SHAWKAT TOORAWA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
An elegant soiree of Near Eastern, Francophone, and World Poetry. Sorry. That was my 'Allo 'Allo rendition. Needless to say, from my glib and flip manner, it's a delight to be able to welcome all of you to today's event, An Elegant Soiree of Near East and Francophone and world poetry.
Let me upfront acknowledge our partners in pastry and poetry, that is to say the Department of Near Eastern Studies partners, the French Studies program, always very generous and always elegant. The Society for the Humanities, always elegant. That was a joke for Tim Murray's benefit, he's absent. And of course, tonight's real hero, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, which has literally opened its doors. And my goodness, you only have to look in that direction to understand the value of their involvement.
What you should have is a program following the [INAUDIBLE] of years past. We have an elegant part of the program and then the Xeroxed part. And what I've done is listed the name of the reader, the language that they're reading, and the name of the author.
And then there's a number. And the reason there's a number is because we're not necessarily going to follow this sequence. Some people have other commitments. But what it will allow you to do is find the reading.
So for example, I can already tell you that after Lori Khatchadourian and Elliot Dine and Jordana Gilman, who expressed an interest in going early, we will have, third, Jonathan Monroe. So all you need to do is look down, find his name, he's number 12, and then turn to page 12 so that you can follow the poem. Although in that particular case, it happens to be in English. And so as long as you understand English, you'll be OK.
Most poems, however, are not in English. And you will maybe not need, but you may want to follow it in English. So that's how it will transpire. And I think what I'll do is even though it'll seem a little wooden for me to keep coming up, I will invite people up, and that way you can follow what's going on. So I'd like to-- in fact, it gives me great pleasure, as they say, to introduce the first reader. Lori Khatchadourian is joining the Department of Near Eastern Studies in a few months, and very kindly agreed to read Armenian, something we've never had, I think. We've never had on an evening.
Also, I'm not going to spend too much time introducing people. I'm just going to call their names, except for Lori, whom I just introduced. And also I'd ask readers not to spend too much time giving biographical information. A, it tends to interfere with people's enjoyment of poetry if they have biography, and B, if you want to give information, if you could give it afterwards, and just very, very succinct, because there is pastry, after all, to be consumed. So Lori, if I could ask you to come up. Thank you.
LORI KHATCHADOURIAN: I won't give any biographical information, but I will just say one thing before I launch in, which is when listening to the poem and reading the English, imagine a censor mediating the experience between the writing of the poem and the reading of the poem. This is a Soviet era poem.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Thank you very much. If Elliot Dine and Jordana Gilman could now come up. Second reading, Hebrew. [HEBREW].
JORDANA GILMAN: [SPEAKING HEBREW]
ELLIOT DINE: [SPEAKING HEBREW]
JONATHAN MONROE: Hi, I'm Jonathan Monroe from Comparative Literature. Number 12 in the book. This is from a book called Isle of the Signatories, by Marjorie Welish, who's a visual artist and poet, who's actually coming up from New York next Tuesday. If anyone is interested, we'd love to see you there at 7:30 Tuesday night in the Guerlac Room at the AD White House.
This event was held last year in the AD White House, and I was actually thinking of the Guerlac Room when I selected this poem. It has different resonances here in the Johnson Museum.
"In this house, or in this house utterly defaced, an author, an essayist, lost what he had written. Authors unknown lived here. Here and here is the author's birthplace, a new calculus. In this house or in a house very much like this, a poet spelled his name.
On this site was the house of the poet. Throughout this site lived another site, lavishing indicators that some persons he has revealed had meant to live here. On this site, The Mill once stood, the restaurant called The Mill and its bookstore, where the author would have signed his books. House circa 1920, left to be re-edified.
It may be here in 1960 where the poet read. The author uttered sentences. The author uttered sentences shaped by the severance. It is said that here the author uttered sentences. It was here the author or authors recited their thoughts with as much speed as they could.
