Eleven days after the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) laid down their arms, the International Festival of Poetry in Medellín began its 27th version, celebrating world peace and reconciliation in Colombia.
If Medellín was associated with Pablo Escobar and the drug cartels in the early 1990’s, today it has become the capital of poetry.
From July 8th to 15th, 2017, an international community of poets met in Medellín to celebrate poetry and peace through the slogan “construyendo el país soñado” and explore possible articulations to link poetry to the peace-making process.
Chilean poet and RL instructor Jesús Sepúlveda was invited to participate with more than 100 other selected international and Colombian poets to read poetry in public. Readings were also held in Bogotá and in other locations in the country, including the so-called “normalization zones” near temporary guerrilla camps where former fighters transition into civil life.
Each day poets shared their poetry in public spaces—local libraries in underprivileged neighborhoods, countercultural theaters, universities, public plazas, and many cultural buildings.
This year was symbolic because of the recent peace agreement, but also particularly difficult because of political conflicts, which led some important institutions to withdraw their support from the festival. As the founder and director of the festival poet Fernando Rendón put it, the cultural functionaries feel they own the public budget, therefore:
“Aunque la guerra haya terminado, se mantiene la escala de tropas y armamentos, y el mal gusto por la áspera dominación y la cultura de la fuerza; se menoscaba aún más el presupuesto de la cultura; se interceptan los fondos de las agencias de cooperación que engrosan los presupuestos ministeriales; se imponen nuevos tributos y requisitos a las actividades culturales; se privatizan espacios tradicionales para el arte; se restringe al máximo el uso del espacio “público”; se hace inaccesible el costo de los libros y otros productos culturales; se incumplen compromisos con sectores avanzados del teatro nacional; se imponen a los actores culturales las mismas normas contables que a las empresas trasnacionales; se retienen aportes vitales para desarrollar procesos en los tiempos puntuales; se maltrata a los creadores y gestores.”
In spite of these difficulties, the festival was able to assemble poets, musicians and the public in an exceptional and peaceful symbiosis that makes this festival one of the most important poetry events around the world.
Poets also led literary workshops on current issues. Jesús Sepúlveda delivered a talk on poetry and utopia called “Jardines para la paz” at the Corporación Ecológica y Cultural Penca de Sábila. At the end of this workshop, participants wrote their own creative pieces. The following day a reading was organized at the Palacio de Bellas Artes where poets Samuel Bossini and Graciela Maturo from Argentina and Jesús Sepúlveda read together with some participants from different workshops that took place during the week in the context of the “Escuela de Poesía del Festival” directed by poet Jairo Guzmán.
The closing ceremony of the festival was a collective reading where many poets, including Sepúlveda, read their work in front of a multitude that gathered at the Parque de los Deseos. The crowd’s enthusiastic cheers and applause were an uplifting confirmation of the powers of poetry to embrace peace and unity in a country submerged in armed conflict for the last 53 years.
Jesús Sepúlveda adds: “I can only express my gratitude for the warm welcome and dedication of Fernando and Luis Eduardo Rendón, Gloria y Natalia, and all organizers for the smooth organization led by a team of presenters, interpreters, and translators, and for the energizing spirit of Colombia. Language transformed into poetry and poetry transformed into peace are the keys of this festival whose creative resonance is a crucial experience for poets in all languages. ¡Viva el Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín!”
