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.
So this month I invite you to celebrate The Endangered Poetry Project. You can read more about it here, and/or listen to a clip about the project here.
Hi Deborah – this is great to be reminded of words and poetry in its true state – the telling of stories; such a wonderful world I’ve never really understood … but at some stage would love to do a course. I know there are many languages under threat … but we all need reminding where our communication skills come from and where they get expressed – thanks … great WATWB .. cheers Hilary
Poetry is certainly one of the art forms I truly love. I hope you get a chance to do a course Hilary. And I hope we all get a chance to enjoy some of the poetry of the endangered languages.
Endangered Poetry Project is absolutely doing a fantastic work in preserving the endangered languages for our future generations. More power to them and thanks for sharing such an insightful and inspiring story, Deborah!
Yes, I hope they have great success and perhaps, just perhaps, some way will be found to preserve some of the languages. Thanks so much for stopping by Shilpa – I appreciate it.
How completely fascinating. I knew languages were dying, but never thought about how bits of them might be saved. This is a great idea.
I find it fascinating as well Ally, and somehow it seems very fitting.
That’s a pretty harsh statistic about the percentage of languages we’re anticipated to lose. And whether a person is “into” or appreciates poetry or not, it’s a form of art that speaks to many. Art of all types should be preserved whenever possible, lest our society forget what beauty, sound, and color can influence.
I heartily agree Lynda.
The loss of languages is something I had not thought much about until now. Thank you for broadening my horizons. Poetry and song would be good ways to preserve the languages.
It’s a startling realization isn’t it Joanne? I hope awareness can initiate a reversal.
Thank you Deborah. May at least some of the languages be preserved and their poetry kept alive and not lost in the mists of time – we can learn and feel so much from them as your quote says, opening our eyes ears and heart to a form of expression that speaks directly to us (paraphrased). A lovely #WATWB post thank you!
Thanks for co-hosting #WATWB this month Susan – I love this hop so much! It would be truly fabulous if a significant portion of the endangered languages were saved and the expression of the cultures poets were kept available for all to explore and learn from.
Languages are dying at the average of one every two weeks? Scary thought.
So I think that the idea of collecting and preserving poems in endangered languages is a fabulous and crucial one.
Poetry is, after all, my first love!
Thank you for bringing this to my attention!
I will definitely pop over to read more about it. 🙂
I love the opportunity #WATWB offers us all in disseminating stories that not only are worth celebrating, but also can inspire us to see our world a little differently and perhaps lean into supporting something we’re passionate about.
This is a wonderful story Deborah – so many languages … I know where we are that Irish is on the endangered list, but it’s beyond comprehension that our world would allow such richness to disappear – I didn’t even realise how many languages there are and when you consider 3500 lists of beautiful words disappearing it’d be terrible. It is a fantastic idea to preserve it through poetry – I confess it’s a medium I don’t understand very well, other than in song, but it’s a real window into the soul of a culture.
Imagining the loss really hurts one’s heart doesn’t it Fil? That’s why I feel such gratitude for this project and it’s efforts, and hope it inspires other creative attempts to make a difference.
Fascinating. I hadn’t thought about it before, but as the world becomes more and more homogenized, we’re going to lose a lot more than just language.
It’s true Eric. It’s certainly a complex and delicate dance trying to find balance between recognizing our commonalities and maintaining and honoring our cultural uniqueness. But in any case, I believe it’s a terrible and tragic thing when native languages are lost.
Indeed a wonderful initiative, dear Deborah.
Your addition of the marvelous quote helped me solve a small issue…nothing happens without a reason (visiting you here today) 😉
Wishing you a lovely and inspiring new week, XxX
Thanks for the kind wishes Patty, and I wish you the same. I love when we find what we need serendipitously – it’s such a cosmic wink isn’t it?! I keep thinking about Housden’s quote and calling poetry word spells – that really delights my heart.
Very interesting! I like what you say about preserving a culture’s poetry. I believe it is essential…for then what is to become of the future generations if they have no connection to the language of their ancestors? What a sad thought!
And Deborah, I thought of you when I discovered a new oracle deck…
I have it up on my blog, if you want to take a look. Now this is truly a language that has been speaking to me. Loud and clear!
I used to write poetry as a young adult…I think I will give it whirl again! Thank you for always inspiring! Aloha!
Losing the language of one’s lineage is indeed a sad thought.
How funny you should mention the Native Spirit deck – I had a chance to see it in person just this weekend as a friend had recently purchased it. I always love those odd little cosmic winks, don’t you? And yes, yes, yes – do give writing poetry a whirl again. I recently dug out a couple of poems that need a bit of revising/editing and it’s reinspired me again as well. Maybe this will be the winter of poems for both of us.
It is really heart warming to hear that there is a project dedicated to safe guarding languages. I am a kind of amateur poet (or at least I like to think of myself as such) and I love languages. There are several ancient languages in India including Gratham and Sanskrit that are slowly dying and going out of fashion. Thank you for bringing this to light.
It’s heartbreaking to realize so great loss is so near, and I do hope we’re able to find our way to reversing some of thd danger. I appreciate you stopping by Jai, and celebrate that you lay claim to the title of poet. It is a tribe I hope will always flourish.
You’ve reminded me of my brother’s friend who years ago realized that Canada’s indigenous languages were dying off with the elders. He made it his life’s work to interview the speakers of one of the languages and today is working hard to ensure the language is taught to the young!
Kudos to your brother’s friend. This is important work that needs to be supported, and I hope we step up to the task.