Archive | January, 2012

The Rumors Are True

31 Jan


Life can be so surreal sometimes.  One day you can be reading a book — and not long after that you can be co-authoring a book with the very same author whose book you once read.

A few years back, I was reading Paul Maher, Jr.’s, Jack Kerouac’s American Journey on the 6 train in New York.  Now, as you can read on his website, we’re co-authoring a revised and expanded edition called Burning Furiously Beautiful.

I’m so excited to be working with Paul.  Here’s a little bit of his bio from his website:

Paul Maher, Jr., is a seasoned leader of Kerouac scholarship; what’s more, many of Kerouac’s family, friends, and contemporaries (including Joyce Johnson and David Amram) endorse the fresh, unbiased perspective he uses to retell the life and work of this great American writer.

Maher’s Kerouac: The Definitive Biography (Taylor Trade Publishing, June 2004), is the first biography to be based entirely on primary sources. It is the most thoroughly researched and comprehensive life of Kerouac to date. It’s been selected by both Biography magazine and Vanity Fair for their “Hot Lists” and has received endorsements from the Kerouac Estate, composer David Amram (author of “Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac”),  Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Historian and journalist Douglas Brinkley (Rosa Parks; The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey beyond the White House; and American Heritage”s History of the United States) has publicly praised the groundbreaking scholarship conducted by Maher.

Burning Furiously Beautiful will be published this year.  Stay tuned for more information!


Clip: You Can’t Put a Language in a Zoo

30 Jan

One of the first languages spoken in Brooklyn is already extinct. Yours could be next.

Conservation efforts in Brooklyn are saving the land humans explore and the landmarks we create, while our very system of consciousness is in jeopardy.

Read the rest of my article “You Can’t Put a Language in a Zoo” in The Brooklyn Rail.

Writing Wednesday: Symbolism Is Alright in “Fiction”

25 Jan

I wasn’t a fan girl when I was a teen.  I never really had the audacity to write a letter to an author or musician or to stand in line to ask for their autographs.  These were important people with busy lives.  I didn’t want to interrupt their work with my silly, affectionate musings.  I had too much respect for them—and too much pride.  I would’ve been crushed if they’d turned me down.

That wasn’t the case with sixteen-year-old Bruce McAllister.  In 1963, he sent off a survey to the most famous authors of the day, including my personal favorites, Jack Kerouac and Saul Bellow.  And they wrote him back.

The Paris Review published these letters, in which the authors answer McAllister’s survey about symbolism.

Jack Kerouac’s response:

Symbolism is alright in “Fiction” but I tell true life stories simply about what happened to people I knew.

I find his use of the word “simply” so fascinating.  The response could be matter-of-fact (I’m just telling a story and not thinking about writerly devices) or it could be methodology (I tell stories in a simple manner and don’t put symbols in it).

A few months ago, someone read a portion of the memoir I’m writing and said they saw symbols pertaining to two of the people in the story.  They suggested I push those symbols further.  It was an interesting conversation because I was simply writing true life events, and the symbol they saw for one of the people just happened to be something central to who they are.  It’s something I associated with the person long before they became a “character” with “symbols,” similar to the ideas I wrote about in my Burnside Writers Collective essay “Coffee and Portraiture and the Associations We Make.”  The dangerous part, though, in assigning symbols in real life stories is that life and people are complex, not easily contained, shifting.  So when my reader pointed out the obvious “symbol” of one “character,” they immediately leapt to the conclusion that the other character was in contrast to that person and deserving of an opposite symbol.  Maybe there’s some validity to that idea in fiction, but in real life people don’t exist simply to define, parallel, or contrast other people.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

On the Road with Bob Holman

24 Jan

As promised, here’s some more on the endangered languages documentary, called On the Road with Bob Holman:

What happens when a downtown New York poet of the hip hop and slam persuasion discovers that the roots of spoken word go back thousands of years and span the globe? If he’s Bob Holman, he goes On the Road to track them down! He trades stories, fun, recipes, insights, jokes, songs, and poems. Along the way, he gets passionately immersed in the Endangered Language crisis — over half the world’s 6500 languages will disappear before the end of this century. Holman guides us to the bottom-line question of survival of these systems of consciousness with respect, joy, and dedication to diversity. He throws himself into the life – shares the meals, participates in the ceremonies, dances and parties. His enthusiasm infects the series’ fast-paced style – Hip, but not hipper than thou. Serious fun! Ok everybody, get ready — let’s take the road not taken, with Bob Holman.