[For more information about the “Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín,” click here: https://www.festivaldepoesiademedellin.org/es/Intro/index.htm]
Professor of Spanish David Wacks has published an essay entitled “An Interstitial History of Medieval Iberian poetry” in The Routledge Companion to Iberian Studies Companion to Iberian Studies. (Javier Muñoz-Basols, Laura Lonsdale, and Manuel Delgado, London: Routledge, 2017)
Medieval Iberian literature shows us a poetic culture that drew on several linguistic and regional traditions, and that was characterized far more by bilingualism, diglossia, and artistic crossings than by anything approaching a monolingual sense of national culture. In this essay Wacks examines the interstices of these crossings in a series of examples of the poetic cultures of medieval Iberia: the adaptation of popular Romance and colloquial Andalusi Arabic lyric by poets working in Classical Arabic and Hebrew (10th-13th c.), the adaptation of classical Arabic poetics by Andalusi Hebrew poets (10th-14th c.), the diffusion of Provençal and Galician-Portuguese poetics throughout the Peninsula (12th-13th c.), Jewish authors’ adaptations of Romance language poetics (14th-15th c.), and the phenomenon of Aljamiado poetry, Ibero-Romance verses written in Arabic characters by crypto-Muslim writers in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The essay is available Open Acess here.
Program for LALISA and Conference registration available here!
CALL FOR PAPERS: 2nd LALISA CONFERENCE: April 13-15 2017 (already closed)
From Catalonia to California, Cuba, Chile, to all the many areas impacted by the long Iberian expansion that started in the 15th century, the foundational divisions of center and periphery have constituted cultural and social spaces where languages, bodies, ethnicities, and alternate mappings have resisted colonial hegemonic practices and institutions. According to Mexican philosopher Leopoldo Zea (1912-2004) the peripheral mappings within which Spain and Portugal were placed in the early modern period positioned their colonial territories at “the periphery of a periphery.” Decolonial movements and theoretical discussions have critically revisited the concept of periphery and problematized the discussion with new terms such as Gloria Anzaldúa’s “nepantilism” (“being between crossroads”) and her post-binary discussion of mestizo/a identities. Following on the fruitful discussions of our inaugural conference at Reed College in the spring of 2016, our Second Conference of LALISA at the University of Oregon aims to investigate the validity and contemporary currency of the center-periphery model as a way to understand Latin American, Latino/a, and Iberian cultural productions and social formations. We expect to receive papers from various disciplines across the humanities and the social sciences that will deal with issues related to the central themes of the conference:
Center/periphery; Peripheral knowledges and identities; Colonial and postcolonial cartographies; Spatial identifications; Walls, borders, and the end of globalization; Eurocentrism, white supremacist geographies of exclusion; Environmental humanities; Global/local; Postcoloniality in the post-Hispanic world; Gender formations in the peripheries of modernity; Virtual borders, zones of influence, divisions; Regionalism and nationalism, postnationalism, and neonationalism; Space and the modern/premodern/postmodern debate; Latinidad/hispanidad/indigenismo; Enrique Dusell’s concepts “underside of modernity, Transmodernity”; Marginalization and economic oppression; Racial peripheries, racialized bodies and places; Transatlantic crossings, hemispheric displacements, migrations, diasporas.
Abstracts should include a full title, a 300-word description of the paper, and the institutional affiliation of the presenter. Papers will be accepted in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Please direct your enquiries and abstract submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Social and Cultural Geographies from the Underside of Modernity
Deadline for receipt of abstracts is January 30th.
Confirmations and a full program will be made available in February. A selection of revised papers presented at the conference will be published in the new UO-based online journal Periphērica: Journal of Social, Cultural, and Literary History in 2017/18.
The conference fee ($50 for faculty, $25 for graduate students) will include light breakfast and lunches on Friday and Saturday; a conference dinner ($45) on Friday will be available for those wishing to attend. Presenters will need to be members of the LALISA association at lalisa.org in order to attend the conference and the business meeting on Saturday, April 15th.
Sylt Foundation Invites Jesús Sepúlveda to South Africa
Chilean poet and senior instructor Jesús Sepúlveda just returned from a three-week writer’s residency in Johannesburg where he met South African writers, poets, and artists.
