Monday, April 27, 2009

England - Funky Links

Mimi Khalvati's website.

Bejamin Zephaniah's website.

Glyn Maxwell's website.

Simon Armitage's website.

(probably should have put the links on the word "website," but I'm not great with the internets.)

Simon Armitage reading (it's in English!).

Benjamin Zephaniah (awesome).

Here's to my last post of the semester! Love you, fellow Europo Students.

God Save the Queen

England's poetic history is pretty familiar to me, as I'm sure it is to most others, so I'll be brief here. We have Beowulf, of course, estimated as being written between 600 and 1000 AD, before anyone could have dreamed of CGI or Angelina Jolie. Then some scatteredness through the early Middle Ages, followed by Chaucer. The Renaissance made way for Courtley and Elizabethan poetry and poets, such Edmund Spenser, Walter Raleigh, and Shakespeare, who brought verse to the theatre as well. We get the John's Donne and Milton in the 17th century (and in the Writing Center), then satirist poets, namely Jonathan Swift, in the 18th century. Women poets, such as Margaret Cavendish, also gained notability in the 1700s. The Romantics followed (Wordsworth, Coleridge and company), then Victorians (Lord Tennyson and the Brownings); and in the 20th century, poetry in England followed Modernist trends and was influenced by the first and second World Wars.

This appears to be England's It's called the Poetry Society, and has some interesting links. I liked the article in the Guardian about why Britain needs a black poet laureate (found on the right sidebar).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Class Finale!

The last NEP class will meet at the Bear Trap at 4:30pm April 28. 

De laatste NEP klasse zal bij de Val van de Beer bij 4:30 p.m. 28 April samenkomen.

A última classe do NEP reunir-se-á na armadilha do urso 4:30 pm no 28 de abril.

Последний тип нэпа встречает на ловушке медведя на 4:30 pm 28-ое апреля.

La clase ultima del NEP se reunirá en el desvío del oso en 4:30 P.M. el 28 de abril.

Η τελευταία NEP κλάση θα συναντηθεί στην παγίδα αρκούδων στις 28 Απριλίου 4:30pm.

La dernière classe de NEP se réunira au piège d'ours à 16h30 au 28 avril.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Netherlands

r2c: New Dutch Poetry in Translation;

The Belgian Conundrum

Belgium, which is the size of Maryland, is a complicated place.

Belgium has given the world Audrey Hepburn, René Magritte, the saxophone and deep-fried potato slices that are called French because of the style of cut. 10.4 million people live there, and Elaine Sciolino of the NYT is not far off when she refers to their bitter division as "a bad marriage writ large."

According to the NYT, radical Flemish separatists want to slice the country horizontally along ethnic and economic lines: to the north, their beloved Flanders — where Dutch (known locally as Flemish) is spoken and money is increasingly made — and to the south, French-speaking Wallonia, where a kind of provincial snobbery was once polished to a fine sheen and where today old factories dominate the gray landscape. Tensions run high between the French speakers and the Flemish speakers; speak French or Flemish in the wrong region and you're likely to be met with hostility.

This tension emerged in the 19th century, when it was necessary to speak French to belong to the governing upper class; those who could only speak Dutch were effectively second-class citizens. Late that century, and continuing into the 20th century, Flemish movements evolved to counter this situation. While the Walloons and most Brusselers adopted French as their first language, the Flemings refused to do so and succeeded progressively in imposing Dutch as Flanders' official language. Following World War II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main language communities. Intercommunal tensions rose and the constitution was amended in order to minimize the conflict potentials.

A legal division between the French, Flemish/Dutch and German languages was established in 1963 under the Second Gilson Act. The act was instituted in order to reduce tensions between the different language-defined regions. A satisfactory explanation of this, with visuals, can be found here.

In 2007 and 2008, there was a major snafu with the "Belgian" government. Read here, here and here for interesting analysis.

All of this probably makes you wonder what's going on with the poetry in Belgium. Google "Belgian Poetry" and not much happens, but search "Flemish Poetry" or "French Poetry" and names start to pop up. I used the English, Dutch and French Wikipedias to research this week's authors, and discovered that William Cliff is a well-known French poet (wikis in English and French, but not Dutch); that Erik Spinoy only has a link in Dutch; that Stefan Hertmans has a link only in English and Dutch; and that Werner Lambersy is only available to us in French.

Enjoying this Wiki-Political tour, I decided to see how wacky the wikis for Belgian Literature could get. Check it out:

Dutch Literature

Flemish Literature
Belgian Literature
Belgian Poets in French
Walloon Writers
Flemish Writers

Wiki-Fail, or rather Belgium-Fail, right?

