater and the Café Metro in New York city. Intrigued with the deep intuition of these works, Rothenberg decided to collect poetry, songs, and chants from around the world. Rothenberg's intention was not to focus on any one particular aspect of the sacred but merely to compile material that was available in English and the book's organization directly reflects this lack of apparent direction. Works are subdivided into nine sections: Origins & Namings; Visions & Spells; Death & Defeat; The Book of Events (I); The Book of Events (II); Africa; America; Asia; Europe & The Ancient Near East; and Oceana. Having material from the first five sections more or less focused around a specific theme while the remaining five sections reflect a geographic focus the work feeling a little thrown together and disorganized. This disorganization is further reflected within each section, where there is everything from modern poetry and prose through traditional songs and chants to ancient pictographs and artwork. Moreover works from individual cultural groups are not placed together but dispersed throughout each section. That the work only reflects English translations is also somewhat problematic. A Commentary section at the back of the book explains how Rothenberg came across each work offering explanations about the themes and topics within a particular piece. However, more often than not, these notes did not describe how the piece was translated. This lack of information would be particularly useful as Rothenberg states that the translations vary from literal to very free. This book does contain a number of interesting and useful pieces. Rothenberg has chosen a good mixture of poetry from a variety of different sources, not just the most accessible and he illustrates poems from the Paleolithic through to modern times. Moreover, this book contains some very interesting and intriguing transitional pieces reflecting Christian religious teaching modified into traditional forms. Thus, despite some very irritating and distracting organizational problems, this book contains some very valuable information. This information will likely be of use to those wishing to gain insight into aspects of the sacred in general or those wanting insight into the belief systems of particular cultures. Nonetheless, the apparent lack of organization of these pieces make this book an unlikely candidate as a classroom text.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric Marcy

    A supremely moving, essential, and valuable collection that expands our conceptions of the poetic as it resists efforts to tamp down and exclude poetic traditions and voices. This is a remarkable and powerful collection of spiritual, mystic, and avant-garde poetry from various indigenous voices (Rothenberg's elaboration on the usage of the term "primitive" in his introductions is superb...his commentaries in the back of the text are invaluable and insightful). I had the honor of hearing Rothenber A supremely moving, essential, and valuable collection that expands our conceptions of the poetic as it resists efforts to tamp down and exclude poetic traditions and voices. This is a remarkable and powerful collection of spiritual, mystic, and avant-garde poetry from various indigenous voices (Rothenberg's elaboration on the usage of the term "primitive" in his introductions is superb...his commentaries in the back of the text are invaluable and insightful). I had the honor of hearing Rothenberg read from this collection earlier this year. I was struggling through a particularly bleak part of my MA thesis writing process, battling depression and despairing thoughts and a generally unhealthy emotional and physical state. His reading of "Song of a Dead Man" from "Flower World" was beautiful, and touched me so much that I had to have a copy of the book. Afterwards he was signing copies, and I approached and mentioned my own graduate school plight, complaining that I was "knee-deep in literary theory." He sat silently for a few moments and nodded before saying "you need a different kind of theory." He took my book and wrote on the title page: "a different kind of theory." I have been thinking on his words, and this collection of poetry, ever since, and cannot recommend it enough.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Fasching-Gray

    There were a handful of poems in here that I really liked. Most of it just kind of went in and back out again. I guess the point is supposed to be the long commentary section at the end; you are supposed to flip back and forth between the poems and these comments, where Rothenberg compares the "primitive" poems with examples from "the west" or modernity or whatever. I didn't do much of that because I didn't like most of the comments. The few times I went and checked out reviews of the sources he There were a handful of poems in here that I really liked. Most of it just kind of went in and back out again. I guess the point is supposed to be the long commentary section at the end; you are supposed to flip back and forth between the poems and these comments, where Rothenberg compares the "primitive" poems with examples from "the west" or modernity or whatever. I didn't do much of that because I didn't like most of the comments. The few times I went and checked out reviews of the sources he was taking all these poems from, I got the feeling, hey, this stuff doesn't seem that ... I don't know what to call it... authentic I guess. I mean, if your source is a 19th century ethnography... then maybe the indigenous informer was kind of performing for the anthropologist or whoever recorded the poem. I mean, maybe they knew their audience. And then the anthropologist or whoever translates the thing, making it more 'western' or whatever you want to call it. So if part of the magic of the book is that these poems are coming from the deeep deep deep recesses of human nature... no. They're not. I would forgive all that, if the poems were better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Granger

    A wonderful collection of songs, chants, and poetry from primal and ancient cultures around the world. African, Native American, Pacific Islands, pre-Christian Europe… The renderings into English have a very fluid feel. Often it works well, avoiding too much form or forced rhyme; sometimes it may feel a little too modern. Overall, though, an excellent collection.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kasandra