The author and translator frequented this site to protest and to promise, and the people drew near to her. That the authors comprehended whatsoever pertained to cause, they said afterwards came to be called here. Upon the 18th century foundations of a farmhouse, the philosopher designed a house and lived in it, completely restored. It was here her letters were found. Poet of apothems, partial or bright, she lived here all her life."
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: I misspelled, or I failed to proofread the poet's name in the list, with two L's. You'll see it's corrected. You'll also find that the last sheet of the Xerox contains an addendum and an erratum, and the erratum corrects not only the name of this poet, but also I foolishly didn't proofread the name of one of our readers, and I apologize.
We're going to continue to be out of sync a little here. Ivan Friedman has to leave. So he is number 11 in your handout. So if I could ask, is it ee-van or eye-van?
IVAN FRIEDMAN: Ee-van.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Ivan. So if you could make your way here slowly, while people find number 11. I guess they won't have trouble, they were just on 12. And then what I'll ask Tommy is to not read immediately, if that's OK. That way we don't have French back to back. Is that all right? Cool.
IVAN FRIEDMAN: Hello. So a brief introduction. First of all, I had no idea it was going to be this elegant a soiree when I offered my own poem. So take that at face value. And also we're doing a chapter about carpe diem in our poetry class, and as a typical college student, I generally throw away the day, and it's the night that I tend to savor. So I thought I'd put that into the poem.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Very elegant. [SPEAKING FRENCH]
It will be something like a penny. A penny, a penny day or something. So we're at number two now or three. But we're going to ask Tommy Bruce to sit tight. Kristen, why don't you come up and do Italian, and then we'll ask Tommy Bruce, and then we'll maybe be in sequence.
Or is there anyone else who needs to read early? I mean this quite honestly. Oh, of course. The Sierra Palumbos and Chase Meyer. All right. So the vice president can wait. Tommy Bruce is the vice president. I thought I'd just embarrass him in public. You can go after Kristen.
KRISTEN: I have time.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: So if you have time, then why did you say you needed to go? No, no. I'll have you go next. Is that OK? Then I won't be stressed, and I won't sweat. You're number four.
KRISTEN: [SPEAKING ITALIAN]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Sorry, I'm being far too casual about these things. In order to not have languages come up against each other, we'll have to not let certain people go up. So can we have French, therefore, Chase Meyer first, and then can we have Sierra Palumbos, if that's OK, and then we'll have Italian again. Thank you so much.
So we're now on number 18, and the translation appears on the very last page. The original appears at 18. And I should identify the translators of the English. I did the first rather pathetic run through and Laurent Ferrier, who is hiding here somewhere, over here, turned it into poetry.
CHASE MEYER: I'll be reading a poem by Anna Greki. Her real name is Collette Gregoire, who fought for Algerian independence in the 1950s and was imprisoned and tortured in their camps and remained there. And my teacher, Cora, and I chose this poem together. It's a place that meant a lot to her, and it's actually been in the news a lot lately, Algeria.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Just give me the number. This is Sierra Palumbos, reading number 21.
SIERRA PALUMBOS: So the poem I'm going to be reading is by Vittorio Sereni. He was born in northern Italy in 1913 and was drafted into the Italian army and captured by Allied troops, and he spent time in an African POW camp in Algeria. And this poem is from his volume, Diario d'Algeria.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Before I invite Tommy to come up, I'd just like to say, one of the great pleasures of putting this together-- I speak on behalf of my department-- is the fact that it not only attracts an audience from all over the university, but also participants. So we have undergraduates reading, graduate students, faculty, administrators, staff members. I don't know if there's a staff member this year, but there was last year.
And it's a great sign for-- it bodes well for poetry generally, and so we're very pleased. So if I can now ask number three, Tommy Bruce, to read. Are you going to explain who she is?
TOMMY BRUCE: Yes.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Good. Thank you.