There isn't much out there on Belgian Poets (just let me categorize them that way, for brevity's sake) written in English. I wish there was, since the cultural turmoil interests me. Poetry International Web has some decent stuff, including some William Cliff sound clips, but there isn't much else to see.

What else there is:

A bit on Stefan Hertmans here,

and a bit on Werner Lambersy here.




Learn about Austria HERE
Some facts about Austria HERE
Timeline fun facts HERE
The Economist loves Austria

More literature in Austria: HERE
Modern Austrian Literature: HERE

Map of Austria: HERE


Learn about Lichtenstein HERE
and HERE

HERE is an interactive MAP!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brief Comment on Some German Poems

I, Alex, have tried multiple times now to post this in the comments section under Germany. I have failed. Thus you'll get my comment on the blog itself. Maybe that will encourage more responses to my questions and curiosities?

Three of the poems in the German section (those by Hahn ("Respectable Sonnet"), Falkner ("You sleep"), and Kolbe ("Never now anywhere")) rhyme, though the latter two somewhat loosely. I'm curious about the tradition in German poetry: has formal verse remained current longer than in English? I'm reminded of a Robert Hass essay where he discusses the challenges of translating contemporary poetry into English from a language where rhyming still sounds serious and fresh, something that's harder to achieve, I think we can all agree, in English today, though not by any means inconceivable (cf. Karen Volkman, for example). How do you translate the poem into a contemporary English that maintains both the rhymes and the serious (or whatever) tone of the original? Or is it even possible? Do you have to choose either the music or the meaning? Maybe so. But the three poems here are skillfully translated. The rhymes are subtle (in the latter two) but all three still sound interesting, not flat or sing-songy.

I agree with Daniela about the lack of translation static in the German section. I too wonder why.

Why don't more people write aphorisms? I have nothing German/European/cultural to say about those. Just that it looks like a cool project (see Tobias Gruterich, p. 282, a young poet who also came in second in the 2008 German Aphorism Contest from the World Aphorism Organization). I also liked the previous poem, by Daniel Falb, with his "tender adoration for juliette binoche the seasons pass by unnoticed / which is really terrible". Thanks, Germany!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Iceland and Denmark

From the land of Bjork, Vikings, Jelling Stones, and Brennivin— poems from ICELAND and DENMARK!

I know we are not going to be spending a great deal of time on these countries in class, but in my explorations of the Northern European lands, I found a thing or two you might find exciting enough to dust off that Sugarcubes cd or your favorite Hans Christian Anderson tale.

Icelandic and Danish Language:

Medieval Icelandic and Danish are two dialectic stems of Old Norse (Northern Germanic), East and West. Old Scandinavian poetry was very meter-heavy (Beowulf?). Icelandic, particularly, has about 10 different metric-forms that I cannot begin to pronounce, yet have some interesting word play. Here’s one. Let’s break it down, Wiki-style:

Very close to Beowulf. Literally translates to "way of ancient words". This example is from the Waking of Angantyr:
Vaki, Angantýr! vekr þik Hervǫr,
eingadóttir ykkr Tófu!
Selðu ór haugi hvassan mæki
þann's Svafrlama slógu dvergar.

(Awaken, Angantyr! It is Hervor who awakens you, your only daughter by Tófa! Yield up from your grave the mighty sword that the dwarves forged for Svafrlami.")

Fornyrðislag has two lifts per half line, with two or three (sometimes one) unstressed syllables. At least two lifts, usually three, alliterate, always including the main stave (the first lift of the second half-line). It had a variant form called málaháttr ("speech meter"), which adds an unstressed syllable to each half-line, making six to eight (sometimes up to ten) unstressed syllables per line.

Iceland Poetry, Nowadays:

Today, most young poets like the ones we find in out anthology, tend to lean toward free verse, prose poetry, like "The Divorce Children" on page 262. Most of the poets I’m running across in my Google’n tend to “sporadically” write in more traditional Norse/Scandinavian forms.

I found a great interview (in English) with the first Icelandic poet in the anthology, Elísabet Jökulsdottír, discussing her work Football Stories. The interview starts with her explaining how she grew up loving football/soccer.

I loved this quote:
“Many people are very surprised… I forget myself when I watch it (football), and I sometimes have an argument with people because maybe if they are too intellectual, they are surprised, ‘why do you like football?’… to watch something I don’t fully understand, like the ocean. I don’t understand the ocean but I like to watch it. It gives me a lot.”