Sponsored by the Sylt Foundation, Sepúlveda visited renowned poet Vonani Bila and his wife Gudani Ramikosi, an author of children’s books, at the Timbila Writers’ Village in the Northeastern province of Limpopo. Bila completed in 2016—in collaboration with poet Max Makisi Marhanele—the edition of the first comprehensive monolingual Xitsonga dictionary, Tihlungu ta Rixaka. Xitsonga is one of the ten vernacular languages in South Africa and the 920-page dictionary represents a great recognition of the importance of South African native languages. Sepúlveda will donate his personal copy to the UO library, so the dictionary can be available in the Pacific Northwest library system.
While in Johannesburg—also known as Joburg or Jozi, the two most common abbreviations for this city, the largest one in South Africa—Sepúlveda met with Aragorn Eloff, a member of the bolo’bolo collective and responsible for the publication of his book The Garden of Peculiarities reprinted in Cape Town in 2016. On the occasion of Sepúlveda’s visit to South Africa, Eloff published an interview, “A Mockingbird in the Garden,” in the online publication Medium on December 15, 2016.
Indra Wussow, art critic and collector, translator, writer and director of the Sylt Foundation, organized several literary tertulias to connect Sepúlveda with local writers and poets such as Xoli Norman, Charl-Pierre Naudé, Phillippa Yaa de Viliers as well as pianist Jill Richards and painter Jaco van Schalkwyk. Wussow also organized visits to sites of cultural, historical, and political interest. Tumi Mokgope, project manager of the Sylt Foundation, guided Sepúlveda through these sites: the Township of Soweto, home of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu where the uprising of 1976 triggered the social movement that ended apartheid in 1990; the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves in the outskirts of Johannesburg, where the finds of ancient hominin fossils are exhibited. Sepúlveda also visited the Apartheid Museum in Joburg and the Freedom Park Museum in Pretoria to learn about the systematic and hideous regime of racial segregation installed in the country from 1948 to 1990.
During his stay, Sepúlveda also met with writers Zaide Harneker and Frank Meintjies, active members of the South African literary and political milieu, and discussed the development of the Abantu Book Festival, activism in Johannesburg, and the social and educational crisis in the country, with a 26.6% unemployment rate in 2016. Sepúlveda also discussed the current situation with Angie Kapelianis, broadcast journalist of SABC National Radio, who has been covering political news since Mandela’s presidential election in 1994.
While writing about the Soweto uprising, Sepúlveda found intriguing similarities between Chile and South Africa. “I was surprised to realize how close the recent political history of both countries are. Chile and South Africa ended their cruel regimes through massive demonstrations and civil disobedience at the end of the 1980’s, while transitioning toward modern, stable and yet neoliberal democracies. Rampant neoliberalism produces abyssal social gap and class segregation, which is the cause of huge problems in both countries. Another similarity is the nature of the extractive economies based on mine exploitation—with its negative ecological impact on the natural environment and people’s health. Another parallel is how South Africa and Chile have become in the last decade magnetic poles that attract economic immigration. While Chile has the fastest growing immigrant population in South America, receiving people from neighbor countries as well as from Colombia, Haiti, and Spain; South Africa is the second African country after Ivory Coast to receive people, making the immigrant population 4% of the total inhabitants in the country. After this residency, I have learned a great deal about South Africa, helping me to reflect with a wider perspective on Chile as well as the US, and reaffirming my conviction to honor linguistic diversity and cultural differences as the only way to build up tolerant societies for a harmonious world. I’m extremely grateful to the Sylt Foundation and Indra Wussow for this great opportunity.”
The following is the 2016 Romance Languages commencement address, given by Evlyn Gould, CAS Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Professor Emerita of French
Buenos días y bienvenidos; bona tarde y bemvindos;
Buona sera i benvenuti; bonjour et bienvenues…. Let your minds travel with those sounds for just a moment….
These are the sounds of other lands, other faces and other places, other smells and others tastes… These are the sounds of the Romance Languages in which we shall confer degrees today.
I am Evlyn Gould, Professor Emerita of French and I am delighted to be the one to address you today at these commencement ceremonies for the Dept. of Romance languages honoring the graduating class of 2016. Give yourselves a round of applause.