TOMMY BRUCE: I was entitled to a small biography. First of all, thank you for allowing me to be here. The biography is very easy. I'm going to read a poem of my grandmother's. My grandmother is Louise de Vilmorin. She was a French poetess and writer.
She's been gone for a long time, but she had this incredible ability to intertwine irony and longing in such a way that she was able to take advantage of words. She loved words. And the reason I'm reading this particular poem is for two reasons. One was that I was trying to decide which poem to read, and I was reading some of the English translations that were available so that you would be able to enjoy it in English, and maybe I'm too close to the material, but I got little frustrated with many of the translations. This one, I think, is pretty good.
The second thing is that it brought back a personal memory, which was that when I was trying to learn how to recite the [FRENCH], one of the [FRENCH], she heard that I was reciting it and told me, recited her own poem to me as a way to inspire me. So without any further ado, let me just read this, and we'll see what we can do with it.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Basil [? Hury ?] is not someone I know. So I call him-- oh, I do know you. Of course. I didn't recognize you. I'm going to give a minor introduction. Reading a poem that when I first encountered it, my teacher said to me, for those of you who were here for the book launch, my co-editor, Roger Alan, said to me, you should memorize the opening lines of this poem, because it will get you out of trouble in the Arab world any time you're in trouble. Not only was that absurd, but it was true. And actually, I used it those lines several times.
[? BASIL HURY: ?] Maybe we should start with you giving the first lines of the poem. I'm sure you'd read them better than I will. So--
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Your poem is number five.
[? BASIL HURY: ?] Number five. [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: And now some more French, if Eileen Casillo and Margaret Chu could come forward. Did I misspell Margaret's name, by the way?
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: OK. I seem to have misspelled lots of things. To read some Aime Cesaire. It's number six.
MARGARET CHU: I'm sure most of you know who Aime Cesaire is, but just for those who don't, he is a well-known politician, poet, and author, born in Martinique. He was one of the founders of the Negritude Movement in Francophone literature. And today we are reading an abstract from his notebook of A Return to My Native Land, [INAUDIBLE], which he finished in 1939. And it expresses his thoughts on the culture identity and legality of Black Africans in a colonial setting.
EILEEN CASILLO: OK. [SPEAKING FRENCH]
MARGARET CHU: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
EILEEN CASILLO: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
MARGARET CHU: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
EILEEN CASILLO: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
MARGARET CHU: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
EILEEN CASILLO: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
MARGARET CHU: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Just as we had Armenian for the first time, we also have Bulgarian for the first time at one of these events. And so I'd like to invite to Boris Michev to come and read the Bulgarian piece, which is number seven. And while he does that, I will quietly set up some more food, and we'll take a break before continuing because more people have read than the program suggests.
BORIS MICHEV: Hi. I will read to you a poem by Hristo Botev, who is considered the greatest Bulgarian poet. And just this. He resembles very much Byron, in some senses. He was 28. He was killed in battle, fighting for independence.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: So we're continuing, and this brings us to Jacob [? Mizler ?] and Aaron Miller, who'll be reading Hebrew, [HEBREW], Hebrew, number eight in your program.
SPEAKER 3: Just a quick note. This was written a long time ago. It's like 2,000 years. So if you have trouble relating to it, don't worry. It's fine. [SPEAKING HEBREW]
SPEAKER 4: [SPEAKING HEBREW]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: I should acknowledge some people who aren't here, notably the language teachers who invited or urged or forced their students or bribed their students into reading. These two gentlemen are from the Messianic Hebrew class of Geoff Herman, who is here somewhere, or was here.
Elliott and Jordana were asked to read by Nawaz Sharif, who teaches modern Hebrew. The Aime Cesaire reading with students from Laurent Dubreuil's class, and he'd also be reading. And I could go on, but as I said, I would like to just acknowledge the folks who invited their students to read and gave them the opportunity to read.