It’s a fantastic interview. Here’s where to check it out:

The Icelandic poems seem to rely heavily on physical landscapes and weather to build metaphor. Also I see a theme of emotional connection, or the lack of connection, rather. Person-to-person understanding and the deadening of ego is something that is confronted in our poems. Jökulsdottír’s attitude struck me as refreshing and honest. She acknowledges that which she doesn’t understand without taking the “I’m just a little human in a big world” track, without being self-effacing, either. This seems to be a common trait in the Iceland poets.
Also check out Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir. She’s not in the anthology, but seems to be quite popular.

Denmark Poetry, Nowadays:

Did you know, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, that Denmark was voted the Least Politically Corrupt Country in the World? Also, Copenhagen was voted the Most Livable City in the World in 2008? Oh yeah, and Denmark was also voted the “Happiest Place in the World” in some random survey? …sheesh Disneyland… AND the 2008 Global Peace Index survey ranks Denmark as the second most peaceful country in the world, after Iceland! (Wiki stats).

I don’t know how to handle this coming off of the Eastern Block countries.

The Danish poems are occupying themselves with other things, such as: art, dreams, and relationships (like Iceland). The subjects seem to be more exploratory, meditative. In the Tafdrup poem, “One of many or each single one—that makes all the difference,” seems to be echoing a common interest in the Icelandic poems, the interconnectedness of individuals.

I noticed the word “unpretentious” came up more than once in book reviews of Danish poets.

The Danish poets, especially in the past 2 or 3 years, seem to be interested in opening a dialogue with other art/literary forms, (see “In the Californian Back Yard” p. 267). Also, check out
contemporary Danish poets and how they sample different forms— Simon Grotrian (religion), Thomas Boberg (epistolary works), and Niels Lyngso (memoir-autobio). Allusions to other, familiar art forms seem to serve the reader as a vehicle for universal comprehension, putting aside experimentation.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some quick German thoughts

Hey All – In doing a little google-search into Gerhard Falkner I stumbled onto a more contemporary German poetry fad (more contemporary than the post-war poetry stuff at least). It seems in the 80’s German poetry rejected anything but formal experiments and ‘everyday poetry' and so, in the 90's/Oughts, Falkner wanted to change things up a bit. In order to break out, Falkner began combining “formal discipline with a opulent and direct sense of the present, thus preparing the ground, as one of the first of his generation, for a poetry alive with richness and sensuality as well as melancholy and pain. [Falkner’s poems also dealt with] the estrangement of the poet, the disappearance of the writer in the background noise of his text and of history.” In one of Falkner’s new-ish works, Kopfmusik’, he writes: “forgotten will our poems / be, - stay will solely / the headache / of those who did not keep them. To read another poem of his, go here. - they show it in English and German. I'll talk further on this in class on Tuesday.

I was also interested in Uljana Wolf who was recently in Shampoo magazine – an online lit mag based out of San Fran with a special German section in issue #35, which happens to be last month, March 2009. She has two poems from DICHTionary (A German-English dictionary of false friends, true cognates and other cousins) included – both in German and English. Go here to check it out.

Here’s another poem of hers I liked:

postscript to the kreisau dogs

who says that poems are like these dogs
surrounded by their own echo at the village core

their waiting and pawing at half moon
their stubborn marking of language terrains –

he knows you not, you frantic barkers
cassandras in wallachia’s sonic reverie

you bring what’s called and what’s calf
in a foolhardy bite from behind

together as if a leg were but a leaf
and the order of things a trade:

in one of my boots still the imprint
of your teeth, a gnarly four nips

that’s your reward for a pursuant verse
thus the world follows poetry at heel

She has some poems coming out in Chicago Review Press this year as well.



Wiki's Guide to German Literature. A basic outline. Basic.


Here is Ulf Stolterfoht's book translated by Rosmarie Waldrop: 

Stolterfoht in English:


whosever coat-tail after coat-tail your endeavor
to compose now so thicktitiously engenders
what fuel-fucking self-destructive higgledy-
piggery you so seriously unbody

or hardly blessed among root veggies
when smoked ham's in the half-left field
you cross your heart over hide's enticement
and all that cohabits genetically unknot

which you in heat and under oath endorse
knowing the ombudsman's enleathering
a breedin' shame like pidgin in Gdingen
as your be-true-to-me you endearingly unmarry

where for your burlap name you will be envied
hallowed be thy come forfeit engorged
deeply covetous how you and Gdansk
instinct and body tissue unself and unsex


And more Stolterfoht in English.
An interview with the man.
Here he is in Coconut Fourteen!


