Winding down the month, it’s time once again for one of my favorite days. A day for promoting positive news via We Are the World Blogfest. It delights me to participate as an agent of pronoia along with dozens of other ambassadors highlighting feel-good news stories for us all to celebrate.
Cohosting the project this month are: Shilpa Garg, Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Susan Scott, Andrea Michaels and Damyanti Biswas. Do check out their posts, along with everyone else participating, and feel free to join us here.
Lately I’ve been working my way through a book by Michael S. Malone entitled The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory. It has me thinking about all kinds of things, including how we collectively remember stories, and what in fact is worth remembering.
So I was excited to discover this month a project launched earlier this autumn by the National Poetry Library called Endangered Poetry Project. Its mission is to collect and preserve poems in endangered languages – a true attempt to gather up vanishing voices.
You may not be aware of what a critical issue this is – I certainly wasn’t. There are approximately 7000 languages spoken today, and predictions hold that by the end of this century we will lose 50% of them. That’s 3500 languages that will disappear. Languages are dying at the average of one every two weeks! I find this truly heart-breaking.
I understand it’s unlikely this will change, that even with some kind of magical intervention yet to be found, that these endangered languages can be saved. But it does seem honorable to me, deeply respectful, and a wise and beautiful thing to try to preserve samples. And to my mind preserving a culture’s poetry is a very enlightened thing.
I know not everyone loves poetry, and in fact, many would dismiss it as the last thing they’d want to save. But I believe as Roger Housden states:
” Poetry at its best calls forth our deep being. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind; it calls to us, like the wild geese, as Mary Oliver would say, from an open sky. It is a magical art, and always has been — a making of language spells designed to open our eyes, open our doors and welcome us into a bigger world, one of possibilities we may never have dared to dream of.
This is why poetry can be dangerous as well as necessary. Because we may never be the same again after reading a poem that happens to speak to our own life directly.”
Every language, every culture, deserves to be remembered at its most distilled, most nuanced, and most powerful expression, and that is what poetry is.