Tag Archives: endangered languages

Photos from Reading at Sidewalk Cafe

15 Aug

I had so much fun reading at poet RA Araya’s birthday bash at the Sidewalk Cafe this past Sunday!! RA was such a great host and is so encouraging.  There were so many amazingly talented poets and musicians there.  I felt so honored to get to read with them.

I started off reading the beginning of Homer’s The Odyssey in Ancient Greek (bringing awareness to Greece’s cultural heritage as well as the plight of endangered languages) and then read a section from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book that I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., while the flashbackpuppy band improvised a jazzy tune.

Here are some pictures RA took.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s me sitting next to poet Juan Valenzuela.  In the foreground is poet Miguel Algarin, who co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and knew Jack Kerouac back in the day.

Special thanks to my friends, who came out to support me.

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God Has a Sense of Humor — Either That or Everything I Think I Know about Myself Is Wrong

10 Aug

 

My mother always told me God has a sense of humor.  I believe her.

Growing up, I was terribly shy.  Perhaps because I felt so uncomfortable speaking, I turned to writing.  There, in the safety of my Hello Kitty journal, I could express my innermost fears, my hurts, and also my dreams and loves and cherished memories.

As I grew up, I continued to write.  I wrote for my high school newspaper and became copywriter for my high school yearbook, and when I went off to college I submitted poetry to my college’s paper.  While still an undergrad, I worked my way up from staff writer to editor in chief of a local indie newspaper and also began interviewing musicians for national magazines.  After college, I entered the world of book publishing, where to this day I blissfully sit in silence, getting paid to read for a living.  It’s the perfect job for an introvert.

Although I love editing and working with other authors and editors and designers, I always dreamed of writing my own book, so I’ve continued to work on my own writing.  My weekends are spent at the library or in the bookstore, crafting sentences.  I try to pour my heart out with the same abandon as I did when I was writing in the privacy of my little journal with the lock on it when I was a child, except now I’m working toward having people actually read my work.  I revise, I get feedback, I pitch, I query.  –And I get silence.  It feels like I rarely hear back from acquiring editors.  Writing is what I’m supposed to be good at.  It’s what I’ve always been told I’m good at.  And yet I have a hard time placing my writing in publications.

Instead, the skill I grew up thinking was my weakest is the one being called into action.  I don’t go out trying to book readings, but time and time again, I’m called upon to give readings and to teach.  It’s public speaking in all its knee-shaking glory.

I’m immensely thankful for these opportunities, and they’ve all gone pleasantly well, but I have to laugh that I seem to get more speaking engagements than publishing credits.

* * *

As I was writing this very post a few days ago, I got a message from poet and musician RA Araya asking me to read a poem in Greek at Sunday’s reading.  Talk about irony!  The memoir I’ve been writing deals with my conflicted Greek identity and the fact that I don’t speak Greek.  Now, as I was writing about laughing over the fact that I’m having to overcome my introverted tendencies to give readings, I’m asked to read in the very language I don’t speak.

But you know what?  I said yes.

Maybe I’ll crash and burn and make a fool of myself, but at least I’ll have tried.  Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Life is too short to be scared of anything.  Living means growing, and the best way to grow it to try new things.  Challenging yourself can lead to rewards.  I believe people surprise themselves and rise to occasions.  I’ve also learned that people want you to succeed and that literary crowds tends to be rather supportive.

I’m actually excited about this opportunity.  It’s a great way to promote the beauty of the Greek language and culture during Greece’s economic crisis, and I’m thinking I may read something in an archaic Greek dialect (I studied Classical Greek at Pomona College), a dead language, to further bring awareness to endangered languages.

If you’re in New York, stop by.  I can’t promise perfection, but we will have fun!!  Here’s the info:::

August 12, 2012.  5:00-9:00pm.  The Sidewalk Cafe (94 Avenue A).  New York, NY.  Stephanie will be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, as part of RA’s Music Poetry Jam Celebration.  flashbackpuppy, Patricia Spears Jones, Sparrow, Puma Perl, Kate Levin, Sarah Sarai, Foamola, Virdell Williams, and Steve will also be taking the stage.  Free, but there’s a one-drink minimum.

Now… what to wear?

 

Also!  Save the date::: September 3 I’m giving a reading that I’m beyond excited about.  Details to come soon.

 

Do you ever find that the very skill you least like using or think is your weakest is the one you need to rely on the most?  What do you think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to push yourself to do the things that scare you?

On the Road with Bob Holman Airing Again This May

14 May

(photo via Bob Holman)

Just wanted to let you know that On the Road with Bob Holman is airing again!

The documentary series will be airing on LinkTV, found on local cable channels, online, and on DirectTV channel 375 and Dish Network channel 9410.

Monday, May 14th at 09:30 am
Saturday, May 19th at 10:00 pm
Monday, May 21st at 10:30 am
Tuesday, May 22nd at 07:00 pm

Here’s the teaser:::

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.

It is produced by Rattapallax in association with the Bowery Arts and Science.