Silke Scheuermann is a well-known German poet not recognized in New European Poets. And look! Both languages! (German & English)

Lyrikline is a really interesting site that offers poems translated into a buffet of languages.

Here is an article from the New York Times claiming to have found "Germany's poetry jet set" Ann Cotten. Born in Iowa, raised in Germany. And here is the original article.

A list of 50 Perfect Books of German Poetry. Compiled by Dialog International.

Andrew J. Shields' Blog mentions the Antioch Review (Winter 2009) which includes a couple of reviews of German poetry in translation.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Norwegian Matters

A brief history of poetry in Norway... more info can be found here. It's the official UK site devoted to Norway, so it has to be good.

Norwegian poetry began way back in the day, with the Skaldic verse of the 9th century. The middle ages produced the ballads, improvised verse, and folkloric traditions one would expect. Hymn writing also became an important mode of lyric expression, which grew more prolific with the spread of education.

It seems that Norway's more recent poets followed common worldwide trends: symbolism, modernism, lyricism, etc. The 1960s gave rise to more experimentalism, the 70s got political, and the 80s moved to a focus on aesthetics. As the site says, "these two trends were then consciously synthesized during the 1990s," which should bring us about up to date.


Some Important Norwegian Poets (click on title of poem for more by the writer):

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910) - his poem Ja vi elsker dette landet ("Yes, We Love This Land") became the Norwegian national anthem.

The Tree

Ready with leaves and with buds stood the tree.
"Shall I take them?" the frost said, now puffing with glee.
"Oh my, no, let them stand,
Till flowers are at hand!"
All trembling from tree-top to root came the plea.

Flowers unfolding the birds gladly sung.
"Shall I take them?" the wind said and merrily swung.
"Oh my, no, let them stand,
Till cherries are at hand!"
Protested the tree, while it quivering hung.

The cherries came forth 'neath the sun's glowing eye.
"Shall I take them?" a rosy young girl's eager cry.
"Oh my, yes, you can take,
I've kept them for your sake!"
Low bending its branches, the tree brought them nigh.

Sigbjørn Obstfelder (1866-1900) - a symbolist, who became one Norway's foremost early modernist poets.

Go here for a poem, reading, and translation. It's a Christmas poem with a corpse in it. Great!

Rolf Jacobsen (1907-1994) - another important early modernist, still frequently read today.


Up on the city’s roofs there are large fields.
That’s where silence crept up to
when there was no room for it on the streets.
Now the forest comes in its turn.
It needs to be where silence lives.
Tree upon tree in strange groves.
They don’t do very well, because the floor is too hard.
So they make a sparse forest, one branch toward the east,
and one toward the west. Until it looks like crosses. A forest
of crosses. And the wind asks
—Who’s resting here
in these deep graves?

Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994) - a popular lyricist who frequently alludes to Homer and Chinese and Japanese poetry. Frequently translated by Robert Bly.

Midwinter. Snow.

Midwinter. Snow.
I gave the birds a piece of bread.
And it didn't affect my sleep.

Paal-Helge Haugen (1945-) - another popular anti-metaphorical lyricist.
I had trouble finding full text of his work, but he has been translated often by Roger Greenwald, our main Norwegian guy.


And, Something Fun:


Finland: who's who

It proved quite difficult to uncover much information about these writers but here we go...

Tua Forsström
The poet Ilpo Tiihonen (b. 1950) has been awarded numerous prizes for his works. He has published many poetry collections, theatre and television scripts, musicals, librettos and radio plays. In addition he has translated poems and children’s literature into Finnish.

one translation in English published: ‘Black and Red

Bio for Leevi Lehto
Martin Enckell is especially difficult to research because there is an Antarctic explorer of the same name name.
Lauri Otonkoski’s books do not provide any biographical information -- there are no blurbs, no photographs of the author. The back cover of his latest book, Ahava (March Wind), tells me that it is his fifth published collection of poems, and that he is also the author of a children’s book titled Otto.

From the Finnish Writers’ Union’s directory I gather that he is forty years old and lives in Helsinki.
Helena Sinervo
Anni Sumari has published nine books of short stories and poetry, as well as a travelogue about a writers' train that toured Europe in 2000 (Junanäytelmä, Train Play, 2001). In 1998 she was awarded Yleisradio's (the equivalent of the BBC) Tanssiva Karhu (Dancing Bear) Prize for the collection Mitta ja määrä (Measure and Degree, 1998). Her poems have been translated into Swedish, Russian, German, French, English, Spanish and Lithuanian.