Commencement ceremonies… I am thoughtful because after 33 years of teaching at the UO, I, too, am graduating. We do think of this event as the end, end of the term, of the year, of our formal studies. Indeed, as of today, gone are the finals, gone are the demanding professors, the deadlines, the all-nighters. But commencement is not about that. From the French commencement or Italian, cominciare, or Spanish, comenzar, today is a new beginning, with new horizons of possibility before you, new responsibilities and your own assignments and deadlines… to set for yourselves.
You are entering a world of networks, a world of continual communications and continual connection, a world of inters: Inter-disciplinarity, international markets, inter-ethnic conflicts, interactions of all sorts with long-distance migrants and immigrants, a world of environmental inter-dependence. As students with expertise in languages other than English, your reach through these networks is potentially extensive. You may find yourself making instantaneous translations for the other side of the world, (or slow and painful ones that anguish over just the right expression for that culturally specific foreign idea that you want to translate for people here in the US); you may travel to the other side of the world with regularity, or you may stay there awhile to improve living conditions, the soil, the housing or the crops in Uruguay, in Mexico, in Spain, in Chad, in Lampedusa, in Morocco or in Egypt. You may practice international law or work in international tourism. You may stay right here in the Pacific North West and still serve people on the other side of the world with a flick or a click of the hand. You may teach in multi-ethnic, multi-cultured schools, or you may teach Oregonians about these other communities; you may invest your time aiding transcriptions in hospitals, in banks, or in refugee centers, or you may simply invest your great earnings in the global market economy. However you deploy the learning and experience you have engaged over your years at UO, you will be GLOBAL CITIZENS.
What are global citizens? Let me say quickly that they are not the clichéd unit of speech designed to be mere fodder for political rhetoric, nor are they a way to designate the impersonality of transactions required by technology. Rather, according to a recent report on US education: global citizens are rarer than we might think for these are individuals—and I quote–who…. “are aware of the global nature of societal issues, care about people in distant places, understand the nature of global economic integration, appreciate the interconnectedness and interdependence of people, respect and protect cultural diversity, fight for social justice for all, and protect planet Earth—home for all human beings” (Zhao 2010).
The US has struggled with the goal of creating curricula designed to promote global citizenship because of a feeling of isolation, a century of international dominance, the perception that globalized themes are insurmountable and that many of the issues we face as ‘global citizens” remain controversial or just plan hard to talk about: how are our values shaped by location, by poverty or by wealth, by safety or war, or famine, by religion, by geographic displacement or by climate chaos? But where the US has fallen short, we in the Dept of Romance Languages excel! By studying second, third, or even fourth languages and their literatures at UO and by steeping in the rich cultures and lifestyles they have shaped, you have improved your ability to cross many of these social, geographic, economic, and cultural divides.
Today, with unprecedented speed, we are, as Gustave Flaubert wrote in the increasingly industrialized mid-19th century, “everywhere and nowhere at once.” And what are the tools that will be necessary for this (acceleration) and its constant demand to re-position your energies and intentions? Well…, this continual re-location requires a certain eco-location. … (and not because we’ll all be underwater…) Like our friends in the sea, to eco-locate is to perceive the sounds around us, to move in response to them, hear the melodies of languages, knowing that those melodies represent the souls of people. Ever more than technology, social networking across language barriers, and deep sensitivities to cultural and economic divides, to religious differences, to varied ethnicities (genders and values), and to the many-splendored ideas about what constitutes the good life… in this world of ours, these will be the skills central to everyday communication and to the preservation of our planet for the future.
Now a closing to word to parents and families and then to you graduates:
Parents and families, your investment has been a good one—in the future of your students and in our future. Students with liberal arts education who spend time in the company of other languages learn to feel different emotions, to rehearse different passions, to experience different sacred rituals and to hear the world in different ways. They may take longer to find their own satisfying niches in the working world, but research shows that they will be happier and live longer lives in the long run. Moreover, I might also point out that recent brain research has revealed that studying second and third languages increases brain plasticity. It actually has health benefits… It opens new pathways in the cerebral cortex and quickens the synapses making for better adaptation to the speeding world.