I wrote the curriculum for it.  You can also read my interview with Bob Holman at BOMB and my article “You Can’t Put a Language in a Zoo” at Brooklyn Rail.

Clip: On the Road with Bob Holman

25 Apr

My Q&A with poet Bob Holman is up on BOMBlog!!  We chat about wayward camels, the resurrection of the Hebrew language, the Greek word “poesis,” the UN, griots, and endangered languages.

 

Memoir Outtake: Albanian Greeks at the Greek Consulate

16 Apr

All the endangered language research I’ve been doing seeped its way into the rough draft of my memoir.  Below is a scene in which I encounter two darker-skinned boys at the Greek Consulate in New York City.  From the looks of them, I gather that they must be Albanians.  As I’m dealing with my own language issues at the Consulate, I begin to think about theirs.  This section turned out to be too Wikipedia-ish in comparison to the lighter, humorous tone of that chapter in my memoir, so I was advised to take it out.  Still, I found the subject matter fascinating, and so I’m posting it here as an outtake.

Two dark-skinned boys in their teens or twenties—it was hard to tell—filled out paperwork at the long table.  They wore motorcycle-style jackets that made them look tough but in more of a poor than badass look.  I wondered if they were perhaps Albanian refugees.  Cham Albanians began migrating to Greece during the Middle Ages.  They speak the Cham Albanian language, a type of Tosk Albanian that was the language of the most well-known bejtexhinj, Muhamet Kyçyku, first poet of the Albanian National Renaissance.  Bejtexhinj is the oftentimes religious poetry written in Albanian with Arabic alphabet and Persian, Turkish, and Arabic words, that began in the eighteenth-century to rebel against the influence of the Ottoman Empire.  During that time and also in the early twentieth century, Albanians known as  Arvanites came to Greece as well.  The Tosk Albanian dialect they speak, known as Arvanitika, is now an endangered language, as they assimilate into Greek culture.  Though sometimes Arvanitika is used interchangeably, the Orthodox Albanians who in the 1920s came to northeastern Greece, namely to the areas of Western Thrace and Greek Macedonia, are called Shqiptars.  They speak the Northern Tosk Albanian.  Although many Arvanitika fought against the Ottomans in the Greek War for Independence from 1821 to 1832, by World War II the Cham Albanians had sided with Italy and Germany and had to flee from Greece to Albania, Turkey, and the United States.  After the fall of Communism in 1991, another group of Albanians came over to Greece to escape economic depravity.  Today, most Albanians living in Greece self-identify as Greek; they have converted to Greek Orthodox Christianity and speak the Greek language.  Now, listening in on the two boys consulting each other for their paperwork, I couldn’t tell whether they spoke an Albanian dialect or Greek.

I Love Menominee: Student Speaks Endangered Language

2 Mar

A middle school student was reprimanded recently for saying “I love you” in her the Menominee language while at school.  Miranda Washinawatok was benched from her basketball game because her teacher couldn’t understand what she was saying.  The teacher said the Wisconsin student could not speak in the endangered Native American language because it kept the teacher from knowing what she was saying.

When I was growing up in New Jersey, it was common to hearing foreign languages—mainly Korean—in the hallways or on the playground.  Maybe there were times when I had to remind my friends to translate for me, but I don’t remember the teachers ever telling students they weren’t allowed to speak in their native language.  Of course, non-native English speakers attended ESL and encouraged to learn English, and you weren’t allowed to whisper or talk in class regardless of what language you were speaking in.  There was, however, never a sense that a student wasn’t allowed to speak in a foreign language among his or her friends.

However, that has not been the case elsewhere in the world.  My ancestors from my mother’s side were Sami, from the Swedish Lapland, and there are many stories of children not being allowed to speak their native Sami language and the language was not taught in schools.  Today there are nine living Sami languages, but some Sami languages are critically endangered.

Likewise, the Menominee language that the Wisconsin middle schooler said “I love you in” is a critically endangered language.  The language is an Algonquian language used by the Native American Menominee tribe in the Midwest.

Wikipedia reports:

According to a 1997 report by the Menominee Historic Preservation Office, 39 people speak Menominee as their first language, all of whom are elderly; 26 speak it as their second language; and 65 others have learned some of it for the purpose of understanding the language and/or teaching it to others.

If you’re interested in learning Menominee, check out this English-Menominee dictionary or this tutorial.

You may also be interested in the College of Menominee Nation, which is working on a grant called “Menominee Language Revitalization: Teaching the Community” that proposes the following:

The language project will focus on implementing weekly “Language Tables” at six sites on the Menominee Indian Reservation. A Language Table is a place where a person can go and learn Menominee Language. The Language Tables, held on a year round basis, are set up for beginning learners as well as for advanced learners. A fluent Menominee will be in attendance at all Language Tables. Most often, Language Tables will start with a pot luck meal.

Here’s the website for the Menominee tribe

So just how do you say “I love you” in Menominee?  “Tapanaew” means love.

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.

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.

CREDITS:
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.

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!