The next two are a teacher and a student reading together. [? Arikan ?] [? Ostegan, ?] who is a graduate student from Turkey on the FLTA, is here. And Ebad Ahmed is a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering. And the two of them have teamed up to read the Turkish poem for us.
EBAD AHMED: [SPEAKING TURKISH]
[? ARIKAN OSTEGAN: ?] [SPEAKING TURKISH]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: I'd now like to ask Hamid Vajihollahi to read his [INAUDIBLE] poem. You'll notice-- well, you may not notice, but I misspelled his name. His name is correctly spelled on the addendum, right? So it's Vajihollahi. Omar Khayyam, which is number 10 in your list.
HAMID VAJIHOLLAHI: Tonight I'm going to read part of Rubiyat Omar Khayyam, who is a tenth century Persian poet, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. He's most famously known for his Rubaiyat, so I'm going to start with that.
Thank you very much.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: We now move to number 13, Jungmeen Kim, who will also be reading a language and not featured before at this event, notably Korean.
JUNGMEEN KIM: The poet's name is [INAUDIBLE], and his poem is called [KOREAN], or "Missing." [SPEAKING KOREAN]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
I'd like to invite Laurent Dubreuil, who is not only going to read something quite remarkable, but who is himself quite remarkable and is someone I need to thank. Again, I don't know if you were here when I thanked you earlier, but for the French Studies program, great friendship with Near Eastern studies and its generosity is well expressed not only through Laurent, but notably through Laurent.
LAURENT DUBREUIL: This is a very strange text, and it's coming from the end of a poem collection published in 1970 by Claude Gauvreau, who was a poet from Quebec. And as you might notice quite rapidly, it is not exactly standard French, which is why I did not provide a translation for that. And these-- it's made of syllables and sounds borrowed from multiple languages, so you will hear some of the languages we are using tonight and coming from the imagination of the author.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: I'd like to invite Devon [? Grancain ?] now to read an Arabic text. I had no hand in his choosing this text. He asked me to give him a book of facing English and Arabic, and he picked Adunis, who is actually quite dear to my heart. Devon. Number 15.
[? DEVON GRANCAIN: ?] [SPEAKING ARABIC]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: [SPEAKING ARABIC]. Laurent? Laurent Ferrier will be reading [SPEAKING LATIN] Latin for us. Thank you so much for representing that department.
LAURENT FERRIER: Thank you. So this is analogy, but I leave it to you to understand the double entendre in this poem. [SPEAKING LATIN]
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Thank you for the measured reading. And now number 17. [? Mia ?] [? Dib ?] and Julian Lion will be reading a poem-- no, [? Mia ?] [? Dib ?] alone will be reading a poem by Rodayna Filali. But you're here, right? Good. Number 17, identity card.
[? MIA DIB: ?] Good evening. I like this poem because Rodayna Filal, she's from Libya, and she dared write this very courageous poem. And in the shadow of what's happening today in Libya, I thought it would be nice to share it with you.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: Thank you. And now I'd like to ask Hamza Mahmood. He's a graduate student-- oh, there he is. A graduate student in the department of Near Eastern Studies to read Waris Shah, which is number 19 on your program.
HAMZA MAHMOOD: So this is the [NON-ENGLISH]. [NON-ENGLISH] is a type of poem in Punjabi Sufi writing. And is the embodiment of the Sufi's voice, usually in the form of a woman. And these are the opening lines of his very famous poem.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: [NON-ENGLISH] And followed immediately by Dustin Nash, also of the Department of Near East Studies, reading "Anonymous Syriac," number 20.
DUSTIN NASH: For those of you who don't know, Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic. It was widely spoken in the Near East in late antiquity and was adopted as the liturgical language for several Christian traditions in the region and is still spoken in pockets to this day. And I'm reading from the Odes of Solomon, one of the earliest extant texts written in that language.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: I asked our graduate students to go last so that they could help me clean up. So yet another one from my department, Adam Bursi, will be reading Greek, a name probably well known to you, Sappho, number 22 in the program.