BOB HOLMAN is the founder of The Endangered Languages Poetry Project and the host of this documentary series.  He has been called a member of the “Poetry Pantheon” by the New York Times Magazine, and “Ringmaster of the Spoken Word” by New York Daily News and is the founder of the Bowery Poetry Club. He won three Emmys for WNYC-TV’s Poetry Spots, received a Bessie Performance Award, and an International Public Television Awards for the PBS series The United States of Poetry. He teaches at NYU and Columbia, including “Poets Census,” where students locate poets from non-English speaking communities, and “Translating Endangered Languages.” He is currently working on “Listen UP! Endangered languages with Bob Holman,” a PBS documentary with Holman as host and David Grubin (The Buddha, The Brain, Bill Moyers) as Producer. In 2010, with linguists Daniel Kaufman and Juliette Blevins, he founded the Endangered Language Alliance in New York.

Producers: Ram Devineni & Beatriz Seigner. Avi Dabach (Israel)
Editor: Ram Devineni
Camera: Beatriz Seigner, Lamont B. Steptoe & Avi Dabach
Host: Bob Holman
Produced by Rattapallax in association with Bowery Arts and Science
Executive Producer: Steven Lawrence
Re-recording Mixer: Tom Paul
Audio Post Production: Gigantic Post
Sound Editor: Michael Feuser
Assistant Sound Editor: Perry Levy
Africa Episodes Music: Papa & Karamo Susso
Title Sequence: Cathy Cook
Title Music: Peter Gordon
Additional Editing: Renta Maria
Color Grading: David Barkan
Mahmoud Darwish’s poem translated by Samuel J. Liebhaber
Nepal episode was produced in association with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. The video and the tour was made possible by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Special thanks to Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Alison Heller, Avi Dabach, Ariane Lopez-Huici, Alexander Batkin, Jackie Sheeler, Alain Kirili, David Wojciechowski, Papa Susso Compound, Toumani Diabati, Sandra Paugam, Sekou Dolo, MC Paul Barman, Breyten Breytenbach, Dagui Dolo, Laura Corsiglia, Banning Eyre, Oumou Sangare, Jayne Cortez, Sana Sibily, Balike Sissoko Compund, Natasa Durovicova, Christopher Merrill, American Embassy in Kathmandu, Kelly Bedeian, David Broza, Itay Meirson, Nadav, Hana Amichai, Claire Montgomery & Bill Goldston.

Launch Party and LINK TV Support Drive, Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery (Between Houston and Bleecker), New York City. February 29, 2012 at 7pm. Featuring Bob Holman and Papa Susso. Donate to LINK TV and get a DVD of the series.

Text via Rattapallax.

BWC Headed to FFW FTW (That’s an Inside Joke)

23 Jan

Burnside Writers Collective is headed back to the Festival of Faith and Writing!

Our lovely associate editor Kim Gottschild posted all about it on Burnside, highlighting why you should go:

  • Attend a writing workshop led by our very own Arts Editor, Stephanie Nikolopoulos!
  • Hear our very own Susan Isaacs, author of Angry Conversations with God, speak!
  • Meet our Deputy Editor, John Pattison, who will be there hosting a breakout session on book reviewing with ERB Editor-in-Chief, Chris Smith!
  • Hear plenary speaker, author Jonathan Safran Foer and watch BWC Editor-in-Chief Jordan Green become his best friend!  JK.
  • Meet other fantastic Burnsiders like Social Justice Editor Penny Carothers, Diane Nienhuis, Associate Editor Sara Sterley, Betsy Zabel, and me!
  • Pick up some swag, like a bookmark or something!

So sweet of her to mention me by name. Check back on this blog soon for more information on my workshop.

I truly love working with Burnside and getting to meet all the people I work with but don’t usually get to see.  I have the privilege of working with some of the most talented and funny and sincere people.  I had such a blast with them last time.

It’s also really fun meeting readers.  Hope you’ll consider joining us!  Drop me a line in the comments if you plan on being there and make sure to stop by our table to say hi!

As if meeting the Burnside staff isn’t enough, Ruben Martinez, Gary Schmidt, Marilynne Robinson, Kathryn Erskine, Shane Claiborne, and many more award-winning, high-profile authors will be there.

The First TV Series to Focus on Endangered Languages

18 Jan

So excited to finally share with you the press release for the documentary on endangered languages I’ve been involved with:

The First TV Series to Focus on Endangered Languages

New York City: “Of the 6500 languages spoken in the world today, only half will make it to the next century,” says poet Bob Holman, one of the founders of the Endangered Language Alliance and host of a new travel series spotlighting the cultures of endangered languages, premiering February 1, 2012, on LINK TV.  “While endangered plants and animals are protected by law, who is looking out for the cultures and ways of life held in these words?  That is the heart and mission of this series.”  Encounter the distinct cultures and peoples of West Africa, Asia and the Middle East in the three-part documentary On the Road with Bob Holman and discover ancient languages on the brink of extinction.  Each of the half-hour shows, produced by Rattapallax in association with Bowery Arts and Science, will air on Link TV, which is available on local cable channels, DVD, online, and on DirectTV channel 375 and Dish Network channel 9410.

