Posts Tagged ‘ language ’

Why Vilnius rules. On people and monuments | Versopolis

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, a small post-Soviet Baltic state. It also used to be the capital of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL), with its first written reference dating as early as the 14th century. Lithuania is a young democratic country with long and difficult history to match, winters that will get on your nerves, and one of the oldest languages in the world. Linguists studying the ancient Indo-European languages, chiefly Sanskrit, learn Lithuanian first, because they are closely related: Similar in conjugations, pronouns, names for body parts and structure of a great number of words. Naturally, there have always been many languages spoken in Vilnius: Lithuanian, Yiddish, Polish, Russian, and now also English.

During the interwar period, as Lithuania had lost possession of Vilnius, as well as the Baltic coast, Lithuanians only constituted 2% of the residents of the city. The number only increased after World War II, with Vilnius returned to Lithuania again. For several centuries, it had been a city of Poles and Litvaks, mostly, an interesting crossroad of cultures. Only Jerusalem and Vilnius are said to have so many different temples so close to each other: Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelist, Uniate, Judaist…

Vilnius does have a special Vilnian charm. Baltic states remain a terra incognita to the Western civilization. Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn are confused with each other. So…

What makes Vilnius special?

Many things, really. Vilnian Baroque, established by Silesian architect, Johann Christoph Glaubitz, for instance, and Litvak culture – for several centuries, Vilnius used to be the spiritual center of Ashkenazi Jews, often referred to as the Northern Jerusalem. This is where writer and Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz studied, this is where his friend, Joseph Brodsky, another Nobel laureate, partied. French writer Romain Gary, the only writer ever to win two Goncourt Prizes, was born here. Some wonderful Yiddish-language poets lived in Vilnius – my beloved Moyshe Kulbak, Abraham Sutzkever. Of course, many interesting Lithuanian writers also worked in Vilnius – Žemaitė, S. Nėris and others.

Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva’s letters to her Vilnian friend were found recently. Polish Romanticist poet Adam Mickiewicz studied here – there’s a monument to him in Paris, too. Born in Vilnius was Jewish anarchist, writer, activist and prisoner, Alexander Berkman, the significant other of the most dangerous woman in the US, in the beginning of 20th century, also Litvak, Emma Goldman. The students of Vilnius Academy of Arts – mostly Jews from around the present-day Lithuania, Belarus and Poland – moved to Paris in early 20th century, forming the second wave of École de Paris, which made a great impact on Western modernism.

One text is evidently not enough to fully reveal the love I have for Vilnius. So let’s do it in a simpler way: I’ll tell you how this whole cultural variety is displayed in the city’s monuments and sculptures.

Four Lithuanian Writers

The central street of Vilnius – Gedimino prospektas – is where she sits: Žemaitė (Julija Beniuševičiūtė-Žymantienė, 1845–1921). A woman in a rustic headscarf and with a pipe. The latter was left out, in the Soviet monument – it was probably considered unattractive: A woman with a pipe, yuck… An impoverished, noble-born girl came to Vilnius from Žemaitija, Western Lithuania. She would walk barefoot because, according to her, “stones tear up the shoes.” She brought up 7 children with her husband, and fell in love with another man 30 years her junior, who later married her daughter. A decided feminist, she took part in the first Lithuanian women’s congress, in 1907. During World War I, on the eve of her 70th birthday, she decided to go to America. Even there, out of eccentricity, she kept the accessory of a countrywoman – the headscarf. It remained the detail of the writer’s personal style.

Next to this monument, feminist readings take place. Me and my friends placed a colorful balaclava helmet on Žemaitė’s head once – after the picket to support the Pussy Riot girls, who were in prison at that time, when we still liked them. In short, this monument is full of life, and Žemaitė Square turns sometimes into an interesting public space.  . . . .

Source: Why Vilnius rules. On people and monuments | Versopolis

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An Interview with Aleks Slota: Language is a Shell Game

Years ago, if you read Derrida, Lacan and their fellow travelers and then came to the conclusion that language is inherently unreliable, you were considered at best pretentious and at worst mentally ill.

Source: An Interview with Aleks Slota: Language is a Shell Game

Language as Instrument: The Music of Odwalla1221 – News – Art in America

Odwalla1221. Photo Danielle Neu.

The raw songs Chloe Maratta and Flannery Silva have created as Odwalla1221 (formerly known as Odwalla88) paste together crisp, discrete imagery through their signature spoken-word delivery. Within Odwalla1221’s sparse, electronic-based arrangements, language itself becomes an instrument.