Nordy Music

Although I know very little about literature from Sweden, Norway and Finland, I do happen to be obsessed with a smattering of bands/sound artists and record labels based in these Nordic countries…here is some information (grouped by record label):

FYI – the easiest way to get a sampling of any of these bands/artists work is through their myspace pages

*Rune Grammofon is a Norwegian record label founded in 1998 by Rune Kristoffersen – the label was started with help from ECM (snooty, high end/high culture German label that would be comparable to a publisher like New Directions) but is now independent of their former parent.

RG specializes in new-classical/electronic/jazz/noise/grey-area – all of the music is Norwegian – and, all of the album covers feature the artwork of the amazing Kim Hiorthøy (see the big orange butt above; Arve Henrickson below). My favorite bands: Deathprod, Supersilent, Arve Henrickson, Alog, Svalastog, Biosphere, Phonophani, The Information, Skyphone, Maja Ratkje

*Hapna is a Swedish label about which I know very little (and about which there is very little information available) – what I do know is they have been one of my favorite labels for quite sometime...

Bands to check out: Tape (one of Jenny and my favorite, favorite, favorite bands; instrumental, off-kilter, folksy, hypnotic, hauntingly beautiful stuff with lots of samples and hiss…), Stephan Mathieu, Giuseppe Ielasi (he’s Italian although I highly recommend him and the Italian label new classical/prog-rock label “Die Schachtel” that he is associated with), ¾ Had Been Eliminated, A Taste of Ra, Anders Dahl, Tenniscoats, Anna Järvinen

* (from Fonal’s myspace site) Fonal Records is a Finnish independent label run by Sami Sänpäkkilä that began releasing mainly domestic music in 1995. Fonal has a catalogue of 40 experimental, folk, ambient and popular music releases and has organized concerts for its artists across Europe and North America.


(amazing ES album...)

*Kning Disk is another Swedish label. Here is what they have have to say about themselves on their website: Kning Disk presents first-rate, limited editions and various kinds of presentations where innovative composers of yesteryear shares space with the kindred spirits of the groundbreaking artists, designers and writers of tomorrow.

I find this label to be especially interesting because of the sample-based work they release (esp. Anders Dahl) and then the otherwise innovate, instrumental spicy music (Jerry Johansson, Jasper TX)

other bands/artists to check out: Steffen Basho-Junghans, BJNilsen, Alejandra Salinas

(Jerry Johansson, 'Book of Dreams')
(Anders Dahl, 'Habitat')

Sweden, for realz.

Wikipedia says:

Swedish literature refers to literature written in the Swedish language or by writers from Sweden.[1]


I'm listening to some sweet Swedish songs right now. See previous post if you're not!

Even though Sweden has a literary history that dates back to the Viking Age, it was not until 1541 that Swedish literature began to flourish; the translation of the Bible finally gave Sweden a uniform language. Around that time, the king wanted to censor many texts and often Catholic books were burned. The king also shut down the University, forcing Swedes to travel abroad for higher education.

By the 18th century, Swedish writers felt more comfortable writing secular literature.

Notable Swedish writers:

Selma Lagerlöf (Nobel laureate 1909)
Pär Lagerkvist (Nobel laureate 1951)
Henning Mankell (detective novelist)
Jan Guillou (spy-fiction writer)
Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking)
Hjalmar Gullberg (leading Modernist poet)
Gunnar Ekelöf (leading surrealist poet)
Tomas Tranströmer

Let's take a vacation together.

Here are some Swedish noise rock bands:

Johan Zetterquist doesn't have any YouTube videos, but he sounds fun too!

Sápmi: The Coolest Place Samuel Gray Has Ever Been

Since I know how difficult it is to click on a link, I've pasted some essential Sápmi facts from everyone's favorite fake encyclopedia:

Sápmi is the name of the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people. Sápmi is located in Northern Europe and includes the northern parts of Fennoscandia. The region stretches over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Sápmi is the name in North Sámi, while the Julev Sámi name is Sábme and the South Sámi name is Saemie. In Norwegian and Swedish the term Sameland is often used.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and increasing internationalization, cross-border co-operation is becoming more important, and existing state borders less important both for the Sámi indigenous population and non-Sámi inhabitants—the latter constituting the majority population of the region. Russians and Norwegians are the most numerous groups, and the Sámi make up only a small minority of about 5%.[1] No political organization advocates secession, though several groups desire more territorial autonomy and/or more self-determination for the region's indigenous population.

The region has its own football team, the Sámi Spábbáčiekčanlihttu, that plays in the NF-Board, won the 2006 Viva World Cup and hosted the 2008 event.


