It’s always exciting to discover a new poem by an old poet, a piece of previously unknown writing by a writer whose other work we know and admire. Such a discovery on a personal scale is one of the great pleasures of a reader’s life—we all know the feeling of finding a new writer, following the first taste by reading everything we can get our hands on by that author, then realizing we’ve read every word published in that person’s name and resigning ourselves to re-reading... and finally a new book is published, or if the author is no longer living and writing, a previously unpublished piece of writing is discovered in the author’s papers—joy! The joy spreads even wider when the discovery is a new poem that was not known to anyone—like the Philip Larkin poem discovered in a friend’s attic in 2004 or the Sappho poem found by scholars working on papyrus recovered from the wrappings of Egyptian mummies in 2005.
Now archaeologists working in Mexico have discovered what may be the earliest known poem in the New World, written on a stone block unearthed during a road-building project in an unknown language that may be the work of a culture not previously thought to be literate, the Olmec civilization. Wow!
from The Telegraph (UK):
“Rubble reveals 3,000-year-old poetry,” by Roger Highfield
“A block of stone inscribed with patterned images suggestive of rhyming couplets is hailed today as the oldest known example of writing in the New World. The stone was found in a pile of debris used for road building in Veracruz, Mexico, near the former capital of the Olmec civilisation. It bears inscriptions that date back some three millennia.... Several paired sequences of signs have led researchers to believe the text contains poetic couplets, which would be the earliest known examples of this form of expression seen so far in Mesoamerica.”