“The way Anthony Bourdain goes after the edible delights of far-flung cultures,” comments Bob Holman, “that is the way I reveal the extraordinary richness of languages that encircles the globe—the personalities who embody ways of life so different from, yet achingly familiar to, our own.”  Holman, who won three Emmys producing poetry shorts for WNYC-TV and founded the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, discovers that the roots of spoken word go back thousands of years and span the globe.  He goes On the Road to track them down!  He throws himself into the life—sharing meals and participating in ceremonies, dances, and parties, as he trades stories, fun, recipes, insights, jokes, songs, and poems.  Along the way, he gets passionately immersed in the Endangered Language crisis and guides us to the bottom-line question of survival of these systems of consciousness with respect, joy, and dedication to diversity. In 2010, with linguists Daniel Kaufman and Juliette Blevins, he founded the Endangered Language Alliance in New York.

In the first two episodes, Holman visits West Africa to focus on the griots, keepers of the West African oral tradition and tribal genealogy through poetic songs. He travels up the Niger River and continues on to Timbuktu, where Beat poet Ted Joans lived in the 1960s.  He discovers the roots of hip-hop, rap, and blues that originated in Africa and witnesses a kora–guitar jam session between griot Karamo Susso and Ali Farka Toure’s son, Vieux.  Holman then visits the Timbuktu Library, which houses volumes from the 16th century when the city was the center of African learning.  We learn how to ride a camel before venturing into the Sahara, where we spend an afternoon listening to the hypnotic music of the Tuaregs, the nomadic “blue people,” so named because their indigo-dyed clothing rubs off on their skin.  Then it’s on to Dogon country, where we witness a breathtaking mask ceremony.  These two episodes air February 1 and February 8, 2012. The third episode focuses on the resurrection of Hebrew in Israel and the decline of Yiddish, Ladino, and other tongues.  When poet Ronny Someck, a “true Israeli poet from Iraq,” gives Bob a tour of Jaffa and suggests he visit the West Bank to hear Arabic, Holman takes the grueling journey through the endless checkpoints and the Separation Wall to reach Ramallah. Once across the Wall, he meets with some young Palestinian hip-hop poets who explain the complexities of living near the Separation Wall that dominates the landscape.  The experience leaves Holman pondering how a national language creates barriers between the many different voices and languages of the region and affects political thinking. This episode airs February 15, 2012.

Travel the road not taken, with Bob Holman, in On the Road with Bob Holman, beginning February 1, 2012, on LINK TV.

More to come soon!

Happy Birthday, Betty White!

17 Jan

Did you know Golden Girl Betty White is a Greek American?  (Her mother’s maiden name was Cachikis.)  Did you know she was the first woman to win an Emmy for game show hosting?  Did you know she’s the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live?  She’s more than just a comedienne, she’s someone who pushes the boundaries, working tirelessly.

Betty White’s been having a bit of a heyday recently with hysterical cameos and starring roles.  But I love what Alex Pattakos writes about her in his Huffington Post article “Betty White: Proving It’s Never to Late to Live.”  Betty White turns ninety today.  Last year, Pattakos wrote:

I’ve found that people who take the time to find meaning are happier — they’re more joyful, more passionate and more fulfilled. They are more resilient to the stresses of life. And, in effect, they become the “light,” much like Betty White, for others. And they help to demonstrate and remind us that until we take our very last breath, it’s never too late to pursue our dreams and discover meaning in our lives.

No matter who you are, no matter your age, no matter your ethnicity, no matter your gender, you can still pursue your dreams!

The Books They Gave Me

16 Jan

I stumbled upon the tumblr site The Books They Gave Me via Literary Kicks and was immediately hooked.  I get a lot of books as gifts.  Sometimes it’s sweet.  But sometimes it can get annoying.  It’s kind of an obvious go-to gift for a writer/editor/reader, and I end up with stacks of strange books that leave me wondering what people must think of me for buying me such-and-such book.  That thought-behind-the-gift is why The Books They Gave Me is so brilliant.