    Fascinating selection of poems and made texts from ancient cultures. It's interesting to see the ways that the natural world (seasons, animals, the human body, death, birth, sex) has inspired poetry, as well as how repetition can be used to great effect. Some are frightening, some funny, some hard to understand from our modern point of view, but all in all, this was enlightening. I'd like to have given it 3.5 stars, but went lower simply because there were only a few pieces in here that really " Fascinating selection of poems and made texts from ancient cultures. It's interesting to see the ways that the natural world (seasons, animals, the human body, death, birth, sex) has inspired poetry, as well as how repetition can be used to great effect. Some are frightening, some funny, some hard to understand from our modern point of view, but all in all, this was enlightening. I'd like to have given it 3.5 stars, but went lower simply because there were only a few pieces in here that really "grabbed" me, though on the whole, the book is very interesting (probably more so to students of ancient histories and/or anthropology).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lanea

    This is an anthology of sacred poetry from around the world; much of it from tribes in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The translations are tight and electric, and the variety of material presented is impressive. I'd try to explain how fascinating the book is, or how moving, or how it makes my dirt-worshiping soul sing. But I can't. It has stoppered my mouth over and over as I've been reading it. This is an anthology of sacred poetry from around the world; much of it from tribes in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. The translations are tight and electric, and the variety of material presented is impressive. I'd try to explain how fascinating the book is, or how moving, or how it makes my dirt-worshiping soul sing. But I can't. It has stoppered my mouth over and over as I've been reading it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tara Greene

    This is an amazing resource book of shamanic stories, legends, tales.poetry and myths throughout the world. It is like a bible in our house. This is one of my favorite topics. Everyone interested in real shamanism should read it. I find the stories so inspiring, some are very heavy. Its a book I go to for resources over and over.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    I have to wonder about the translations -- the book is an anthology of anthropologists' work (not poets' work), all given Rothenberg's arty countercultural gloss -- but there's no fucking way you can argue with some of the poetry here. The Native American songs! The Gabon Pgymy poems! They'll live forever on my wall. I have to wonder about the translations -- the book is an anthology of anthropologists' work (not poets' work), all given Rothenberg's arty countercultural gloss -- but there's no fucking way you can argue with some of the poetry here. The Native American songs! The Gabon Pgymy poems! They'll live forever on my wall.

  10. 5 out of 5

    C.A.

    We in Philadelphia were recently fortunate enough to have Mr. Rothenberg do a reading and give a talk. THIS book comes up quite a bit! The video and audio are available here: http://writing.upenn.edu/~whfellow/ro... It made me happy that he still wanted to talk about this book, as it was very important to me when I first read it. We in Philadelphia were recently fortunate enough to have Mr. Rothenberg do a reading and give a talk. THIS book comes up quite a bit! The video and audio are available here: http://writing.upenn.edu/~whfellow/ro... It made me happy that he still wanted to talk about this book, as it was very important to me when I first read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Rothenberg's anthology of "poetries" from native peoples reads, at times, like an anthology of avant-garde experimental poetry, which is perhaps entirely his point. Anyone interested in global literature should check this out, and people interested in experimental writing need to read it, too. Rothenberg's anthology of "poetries" from native peoples reads, at times, like an anthology of avant-garde experimental poetry, which is perhaps entirely his point. Anyone interested in global literature should check this out, and people interested in experimental writing need to read it, too.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    I received this book from a young poet 20 years ago. 50 years after its publication it packs the same gut-punch as the first time I opened it. Essential reading for human beings and for those who aspire to be.

  13. 5 out of 5

    José Gouveia

    Something for everyone and a great book!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Derek Pyle

    Not so sure about this one... like all the nonsense of times past compiled.. it feels special, but I don't really feel it Not so sure about this one... like all the nonsense of times past compiled.. it feels special, but I don't really feel it

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steve Clason

    Technicians of the Sacred; a Range of Poetries From Africa, America, Asia & Oceania by jerome rothenberg (1968)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Fábio Martins

    Em boa verdade, este livro não se esgota. Não acaba. Assim como a minha rendição, devoção, e contínuo retorno.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    I landed here because of Nick Cave’s endorsement. I found this a welcome survey that expands our Eurocentric notions of poetry. And while some of it was powerful, more was to me just curiosity. I haven’t yet read the copious endnotes, which surely will shed light and enhance my appreciation, but I would have liked more context on the front end.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Though recommended by artists and writers I admire, this heavy tome was just too academic for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Tepperman

    "primitive" = replete with complexity "primitive" = replete with complexity

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Fell

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Corey

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Naka Pierce

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joey

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fish

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mariette

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judith Roney

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vis Dirk

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cate Calkins

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