poetry

Invented Language Esperanto Not Quite Dead Yet

Jul 18, 2013
Wikipedia Commons

Friday, July 26, is World Esperanto Day.

Today on KUOW Presents, producer Roman Mars told us about the history of the invented language Esperanto.

Esperanto's a language born out of the dream that if we all spoke the same language, we wouldn't have wars. That might sound a little naïve, when you consider how divided we can be even within the United States - where many people do speak the same language. Still, one can't help thinking: If we could turn on the television and see the personal stories of Iraqis, would the United States have gone to war with that nation?

Some would argue we are starting to understand each other, through English language reporting from news organizations like Al Jazeera, and CNN, which has an Arabic language channel. It's too early to say whether that programming will smooth out the differences between American and Middle Eastern cultures. But even with cable news going international, those broadcasts are just cultural diplomacy for nations that still think in different languages. And the idea of Esperanto still has power.

The Local Esperanto Connection

Seattle has an Esperanto club (it has several, actually). KUOW's Joshua McNichols called up club member Leland Ross to get a local perspective on the international language of Esperanto.

Leland says Esperanto isn't dead. In fact, it's doing better than ever before, thanks to the Internet. He says in the past, an Esperanto speaker would send off letters to an Esperanto-speaking pen pal and would have to wait for a response, but today, you can hop online and immediately chat with someone anywhere in the world.

Leland says one local group of Esperanto enthusiasts have a regular poker night conducted entirely in Esperanto. It isn't world peace, but you've got to start somewhere.

KUOW Presents is going on vacation next week. We'll be back July 29!

Full list of stories from KUOW Presents, July 18:

Poet David Wagoner
Courtesy of David Wagoner, Photo by Robin Seyfried

One of the most profound duties of child to parent is to honor their last wishes, as best we can. In "Their Bodies," poet David Wagoner addresses the students of the anatomy lab at Indiana University, where his parents donated their bodies.

Peter Munro
John Rand

Poet Peter Munro recounts the complex mix of blessing and burden in caring for a dying parent in his multi-part poem, "Ketogenesis Apocalypse."  In this section, "Reading My Father's Bible," Munro finds a metaphor for his preacher father's decline in the image of his Bible worn to the point of falling apart.

Munro spends much of his time in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, working as a fisheries scientist. His poems have been featured in Poetry magazine and the Beloit Poetry Journal.  He lives in Seattle, and is a frequent reader at the open mics hosted by the North End Forum.

Munro's reading was recorded by Jack Straw Productions, as part of the 2013 Jack Straw Writers Program.

Flickr Photo/giocomai

In the last 12 months there has been a series of political trials in Russia. First there was the punk rock group Pussy Riot. Then, demonstrators from the anti-Putin protest movement faced the court followed by the rising star of the opposition, Alexei Navalny. Some say Putin is using the justice system to shut down their political rivals and that this kind of injustice is accelerating.

When This Whole Thing Started

It began ten years ago with the arrest of the oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He has been in prison ever since. First, he was in Siberia. Now, he's at the edge of the Arctic. His mother travels vast distances to visit him.

Today on KUOW Presents, we join her on that long, cold train ride.

Full list of stories from KUOW Presents,  June 20:

Phin Dauphin
Phin Dauphin

"I will no longer mispronounce myself," resolves Phin Dauphin in "Baritone Without a Body." 

A self-described "gender fluid person," Dauphin says the poem was written while part of a slam poetry team preparing to represent Seattle at Brave New Voices, an international poetry festival. "Baritone Without a Body" aims to document the path taken to understand Dauphin's gender, and reflects a deep regard for language rooted in the experience of growing up in a household where English, Spanish, French and Creole were spoken on a daily basis.

Dennis Caswell
Jack Straw Productions/Sherwin Eng

In "Epiphanette," Woodinville poet Dennis Caswell speculates on what happens to the "carefree cognitive tumbleweed" of his baby daughter's mind when it "is struck by the SUV of enlightenment" in the form of a little epiphany.

Already she baby-knows:
A dance you learn; the dancer you're stuck to.
                                          from "Epiphanette"

Jourdan Keith
Brian McGuigan

Strange fruit has black seeds. Papaya pearls dropping tropics in our mouths.

from "Traveling Seeds"

Contemplating the generative power of papaya seeds led writer Jourdan Keith to write a parable about the African diaspora. Her story-poem "Traveling Seeds" is a hybrid of African folktales, Native American legend, Japanese poetic forms and also pays homage to the Harlem Renaissance.

Based in Seattle, Jourdan Keith is a poet, storyteller and environmental activist. She served as the Seattle Public Library's first Naturalist-in-Residence and is a Seattle Poet Populist Emerita.

Her essay, "Human Estuaries," which is based on her 2011 TEDxRainier talk, appeared in YES! Magazine.

She is the founder and director of Urban Wilderness Project, "providing storytelling, environmental education and wilderness service learning programs rooted in social change."

She was recorded in the KUOW Studios May 10, 2013.

Portrait of Zelda Fitzgerald
WikiMedia

In "Letter from Zelda," poet Marjorie Manwaring creates an imaginary letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, written by his wife Zelda from her room in a mental hospital.

Portrait of Colleen McElroy
Ingrid Pape-Sheldon

One of the most persistent stories about America — that it was made by immigrants fleeing "the old country" — is also one of the most incomplete. And since stories shape our perception of reality, poet Colleen McElroy is intent on telling another aspect of America's story in "Crossing Oceans."  The poem appears in her most recent collection "Here I Throw Down My Heart" (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

Author photo Marjorie Manwaring
Susan Filkins

The Woodstock generation may be aging, but don't try to tell them they're not still cool. Poet Marjorie Manwaring's "Letter to Mick Jagger from the St. Paul Chapter of the Daughters of Norway" captures the dissonance between how we feel inside, and how we may appear to others.

Karen Finneyfrock
Courtesy of Inti St. Clair

A  Metro bus ride inspires poet, novelist and teaching artist Karen Finneyfrock to find a delightfully surprising personification for Northwest springtime in her poem "Monster."

Cover of In Broken Latin
University of Arkansas Press

As a former Dominican nun in the Roman Catholic Church, Annette Spaulding-Convy is intimately aware of the complex messages the institution sends about women's bodies. Her poem "Bonsai Nun" finds an apt metaphor in the severe pruning required to make a tree fit the aesthetic and spiritual ideal.

Cover image of Marjorie Manwaring's book
Mayapple Press

As spring edges out winter and previously bare tree limbs are suddenly effusive with blossoms, there's a sense that almost anything -- or anyone -- deserves a second chance. In her poem "A Quiet," poet Marjorie Manwaring meditates on alternative endings and the possibility of redemption.

Colleen McElroy
Photo Credit/Ingrid Papp-Sheldon

In her poem "What Stays Here," Colleen McElroy imagines life as a female soldier who must choose between loyalty to herself, and loyalty to a military code that says "keep quiet" and "get along." Like many of the poems in McElroy's ninth collection, "Here I Throw Down My Heart," (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012) the poem awakens us to voices and stories we might otherwise never hear with such intimacy and power.

Carolyne Wright
Photo Credit/Erik Rucker

It can be hard to know how to respond to tragedies on the scale of the Newtown, Conn. shooting. We want to do something, but what?

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