ADAM BURSI: I chose this poem because it's actually one of only a couple of what seem to be extant poems by Sappho. And the reason we have it is actually there is a fragment of it that was kept in a museum in Europe, and then in around 2004, 2005, a papyrus from Egypt was published, and someone was able to put together the two and figure out that this was actually a complete poem that we have. And the translation that's done is by one of my professors from my college, so it has a place in my heart.
SHAWKAT TOORAWA: This, in fact, brings us to the last poem for this evening. So while I still have your attention, let me acknowledge a few other folks. I'd like to acknowledge the video team sent by CornellCast, who have faithfully been recording this for posterity. Also Jess, who is, I think, sitting in the back and hiding, for all her help, certainly much beyond the call of any duty. I suppose I should acknowledge my daughter, since she's here, and she's helped a lot. Yeah.
Kenneth McClane, who I think is not here, was very generous a few years ago and offered quite a lot of money to help put this together. So much so that we didn't spend it all and had some to spend this year. In this program, as in the last, I reproduced a poem by him, which I'll not read and let you read it at your leisure. But he's truly a wondrous and wonderful poet and human being.
And although I speak on behalf of Near Eastern Studies, and therefore, I'm thanking everyone else, I should really acknowledge the department, and notably the chair, who may still be here, so I can say nice, embarrassing things about her. But we have the great good fortune of having Kim Haines-Eitzen as a chair who is not only a rigorous scholar, but also an extremely capacious welcomer of all sorts of things, including this event. And so I'd like to thank her and all my colleagues and all the staff in the department as well.
Certainly the graduate students and other people whom I haven't named who are in the back of the program, in case I forgot to mention them. But I see that I can look at it right now and say, Mary [? All, ?] the Society of Humanities, Jeannie Butler, who designed the program. I mentioned Jessica. Caroline [INAUDIBLE] is here, from the French Studies program. Al Miller at the museum, Andrea Potochniak, who actually helped with the poetry things downstairs, and again, Kenneth McClane.
And certainly the Director of French studies and Society of the Humanities and Frank Robinson, who-- it doesn't really get more generous than Frank Robinson, does it? He said, you just take the museum, is what he said, and do with it what you will.
Do stuff downstairs, do stuff upstairs, and so there must be rules about what we can do where. I said, well, you'll be working with the very best people. They'll make everything happen. And they did. And so a really big vote of thanks to the museum.
And so instead of finishing with my thanks, let's now finish with truly one of the great poets, Federico Garcia Lorca, [SPEAKING SPANISH] Natalie Soto will be reading for us. And after that, take more food and chocolates. There will be After Eights, which you can grab as you leave. And then-- and I'm sorry to say this-- and then please leave, so that we can clean up.
NATALIE SOTO: So the poem is by Lorca, and it's dated the tenth of November, 1919, in Granada. [SPEAKING SPANISH]
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Poetry and Pastry featured readings of Near Eastern, Francophone and World Poetry.
With students and members of the Cornell community, the evening included poetry in its original language, to understand the author's intent and hear the rhythm of that language, and pieces in translation.
Readers included: Shawkat M. Toorawa, Lori Khatchadourian, Elliot Dine, Jordana Gilman, Tommy Bruce, Kristen Streahle, Bassel Khoury, Aileen Castillo, Margaret Chou, Boris Michev, Jacob Meisler, Aaron Meller, Erkan Ozdogan, Ebad Ahmed, Hamid Vajihollahi, Ivan Friedman, Jonathan Monroe, Jungmin Kim, Laurent Dubreuil, Devin Grant-Keane, Laurent Ferri, Maya Dib, Jillian Lyon, Chase Meyer, Hamza Mahmood, Dustin Nash, Sierra Palumbos, Adam Bursi, and Natalie Soto.
The event was sponsored by Department of Near Eastern Studies, the French Studies Program, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and the Society for the Humanities.