Category: Basque poetry (page 1 of 2)

Basque culture, Basque books, and bertsoak bloom in Elko at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

The Center’s booth at the Western Mercantile

It was our pleasure here at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies to be invited to participate in the 34th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Elko, Nevada. This year’s festival was focused on the contributions of Basques in the West and included sessions on Basque arborglyphs, Basque poetry, Basque writing, the experience of Basques in ranching—featuring the insight of longtime Nevada resident and stalwart of Winnemucca’s Basque community, Frank Bidart—only 95 years young!

Portrait of beloved Basque sheepherder and owner—and shepherd of generations of 4-H sheep program participants in the Reno area—Abel Mendeguia, by Linda Dufurrena, on display in the Western Folklife Center

One of the highlights of the whole show was the participation of berstolariak, especially those from the Basque Country including reigning champion Maialen Lujanbio, as well as Oihana Iguaran Barandiaran and Miren Artetxe! The Basque bertsolariak were also accompanied by US Basque improvisers Jesus Goñi from Reno and Martin Goicoechea from Rock Springs, Wyoming. From Buffalo, Wyoming, Center author and musician David Romtvedt participated in many musical venues playing generally with his daughter Caitlin, and they were also a common sight to be seen playing after hours, usually in the company of Ardi Baltza accordionist Anamarie Lopategui. Basque-American author and Elko native Vince Juaristi was also in attendance with his stories of growing up Basque in the US. There were also dance performances by Elko’s Ardi Baltza and Elko Ariñak dancers, the latter being accompanied by Mercedes Mendive and Melodikoa. Popular Basque musical group Amerikanuak played, led by Jean Flesher from Salt Lake City, a true pioneer of Basque culture in the US (as many of the people mentioned here are), with members from as far away as Berlin, Germany in attendance! The Basque show on Thursday night was hosted by the Center’s own Kate Camino. Center friend and author Joxe Mallea presented on aspen carvings and artist Zoe Bray painted portraits of Basques and presented her portraits at the Western Folklife Center. The session on Basque writing featured the readings from My Mama Marie by Joan Errea, Florence Larraneta Frye, David Romtvedt, who read from Zelestina Urza in Outer Space and Elko’s own Gretchen Skivington who presented on and read from her brand new novel Echevarria. And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or many people, the numbers of Basque participants was truly a wonder to behold.

The Center also participated in the show’s vendors with stand in the Western Mercantile. After hours, the Basque party continued at Elko’s Ogi Deli and the Star Hotel!

We have come a long ways from when cowboys and sheepherders fought range wars in this same part of northern Nevada. It was such a pleasure to be included and for Basque contributions to be recognized by all the cowpunchers! 😉

Women Bertsolari: From the First Attempts to the Current Achievements

The bertsolaritza or Basque improvised poetry is one of the most intimate practices of the Basque language, where poets improvise and sing a song around a concept provided by the audience, following a set of rules about rhyme, meter and melody. For this reason, bertsolaris are some of the greatest masters of the Basque language. Until recently, however, the bertsolaritza was a strictly male domain. The village frontons, squares, and the National Improvised Poetry Competition featured men only, until a few brave female pioneers emerged to reclaim the voices of women in traditional culture.

In traditional Basque society, the fronton or village square was the public stage for the inculcation of values, the performance of identities, the practice of social control, and the negotiation of power. The main protagonists of the fronton were men: men playing pelota, men singing bertsos.

“How do you remember your great jump into the town square?” one of those female pioneers, Maialen Lujanbio was asked in an interview in 2009 for the journal Oral Tradition, after she became the first ever female txapeldun or champion of improvised poetry. “I started to be known by everyone,” she answered. “Because they put us… where we didn’t`t belong.” Women’s great jump into the town square, into the public sphere of frontons, sport halls and stadiums, is a powerful metaphor for access in a society where such arenas had been reserved for men.

Maialen Lujanbio sings the winning bertso at the 2017 National Championship:

The CBS Seminar Series featured the bertsolari and PhD student Miren Artetxe Sarasola, who talked about the most important landmarks of this journey in her lecture titled “Women bertsolari: From the first attempts to the current achievements.” Miren defined those landmarks in terms of Pathfinders, i.e. the first women poets who affected a breakthrough in a male realm; Networks, or the organizations created by and for female performers; Theorization, or the academic study of this new cultural development within the broader currents of Basque feminism; and Spaces of Empowerment, where female bertsolaris may find encouragement and inspiration for singing bertsos. The main achievements of the past ten years, Miren argues, is that a different consciousness is emerging around bertsolaritza: new themes and contents emerge through women’s participation, creating a more inclusive cultural sphere that also features women’s worlds and experiences.