Sápmi (and corresponding terms in other Sámi languages) refers to both the Sámi land and the Sámi people. In fact, the word "Sámi" is only the accusative-genitive form of the noun "Sápmi"--making the nation's name (Sámi olbmot) simply mean "people of Sápmi." The source of the word is speculated to be related to the Baltic word *žēmē that simply means "land".[2]

In historical texts the Swedish names "Lappland" or Lappmarken may occur, and also the Norwegian name "Finnmark" or "Finnmork.".[3] Originally these two names did refer to the entire Sápmi, but subsequently became applied to areas exclusively inhabited by the Sámi and today they are names of provinces that only constitute parts of Sápmi.


Sami or Saami is a general name for a group of Uralic languages spoken by the Sami people in parts of northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and extreme northwestern Russia, in Northern Europe. Sami is frequently (and erroneously) believed to be a single language. Several names are used for the Sami languages: Saami, Sámi, Samic, Saamic, Lappish and Lappic. The last two are, along with the term Lapp, are considered derogatory by some.[1]

On the map [below] numbers indicate Sami Languages: 1. South (Åarjil) Sámi, 2. Ume (Upme) Sámi, 3. Pite (Bitthun) Sámi, 4. Lule (Julev) Sámi, 5. North (Davvi) Sámi, 6. Skolt Sámi, 7. Inari (Ánár) Sámi, 8. Kildin Sámi, 9. Ter Sámi. Of these languages the Northern one is the by far most vital; whereas Ume, Pite and Ter seem to be dying languages. Darkened areas represent municipalities that recognize Sami as an official language.

Written Languages

At present there are nine living Sami languages. The largest six of the languages have independent literary languages; the three others have no written standard, and there are only few, mainly elderly speakers left. The ISO 639-2 code for all Sami languages without its proper code is "smi". The six written languages are:

The other Sami languages are moribund and have very few speakers left. Six speakers of Ter Sami were known to be alive in 2004,[5] and Pite Sami and Ume Sami likely have under 20 speakers left.[citation needed] The last speaker of Akkala Sami is known to have died in December 2003,[6] and the eleventh attested variety Kemi Sami became extinct in the 19th century.

Official Language Status

Adopted in April 1988, Article 110a of the Norwegian Constitution states: "It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions enabling the Sami people to preserve and develop its language, culture and way of life." The Sami Language Act went into effect in the 1990s. Sami is an official language of the municipalities of Kautokeino, Karasjok, Gáivuotna (Kåfjord), Nesseby, Porsanger, Tana, Tysfjord, and Snåsa.

A bilingual street sign in Enontekiö in both Finnish (top) and Northern Sámi

In Finland, the Sami language act of 1991 granted Sami people the right to use the Sami languages for all government services. The Sami language act of 2003 made Sami an official language in Enontekiö, Inari, Sodankylä and Utsjoki municipalities.

On April 1, 2002 Sami became one of five recognized minority languages in Sweden. It can be used in dealing with public authorities in the municipalities of Arjeplog, Gällivare, Jokkmokk and Kiruna.

See also: Sami parliaments of Finland, Norway, and Sweden


The approximate number of people living in Sápmi is about 2 million, though it is difficult to give the precise number of inhabitants since certain counties and provinces only include parts of Sápmi. It is also quite difficult to account for the distribution of ethnic groups as many people have double or multiple ethnic identities - both seeing themselves as members of the majority population and being part of one or more minority group.


Please enjoy these videos from everyone's favorite video-hosting site:

Transjoik (founded in Trondheim in 1992) is a Norwegian band that plays jazz and Sámi music, often characterised as an ambient electronic, techno and trance band, but with a dose of yoiking (traditional Sámi vocals), so it is often considered world music. This reminds me of Suicide's "Misery Train":

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Translation Issue of Poetry magazine

Esperanto, Eurotrash, Gastrocats, Iberia, and Stingrays:

The new issue of Poetry is the translation issue. Thought you might be interested in the poems, and also the fact that each translator provides a statement explaining their pains and pleasures.

Monday, March 30, 2009


There is not that much English info out there on Latvian poetry. Many of the linked articles I came across looked sketchy, even if they were just victims of poor translation. Here’s what I did find:

The Latvian Institute loves N.E.P.!

This site also has great info on Latvia in an all-around sense (History of Latvian Lit! Latvian Economics! Latvian Government and Politics!).

On nature in contemporary Latvian poetry, from Lituanus, Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences.

A feature on Latvian Poetry can be found in the Winter 2005 issue of Drunken Boat.