I read through the posts and came across a book I edited before coming across this entry for Into the Wild.  I thought it was about me.  The indie rock and post-punk mix tutorial.  The bug-eyed sunglasses.  But I don’t have curly hair, and I wasn’t the one who gave the book.  I was the one who received the book.  I was going to visit my family in Greece, and I had a long plane ride, so a boy gave me this book to pass the time.  He inscribed the title page with a note and a heart.  When my friends who took me to the airport opened it up, they teased me about it.  I’d only gone out with the boy a few times, and I was secretive about my crushes.

He gave me many books, and when we broke up I didn’t know what to do with all the books with handwritten notes on the title pages.  If I kept them on my bookshelf, they would be a constant reminder that the last page of every love story ends with the words “the end.”  I wondered if I gave the books away to libraries or second-hand stores if someone might read the black ink inscriptions and find them the very reason to purchase the book, and if perhaps the new owner would make up his own story of us.  It seems romantic to find a book that isn’t just a book but a love letter.  In the end, I don’t know what I did with the books.  I’m certain I gave away some, and it’s possible I ripped the handwritten notes out of others before donating them.  Others might still be buried somewhere in my closet between other books I’ve received from people.

I hope one day I’ll find a book inscribed from one person to another and give them a second chance at love through the story I make up with my imagination.

You and Me and Blogging in 2011

11 Jan

That’s you and me on top of the ferris wheel!

I’m so thankful for all the readers who have dropped by my blog and all who read regularly.  It’s been fun sharing stories with you as well as hearing yours on your own blogs.  I always love discovering new blogs from you.  What incredible writers and thinkers you all are!

A special thanks to all of you who have subscribed, left comments for me, and mentioned my blog to your friends!  In case you didn’t know, you can subscribe to my blog for FREE! by typing your email address where it says Email Subscription on the right hand side of this page.

Blogger sent me a sweet happy New Year!  They mentioned a curious fact about the amount of times this blog has been reviewed:

If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Pretty cool!  The Sydney Opera House is an amazing work of architecture.  I hope to make it out to Australia sometime soon!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for only one year here.  Because of your support and encouragement, I actually exceeded my 2011 blogging resolutions.  They were:

1.  Blog about writing at least once  a month.

2.  Blog about Greek identity, Greek culture, or Greece at least once a month.

3.  Update blog whenever I publish a new article elsewhere.

Somehow, between working full time, going to grad school full time, freelancing, and occasionally showering, I usually managed to post a blog entry every week instead of just twice a week.  Some weeks I even had multiple posts!  Because of the hectic schedule I’ll be keeping in 2012 (hello, thesis!), I won’t be changing my blogging resolutions much.  I’ll still aim to bring you as much free quality content as possible.  If my posting slows down at all, rest assured I’m working on something bigger and better that I can’t wait to share with you!  Seriously, I’ve got some really exciting projects coming up.  As dedicated readers, you’ll be among the first to know so stay tuned!!

What about you?  Any blogging resolutions for 2012?  Writing resolutions in general?  Anyone traveling to Sydney??

Lavender, Parsley, Peppermint, and Sage

10 Jan

I feel so honored that natural health writer Shea Zukowski thanked me for my editing work in the acknowledgments in her book Lavender, Parsley, Peppermint, and Sage, published by Sterling Publishing!  It’s really such a lovely book, filled with natural remedies and organic cleaners that sound good enough to eat.  More than just useful tips and recipes, the book is brimming with fascinating trivia on herbs and ancient cultures.

Here’s the description from the back of the book:

Herbs offer powerful, natural, earth-friendly solutions for all sorts of home, garden, and personal needs. This invaluable guide gathers hundreds of simple recipes for herb-based formulas that are safe and effective for use in every home. Herbs have been used for practical purposes for thousands of years—natural and proven, they are a welcome alternative to man-made, often toxic chemicals.

Plus, they are easy and enjoyable to work with: herbs can be crushed, boiled, layered, and/or mixed with oil or water or other handy household ingredients to make hundreds of useful home products, for everything from cleaning to personal care.

Organized by use, this convenient volume presents a wealth of helpful herbal solutions. For each entry, readers will find an introduction describing the best uses for this product, a full ingredient list, step-bystep instructions for preparing the formula, information on storage, and advice on how to use it.

A wonderful gift book and useful reference combined, Lavender, Parsley, Peppermint, and Sage is an indispensable guide for a greener, healthier lifestyle.

What that doesn’t tell you is that it has instructions how how to make French Ironing Water, Just-In-Thyme Disinfectant Cleanser, and Rosemary Muscle Rub.  Don’t those sound so luxurious?!

Congrats to Shea Zukowski on the print edition and ebook edition.  It was such a pleasure to work on this book!  It’s inspired me to whip up my own all-natural products.