Following the lecture, three bertsolaris, Miren Artetxe Sarasola, Maialen Lujanbio and Jesus Goñi sang bertsos at the Center for Basque Studies before a crowd of faculty, students, friends and family. The performances were followed by a potluck snack at the CBS, and a poteo in Louis Basque Corner in downtown Reno.

                  

 

Maialen Lujanbio won for the second time the Txapela.

December 17th 2017, the BEC (Bilbao Exhibition Center) celebrated the Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia (The Great Bertsolari Championship) of the Basque Country. A championship that was lived with great intensity and that gathered almost 15,000 fans from all over the Basque Country.

It was a very special day as Maialen Lujanbio, the only female competitor, won for the second time the Txapela. The runner up was Aitor Mendiluze, and the third was Sustrai Colina. The rankings finished in the order of Amets Arzallus, Igor Elortza, Aitor Sarriegi, Beñat Gaztelumendi and Unai Agirre. It was a final of great quality, with a very dedicated and motivated audience.

Zorionak Maialen!

Bertsolari Txapelketa Nagusia is a championship among bertsolaris from all over the Basque Country and takes place every four years. It was first organized by Euzko-Gaztedi in 1935 and 1936. It was cancelled due to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and its subsequent repression. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the championship came back from the catacombs of oblivion when Euskaltzaindia (Basque Language Academy) brought back the competition during the 1960’s.  However the competition had to be stopped during the 1970’s. It wasn’t until 1980 when the championship came back and since 1986, the championship is held every four years.

1935eko Bertsolari Gudua

This Friday, January 26, the Center for Basque Studies and the Jon Bilbao Library will celebrate a special evening of Bertsolaritza with Maialen Lujanbio, Miren Artetxe, and Jesus Goñi .

We will love to invite you all to join us during such a beautiful event.

Please Join Us
For A Very Special Evening of Bertsolaritza
You are invited to attend a unique and intimate event showcasing Bertsolaritza, a sung and improvised Basque poem creation performed by two competing Bertsolariaks (Basque poets) Miren Artetxe (left) and Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti (right). 
Miren Artetxe and Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti
The 2017 national champion Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti will be in Reno showcasing her skill before participating in the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev. Jan. 29 – Feb. 3. More than 14,600 people gathered to watch Maialen compete in this year’s championship event in December, 2017. This is a rare opportunity to experience firsthand the art that is Bertsolaritza. 
DATE: Friday, Jan. 26
TIME: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
LOCATION: Jon Bilbao Basque Library and Center for Basque Studies , Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, third floor, north side of building. Guests must access this area by using the north elevator located next to Bytes Café on the second floor. 
For more information or if you have questions, please call (775) 682-5094.
Block N
FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
1664 N. Virginia Street
Mail Stop 0332
University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557

 

These Bertsolaris will be in Elko during the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering with others from the Basque Country and the US.

 

If you want to know more about  Bertsolaritza you might like to read:  Voicing the Moment:Improvised Oral Poetry and Basque Tradition.

November 26, 1976: Birth of bertsolari Maialen Lujanbio

Maialen Lujanbio and Joxe Agirre

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, the first woman to win the national bertsolari championship in 2009, was born in Hernani, Gipuzkoa, on November 26, 1976.

Lujanbio first took an interest in bertsolaritza (improvised oral verse) at her ikastola (Basque-medium high school), and began attending an extracurricular bertso eskola, a school dedicated specifically to imparting the art. By the age of fifteen she was competing in junior competitions. She then went on to study Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country and qualified for her first national championship in 1997. In 2001 she was runner-up at the same championship and finished fourth at the subsequent context in 2005.

In 2009, though, she finally achieved the most prestigious award for a bertsolari, winning the coveted champion’s txapela (beret) in front of 14,500 spectators at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre. Her agurra (the farewell verse improvised by the champion bertsolari) remains one of the most memorable in the history of the competition.

Lujanbio also went on to teach bertsolaritza and shares her profession as a bertsolari with various roles in the world of artistic and literary creation: she has written song lyrics for Basque musicians like Maixa eta Ixiar, Alaitz eta Maider, Anje Duhalde, Mikel Errazkin, Mikel Markez, and the group Oskorri. She has also written articles for the Basque press and helped out with coordinating the bertsolaritza association. And in 2010 she published Hau cuaderno bat zen (This was a notebook), a compilation of the notes she took while taking a graduate studies in the transmission of Basque culture.