J.C. Todd, Margita Gailitis and Inara Cedrins, translators for the Latvia section in N.E.P., were also involved with the Drunken Boat feature (Gailitis and Todd, in fact, split editing duties for it).

Cedrins also wrote this book, published in 1984 and translated this blurb about Liana Langa.

The environment of Latvian poetry is an insular one. This is not surprising given the following:

*Latvian is an Indo-Baltic language that is closely related to Sanskrit; as a result it is linguistically complex and therefore infrequently translated.

*Latvian was suppressed as a national language for a half-century during the Soviet occupation. It reemerged as a recognized language in 1990, yet Latvians struggled to reestablish its relevance in a world relatively saturated by the geopolitical dominance of Russian and English.

*During the Soviet occupation, massive immigration occurred between Russia and Latvia. Sixty-five years later, Latvians are outnumbered by ethnic Russians in many major Latvian cities, including the capital, Riga.

However, as Todd states in her introduction to the feature at Drunken Boat:

“…Latvians have had a millennium of practice in sustaining the repertoire of meanings embedded in their language when it has been forced underground. From the tenth century, AD, when Rune stones in the region of Courland document Viking attacks, until the twentieth century, Latvia struggled against repeated sieges and occupations by Danes, Germans, Russians, Tartars, Teutonic Knights, Poles and Swedes. In 1920, Russia and Latvia signed a peace treaty that relinquished all Soviet claim to Latvian territories in perpetuity, yet by 1940 the Soviet military had violated the treaty and occupied Latvia once more, an occupation that continued until 1990-91 when, with the collapse of the Soviet government, Latvia gained the independence it currently observes. During the centuries of occupations, Latvian dainas (folk songs) have recorded, revealed and handed down not only the cultural heritage but also the effects of oppression and moral resistance to it. When they were sung, and that was frequently, the language emerged, alive with history yet imbued with the sense of hereness that song in throat achieves. By the late 1930's, over 2,000,000 dainas had been collected in the Archives of Latvian folklore in Riga. Collected, but not embalmed for the dainas form the core of a vast repertoire performed by Latvian choral societies. Folk fests and choral competitions have been part of the fabric of Latvian life for centuries, festivals in which the collective consciousness of the nation is awakened in song. When the dainas are sung, the nation listens.

The submersion of the Latvian language during multiple occupations has not destroyed its roots. Instead it has created a contemporary poetry of displacement and psychic rupture expressed in fragmented images and narratives, a Baltic surreal that emerges from multiple perspectives, blurred definitions of time and place, neologisms and other linguistic innovations, and anti-authoritarian subjectivity. This is a thoroughly post-modern, post-colonial, post-traumatic poetry, as literary historian Karl Jirgens has noted. Paradoxically, Latvia's position as a “weaker,” occupied nation has been transformed into the strength of its literature.”


Here’s an example of a Daina:

And in the spirit of a strong Latvia, here’s the national anthem:

Now that you’re jumpin’, here’s a Latvian Folk Dance:

Finally, burn one down with Ronalds Briedis:


The poets featured in NEP:

Gintaras Grajauskas (born in1966) is a poet, essayist, prose writer and a dramatist. He is considered to be the best author of ironic and prosaic poetry about contemporary life.

He studied at a music school and at the Jazz Department of the Klaipėda faculty of the Lithuanian Conservatory of Music. He worked for radio and TV editorial offices and since 1996 has been compiling the literary publication Gintaro lašai (Amber Drops). He sings and plays guitar in the band Rokfeleriai.

Grajauskas’ poetry tells seemingly irrelevant, even trivial stories about the present day and the mundane. However, the triviality in Grajauskas’ poetry is not easy to understand: irony and humour prevails over spiritual shallowness and ennui thus revealing a different perspective of the world. This ambivalence is one of the reasons why Grajauskas’ poetry is so popular. The life of an individual is ambiguous – tragic and comical, repulsive and attractive at the same time.


Marius Burokas (b. 1977 in Vilnius) is a poet, translator, and literary critic. He matriculated at Vilnius University in 1995 to study Lithuanian language and literature

He has worked as a Lithuanian language teacher, has served as project editor for a public relations agency, and has coordinated literary programmes at the Eastern Lithuanian Cultural Centre. He has translated short stories and a novel by Charles Bukowski as well as poetry by Craig Czury. He currently works at an advertising agency.
Burokas made has debut with the poetry collection Ideograms (Ideogramos) in 1999. His second book of poetry, States of Being (Būsenos), appeared in 2005.
The writer lives and works in Vilnius.
from the horse's mouth:

Most often a single line appears in my head, and little by little it becomes a poem. When it's necessary to release these thoughts from my head, I have to run and write them down somewhere since, unlike some other poets, I don't have a notebook or even a pen.
I often write poems in strange places and under strange conditions. They often appear when I'm incredibly bored.