Students, join me now in thanking your parents and families for doing their best to outfit you for a world they cannot themselves yet imagine.
Graduates, … YOU are thinkers and readers. You have learned to discern, beneath the surfaces of texts, the voices and stories of other hearts yearning. You have learned to ask the big questions literature asks: about life, love, politics, death, and meaning. You are people poised to challenge the intoxications of immediate gratification, peoples poised in ethical responsiveness before an often unfair world, people who know how to listen and how to become silent so as to hear the Earth crying out. I have spoken with many of you. I know you have great ideas for using global advertising to improve the environment, for deploying new business strategies to improve lives, food and access, for publishing and speaking in new ways that diminish discrimination, and promote equanimity rather than promoting the fears of scarcity thinking. I for one am glad to have you on my team. I congratulate you heartily. May you take up your participation in a global citizenry in responsible and thoughtful ways and may you understand that your particular way of participating is absolutely essential to the whole. Thank you.
The 2016 Romance Languages Newsletter is here! 8 pages full of news and photos of our faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. The newsletter is created by Prof. André Djiffack.
Click here to view the 2016 RL Newsletter
Through funding from the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Canby Public Library is one of four Oregon Libraries to present an extensive program exploring Latino experiences in the United States. On Thursday, February 25 at 6:30 pm, bilingual children’s author and Senior Instructor of Spanish Amy Costales will tell stories, speak about the importance of Spanish heritage language and the creative writing process.
Between November 26th and December 1st 2015, ten poets were invited to participate in the Tabanan International Poetry Festival in Bali, Indonesia. Poet and Senior Instructor of Spanish Composition, Creative Writing and Poetry, Jesús Sepúlveda, was one of them. During the festival poets from four continents met and discussed issues related to poetry and their distinctive poetic traditions while performing poetry readings in their original languages with simultaneous translation into Indonesian for a Balinese audience composed of community members, students, poets, and occasional passers-by.
The Grand Opening of the event consisted in a procession through the streets of Denpasar—Bali’s capital—where poets paraded, carrying a banner with the pictures of all poets. A band that played Gamelan Balinese traditional music accompanied the poets while police stopped traffic and escorted the group of poets and musicians to the main stage. People assembled on sidewalks cheering the poets while giant posters announcing the festival were hanging from buildings and homes. At the end of the day, German poet Michael Augustin wrote: “poetry can stop cars!”
Sepúlveda had the opportunity to meet renowned Javanese poet and feminist scholar, Toedi Heraty, who invited the group to celebrate her 82th birthday at one of her beautiful homes. He also met the national Balinese poet and shaman, Samar Gantang, whose epic poems are rooted in Balinese culture and are performed with Gamelan music and masked dancers interpreting the different characters and scenes of the poems. This style of performative poetry is already a poetic school in Bali and Samar Gantang’s reputation is vibrant and emulated by Balinese youth.
Another highlight of the week was the poetry readings at the 16th century Tanah Lot Temple in the Wantilan area. Once there, and before the reading and the spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean, poets were asked to sign their names on separate plaques, so they could be engraved in a holy rock placed in the garden of the Hindu temple. Organizers and authorities envisioned this tribute as an opportunity for future visitors to admire the calligraphy of poet’s signatures melted into the beauty of the landscape and the sacred atmosphere of the place.
During the festival poets also visited schools, experienced Balinese culture and cuisine, and trekked the rice paddies of beautiful, utopian, and green land surrounding Jatiluwih village in the plateau of Watukaru Mount—one of the most iconic and traditional areas in Bali. In this excursion, poets learned about the ecologically sustainable irrigation system of canals and weirs called Subak that dates back to the 9th century while drinking red rice tea and eating fresh fruit from the organic gardens.
