Publication details [#11463]

Wood, Brent. 2003. Robert Hunter's oral poetry: Mind, metaphor, and community. Poetics Today 24 (1) : 35–63. 29 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


This essay takes an oral poetics approach to the analysis of the song lyrics of Robert Hunter as performed by the Grateful Dead from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. Hunter's work is treated as an exemplary case for the study of the use of oral poetry within the contemporary electronic communication milieu. The reception of the poetry by the specific listening audience is considered, with special attention given to the functioning of metaphor in relation to states of mind brought about by the use of psychedelics, such as LSD. The poetry itself is situated as both contribution to and commentary on American folk poetry and its accompanying mythology. Reference points include Ruth Finnegan on oral poetics, George Lakoff on the contemporary theory of metaphor, and Aldous Huxley on the nature of altered states of consciousness. (Brent Wood)