Daiva Čepauskaitė (born in 1967) is a poet and dramatist. Her works combine (auto) irony and the sharpness of the tongue with lyricism, and the merciless world of today is portrayed with humour.

Čepauskaitė has a medical doctor's diploma, but has never worked as a doctor. While a student of medicine, she also studied stage art at the Youth Musical Study. Since 1990 she has worked as an actress in the Kaunas Youth Chamber Theatre. In the Kaunas State Drama Theatre she has played a role in Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra. She has been writing since her early youth, so, according to herself, she came to poetry "unawares". In 2005 she was declared winner of the 41st "Spring of Poetry" festival.

Neringa Abrutytė (born in 1972) is a poet who introduced into Lithuanian poetry provocative subjects and styles of expressions characteristic of ingenious syntactic experiments that help create a unique rhythm, intonation and open several possibilities of interpreting the same text.

She studied Lithuanian language and literature at Vilnius University and has worked as editor and teacher. Currently she lives in Denmark.

In her poems Abrutytė openly speaks about the emotions of forbidden love for an older man, contempt to parents and her desire to reach the heights of poetry. Her poems seem as if they have been clipped out of a small girl's/woman's diary that is all about everyday experiences. Without exaggerated significance she describes her love or erotic experiences, childhood memories and the search for her proper place in European cities. The author imitates a teenage style of writing by using abbreviations usually found in students' notes, snippets of the jargon, plays with her name or biographic detail thus creating the impression of shocking sincerity. Everyday intonations reinforce the impression of intense, emotionally fragmented and therefore authentic speech.

Eugenijus Ališanka (b. 1960 in Barnaul, Russia) is a poet, essayist and translator. Following his graduation from Vilnius University with a degree in mathematics, he worked for the Culture and Art Institute of Lithuania and then, from 1994-2002, as a director of international programmes in the Lithuanian Writers' Union and a director of an international poetry festival 'Spring of Poetry'. Since 2003 he has been working as editor-in-chief of the magazine Vilnius, published in English as The Vilnius Review. Ališanka is a member of the Lithuanian Writers' Union's Board and of PEN.

here: have some more Alisanka poems! yum!

Laurynas Katkus (b. 1972 in Vilnius) is a poet and translator. He studied Lithuanian philology at Vilnius University and comparative literature at Vilnius and Leipzig Universities. He has worked in radio and publishing. He made his debut in 1998 with Voices and Notes (Balsai, rašteliai), a book of poetry.
Translations of his poetry have been published by American, German, Slovenian, Polish, and Latvian literary publishers; English and German translations of his book appeared in 2001 and 2003, respectively. His second Lithuanian-language book of poetry, Diving Lessons (Nardymo pamokos), appeared in 2003 and demonstrated the author's maturity. Katkus has translated works by Friedrich Hölderlin, Gottfried Benn, Walter Benjamin, Peter Handke, Susan Sontag, and other authors into Lithuanian.
He lives in Vilnius.

ESTONIA! Youtube!

Asko Kunnap

Karl Martin Sinijarv

Elo Viiding

Россия представляет собой огромную массу земли.

I'm no fool—y'all get links for this stuff:

A smattering of Russian poets, past;
a quick Wikipedia blurb on the golden age of Russian poetry;
the bawdy but ideologically correct chastushka (think Russian limerick);
another poorly written ("the Silver Age was a golden era") wiki about the silver age;
a charmingly-phrased site about the same thing;
the entry for Russian Futurism, which was kind of a thing;
Wikipedia's entry for Futurist bad-ass Vladmir Mayakovsky;
the school of imaginism, whose members were not down with the Futurists;
(by the way, why aren't we creating more schools of poetry like this?);
Vadim Shershenevich, one of the Imaginists;
Acmeist Osip Mandelstam, Ilya Kaminsky fave;
here's what the heck Acmeist poetry is;
Nobel-refusing (voluntarily, coughcough) Russian megapoet Pasternak;
mother of Russian poetry, Anna Akhmatova;
(see, she had kids);
and, okay, okay, the father too;
(he gave birth to a little guy named Onegin, and poetic forms);
again, read (almost) everybody's stuff;
oh yeah, some other people wrote stuff too;
lastly, if you could, thanks.