Poets also taught and learned from each other, expanding their expertise and poetic craft while creating an international network of poetry. Malaysian poet Muhammad Salleh shared with his fellow poets the tradition of Pantun—a Malay literary form from 15th century—while Indian poet Sujata Bhatt read her intimate poetry about her displacements and reminiscences of her mother tongue. Mozambique-born poet and professor Lucas Mkuti presented an anthology of poetry from around the world Sweep of the Violin, whose title comes from a poem by Javanese poet and festival organizer, Dorothea Rosa Herliany. The whole group traveled throughout the island in a van driven “Balinese style,” visiting cultural sites and talking in Balinese, Indonesian, Malay, English, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish.
On the last night, five poets read their work at the main Tabanan plaza, Alit Saputra, in front of 15,000 people in the context of the city’s celebration of its 522 years. South African poet Vonani Bila, German poet Bastian Boettcher, French poet Aurélia Lassaque, Balinese poet Samar Gantang, and Chilean poet Jesús Sepúlveda read their poetry on the main stage, while a giant screen showed their readings to the public and the cameras televised the event live on Indonesian national TV. This was certainly a climactic ending to the festival, which remained in the national and local news even days after poets returned home.
For more information, see tabananpoetry.com or google Tabanan International Poetry Festival.
I was born in Ankara, Turkey. After the first year of college I moved to Istanbul where I continued to my studies in Italian Language and Literature. While I was in college I started taking classes at the Istituto italiano di cultura. Many European nations have these cultural institutions where they teach language and culture. There I earned several scholarships to study abroad in Italy during summer times.
My first study abroad was in Siena and then I went to Perugia twice while I was an undergraduate student. After I graduated, I received another scholarship to participate in a longer program, Corso di formazione per gli insegnanti d’italiano, in Perugia for learning how to teach Italian as a second language. Towards the end of my stay, in the month of July I met the person who I would end up marrying after six months. He was a UO student doing his study abroad program in Perugia. As they say, the rest is history.
In 1993 I came here and started as a GTF, working on my Masters in Italian. By 1998 I had earned two masters degrees in Italian and Linguistics. I had a baby the same year and taught Italian classes at Willamette University for nearly two years. Then in 1999 I was hired as an instructor. So since I started, I never stopped teaching Italian.
What made you want to study Italian?
My first major was Physics, but the trouble getting through Calculus 251, guided me to look for a different path. When I was a teenager, I used to travel with my grandma a lot. One of those summers, I was in the Southern part of Turkey, and I met an Italian family and we became friends. I just fell in love with their way of being and their language the sound of it and everything. And I said, “you know what, why don’t I study Italian?” Making a decision that completely changed my life was really as simple as that!
It’s important to learn a language different than yours. Learning a language helps one grow in a way that may not be possible otherwise. Seeing the world from a totally different perspective, seeing yourself from a different perspective- it brings objectivity. It helps one face their own limitations but also discover their own strengths and see that there is not only one way of doing things.
When you learn a language you learn a whole new set of problem solving skills. I speak three languages, and I have at least three different ways of approaching situations at hand. Sometimes, I think like an Italian, sometimes I think like a Turkish person and sometimes I have to think like an American.
What was that ‘light bulb moment’ that led you to a career in Romance languages?
It was in my second study abroad experience, in Perugia, where there’s this big university of foreigners. And I met people from all over the world basically, from Cameroon to Greece to Ireland to United States- basically all around the world. And we all had one thing in common: a desire to learn Italian and speak it well. All our joys, sorrows, everything we shared in Italian. That unifying aspect of Italian had a great impact on me. We were all very different people, but we were still able to get together, speak in a different language from our own and discover that we were actually not so different. But it took a language in common for us to discover that. I hope all students at the University of Oregon discover the language that may have similar positive effects in their lives. A great place to start that discovery is languages.uoregon.edu.
— Madison Layton @MadisonLayton01