Source: Language as Instrument: The Music of Odwalla1221 – News – Art in America

Threat Level: Poetry by Amy King | Boston Review

Source: Threat Level: Poetry | Boston Review

Seven – from Noah Eli Gordon | The Brooklyn Rail

It’s All You

 

All the geraniums
All the paintings of geraniums
All the photographs of geraniums
The word geranium
In all the languages
That have a word for geraniums
Lucky you & your constant removal
My daughter who doesn’t know
Why she’s crying tells me
I feel like there are
Tornadoes in my head
She’s four and her drawings
Of flowers look like the sun

 

Noah Eli Gordon lives in Denver, CO and teaches in the MFA program for Creative Writing at CU Boulder, where he currently directs Subito Press. His most recent book is The Word Kingdom in the Word Kingdom (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2015).

Source: Seven | The Brooklyn Rail

Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Author of the Acacia Seeds. And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics | Zeitgeist Spam

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Editorial. By the President of the Therolinguistics Association

What is Language?

This question, central to the science of therolinguistics, has been answered—heuristically—by the very existence of the science. Language is communication. That is the axiom on which all our theory and research rest, and from which all our discoveries derive; and the success of the discoveries testifies to the validity of the axiom. But to the related, yet not identical question, What is Art? we have not yet given a satisfactory answer.

Tolstoy, in the book whose title is that very question, answered it firmly and clearly: Art, too, is communication. This answer has, I believe, been accepted without examination or criticism by therolinguists. For example: Why do therolinguists study only animals?

Why, because plants do not communicate.

Plants do not communicate; that is a fact. Therefore plants have no language; very well; that follows from our basic axiom. Therefore, also, plants have no art. But stay! That doesnot follow from the basic axiom, but only from the unexamined Tolstoyan corollary.

What if art is not communicative?

Or, what if some art is communicative, and some art is not?

Ourselves animals, active, predators, we look (naturally enough) for an active, predatory, communicative art; and when we find it, we recognise it. The development of this power of recognition and the skills of appreciation is a recent and glorious achievement.

But I submit that, for all the tremendous advances made by therolinguistics during the last decades, we are only at the beginning of our age of discovery. We must not become slaves to our own axioms. We have not yet lifted our eyes to the vaster horizons before us. We have not faced the almost terrifying challenge of the Plant.

If a non-communicative, vegetative art exists, we must rethink the very elements of our science, and learn a whole new set of techniques.

For it is simply not possible to bring the critical and technical skills appropriate to the study of Weasel murder mysteries, or Batrachian erotica, or the tunnel sagas of the earthworm, to bear on the art of the redwood or the zucchini.

This is proved conclusively by the failure—a noble failure—of the efforts of Dr. Srivas, in Calcutta, using time-lapse photography, to produce a lexicon of Sunflower. His attempt was daring, but doomed to failure. For his approach was kinetic—a method appropriate to the communicative arts of the tortoise, the oyster, and the sloth. He saw the extreme slowness of the kinesis of plants, and only that, as the problem to be solved.

But the problem was far greater. The art he sought, if it exists, is a non-communicative art: and probably a non-kinetic one. It is possible that Time, the essential element, matrix, and measure of all known animal art, does not enter into vegetable art at all. The plants may use the meter of eternity. We do not know.

We do not know. All we can guess is that the putative Art of the Plant isentirely different from the Art of the Animal. What it is, we cannot say; we have not yet discovered it. Yet I predict with some certainty that it exists, and that when it is found it will prove to be, not an action, but a reaction: not a communication, but a reception. It will be exactly the opposite of the art we know and recognise. It will be the first passive art known to us.

Can we in fact know it? Can we ever understand it?

It will be immensely difficult. That is clear. But we should not despair. Remember that so late as the mid-twentieth century, most scientists, and many artists, did not believe that Dolphin would ever be comprehensible to the human brain—or worth comprehending! Let another century pass, and we may seem equally laughable. “Do you realise,” the phytolinguist will say to the aesthetic critic, “that they couldn’t even read Eggplant?” And they will smile at our ignorance, as they pick up their rucksacks and hike on up to read the newly deciphered lyrics of the lichen on the north face of Pike’s Peak.

And with them, or after them, may there not come that even bolder adventurer—the first geolinguist, who, ignoring the delicate, transient lyrics of the lichen, will read beneath it the still less communicative, still more passive, wholly atemporal, cold, volcanic poetry of the rocks: each one a word spoken, how long ago, by the earth itself, in the immense solitude, the immenser community, of space.

Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Author of the Acacia Seeds. And Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics | Zeitgeist Spam

Tchaikovsky – The Seasons – October (“Autumn Song”)