Four Scenarios

As an opening gambit, this section of How to Read an Oral Poem features four oral poets: Grags-pa seng-ge, a Tibetan paper-singer; a North American slam poet (the photo is of Aya DeLeon at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe); Bongani Sithole, a South African praise-poet; and Homer, an ancient Greek epic bard. More remarkable in their diversity than for any single shared characteristic, these examples give some small sense of the enormous variety of oral poetry from all different parts of the world and from ancient times to the present day. You can view the poets by clicking on the links below; the page numbers for the corresponding descriptions in the book are given in parentheses.

1. A Tibetan Paper Singer (See HROP, pp. 1-3.)

Grag-pa seng-ge, a Tibetan paper-singer, "reading" an oral poem.
Photograph by Yang Engong.

2. A North American Slam Poet (See HROP, pp. 3-5.)

Aya DeLeon slams at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
Photograph by by J. M. Foley.

3. A South African Praise Poet (See HROP, pp. 5-7.)

Bongani Sithole, a South African imbongi.
Photograph by Russell Kaschula.

4. An Ancient Greek Bard (See HROP, pp. 8-10.)

An ancient Greek aoidos sings oral poetry to the accompaniment of a kithara. From a red-figure amphora by the Berlin Painter.
The Metropoloitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1956. (50.171.38)