To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shaking the Pumpkin (2): Some Event Pieces


After having a dream, let someone else guess what it was. Then have everybody act it out together.

Have participants run around the center of a village, acting out their dreams & demanding that others guess & satisfy them.


Start by giving away different colored glass bowls.

Have everyone give everyone else a glass bowl.

Give away handkerchiefs and soap and things like that.

Give away a sack of clams and a roll of toilet paper.

Give away teddybear candies, apples, suckers and oranges.

Give away pigs and geese and chickens, or pretend to do so.

Pretend to be different things.

Have the women pretend to be crows, have the men pretend to be something else.

Talk chinese or something.

Make a narrow place at the entrance of a house and put a line at the end of it that you have to stoop under to get in.

Hang the line with all sorts of pots and pans to make a big noise.

Give away frying pans while saying things like “Here is this frying pan worth $100 and this one worth $200.”

Give everyone a new name.

Give a name to a grandchild or think of something and go and get everything.


1. A shaman has a dream & names a child for what he dreams in it. Among such names are Circling Light, Rushing Light Beams, Daylight Comes, Wind Rainbow, Wind Leaves, Rainbow Shaman, Feather Leaves, A-Rainbow-as-a-Bow, Shining Beetle, Singing Dawn, Hawk-Flying-over-Water-Holes, Flowers Trembling, Chief-of-Jackrabbits, Water-Drops-on-Leaves, Short Wings, Leaf Blossoms, Foamy Water.

2. A person receives a name describing something odd about him, always on the bad side. Such names include: Grasshopper-Ate-His-Arrow, Gambler, Ass-Side-to-the-Fire, Pants-Fall-Down, Blisters, Fish-Smell-Mouth, Bed Wetter, Rat Ear, Yellow Legs.

3. A person receives a name describing something odd & sexual about the namer. Here the namer is a woman or a transvestite, who makes the name public by shouting it after the man named when others are present. The man invariably accepts it & is regularly called by it, even by his wife & family. Such names include: Down-Dangling-Pussy-Hairs, Big Cunt, Long Asshole.

4. A group of namers gathers around a dead enemy & shouts abusive names at the body. These names are then given to the shouters. They include: Long Bones, Full-of-Dirt, Back-of-a-Wildcat, Yellow Face, & Gold Breasts, the latter spoken of a girl.

5. A person buys a name or trades names with another person. For example, Devil-Old-Man exchanges names with Contrary, or Looking-for-Girls-at-a-Dance changes with Big Crazy, but has to give him four pints of whiskey in addition because of the desirability of the name.


1. Act like a crazy dog. Wear sashes & other fine clothes, carry a rattle, & dance along the roads singing crazy dog songs after everybody else has gone to bed.

2. Talk crosswise: say the opposite of what you mean & make others say the opposite of what they mean in return.

3. Fight like a fool by rushing up to an enemy & offering to be killed. Dig a hole near an enemy, & when the enemy surrounds it, leap out at them & drive them back.

4. Paint yourself white, mount a white horse, cover its eyes & make it jump down a steep & rocky bank, until both of you are crushed.


Go to a lonely place & rub a stone in a circle on a rock for hours & days on end.


Let the person who wants a vision hang himself by the neck. When his face turns purple, take him down & have him describe what he’s seen.


Go to a mountaintop & cry for a vision.


Here, as earlier in Technicians of the Sacred, the editor has taken a series of rituals & other programmed activities & has, as far as possible, suppressed all reference to accompanying mythic or "symbolic" explanations. This has led to two important results: (1) the form of the activities is, for the first time, given the prominence it deserves; & (2) the resulting works bear a close resemblance to those mythless activities of our own time called events, happenings, de-coll/age, kinetic theater, etc. It may be further noted that most of these "events" – like the (modern) intermedia art they resemble – are parts of total situations involving poetry, music, dance, painting, myth, dream, etc., as are many of the songs & visions presented elsewhere in this anthology. But a crucial point of tribal poetry- &-art is precisely that it calls for total performance & participation: a maximization of human activities to allow the world to remake itself at that level of intensity ( = reality at white heat) that [anthropologist Paul] Radin spoke of.

[Originally printed as part of a larger “Book of Events” in Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. The book, first published by Doubleday in 1972 & last by University of New Mexico Press in 1986 & 1992, has now been out of print for several years. While I’ve been engaged with other projects, big & small, I haven’t been able to work toward getting it back in print. But that may now be changing. – J.R.]


Art Durkee said...

I appreciate seeing these again. I can't say strongly enough how influential and important to me that "Shaking the Pumpkin" was, when I was reading it while in music school, in the late 70s. It strongly influenced some of the work I was doing with recorded text-sound poetry in the Electronic Music Studio at UM in Ann Arbor, as well as on WCBN-FM Ann Arbor at the same time. Safe to say I've worn through two copies since then.

It continues to be important, I think, for any poet who is interested in something more rooted than LangPo, and more grounded in all of life than the usual mainstream post-Confessional lyric. I still go back to it, and it still resonates.

Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Just thinking of Jerry this afternoon. I posted the following to the Poetry Archive at emule this morning:

A Poem on the Edge of Jerry Rothenberg

A poem
On the edge of Jerry Rothenberg

His conversation
Always inclusive
His poetics
Always open
To something
Jackson MacLow…
Took Pound’s Cantos apart
Put the pieces of words back together
In the hall
Like a John Cage
A. R. Ammons
Made poetry
A walk in the words
Where the spring comes up
Current beneath the feet
Surprise to the woods themselves

He said something about
Years ago
Made him part of our
Meaning his and my
Universes shared
Like a cup of coffee
Among friends
In the living room
Among friends

While we
Meaning she and I and our guests
And our children read his poetry
In five voices
In our living room
At her sculpture exhibit
Everybody came
From our lives
Was my word
His method not method
A path leading away
From the beaten path
Let me be open
To poetry open to life to us
Meaning you and me and him and her and…