If you’re in the West, Lujanbio will perform at next year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, along with other bertsolaris, both from the Basque Country and from the West. It’s sure to be a fun event!

 

October 14, 1933: Birth of poet Gabriel Aresti

Gabriel Aresti, arguably the most important poet in the Basque language still to this day, was born in Bilbao on October 14, 1933. Although his father was a Basque speaker, the family did not transmit this language to the young Aresti and he learned it on his own as a young man. After studying business at university, he went on to become an accountant in his home city, but it was in the field of Basque culture in general, and more specifically poetry, that he really made his name.

Gabriel Aresti (1933-1975)

In general terms, he was in the 1960s and 1970s, along with several other writers and artists, one of the leading champions and exponents of modernizing Basque culture and the Basque language. As regards the former, he promoted the idea of poetry as a vehicle for social awareness, as a means of exposing social problems and a medium in which regular, everyday speech could be incorporated; all this at a time of growing social ferment during the latter years of the Franco dictatorship. In terms of the latter, he was one of the most prominent defenders of creating a standardized Basque–known as Euskara Batua or Unified Basque–amid the heated debates over the topic in the 1960s.

In the words of Joseba Zulaika (in his preface to Downhill and Rock & Core):

Gabriel Aresti was the essential poet for my Basque generation of the 1960s. “If you want to write me/You know where I am,” he wrote, “In this most slippery hell/In the mouth of the devil.” It was the hell of Franco’s repressive regime, the endless darkness of his city, Bilbao, turned into an industrial and cultural wasteland. Aresti was the crucified Bilbao writer howling for justice and truth, the vulnerable man of eternal downfall who created a new poetics and a new subjectivity.

Gabriel Aresti died in June 1975.

Aresti’s poetry was published for the first time in English this year by the Center. Downhill and Rock & Core, translated by Amaia Gabantxo and with an introduction by Jon Kortazar, brings together two of Aresti’s key works: Maldan behera (1959) and Harri eta herri (1964). The poems appear in both Basque and English.

Check out, too, Pello Salaburu’s fascinating study of how standard Basque was created in Writing Words. Here, Salaburu talks at length about Aresti’s involvement in establishing this new language.

 

What’s in a Song? Agur Xiberoa

Agur Xiberoa (Farewell Xiberoa) is one of the canonical songs in the Basque songbook, simultaneously a lament to the impact of enforced displacement as well as a testament to the powerful connection between people and place.

It was written in 1946 by Pierre Bordazaharre, also known as Etxahun-Iruri (1908-1979), from Iruri in Xiberoa (today known as Zuberoa). During his compulsory schooling (through age 13) Etxahun-Iruri was a good student and displayed a special interest in literature, becoming an avid reader for the rest of his life. Opportunities for humble rural people, however, to develop such interests further beyond the end of their school years were few and far between at the time and having finished his formal education he carried on the family farming tradition.

This did not prevent him, though, from taking an active part in Basque culture: he was involved in both the maskaradak and pastoralak, two key expressions of Basque culture in Zuberoa. Additionally, he also authored and helped to revolutionize the pastorala in the twentieth century, introducing more specifically Basque themes into the art form; and he was an accomplished xirulari or pipe player, wrote poetry, and was a bertsolari or improvising oral poet.

Agur Xiberua is a lament, the story of the enforced displacement many inhabitants of the province were forced to undertake in search of work and better opportunities than their homeland could offer. It stands as a testament to the cultural importance of Basque exile more generally, although its cheery tune also serves to celebrate the memory of homeland, family, and friends.

The chorus captures all of this perfectly:

Agur Xiberoa                                                            Farewell Zuberoa,

bazter güzietako xokhorik eijerrena          the most beautiful place on earth;

agur sor lekhia                                                         farewell, native land,

zuri ditit ene ametsik goxuenak                    my sweetest dreams go to you

bihotzan erditik                                                      from the bottom of my heart;

bostetan elki deitadazüt hasperena          I have often heaved a sigh,

zü ützi geroztik                                                       since I left you;

bizi niz trixterik                                                       I live in sorrow,

abandonatürik                                                         abandoned,

ez beita herririk                                                      for there is no city,

Parisez besterik,                                                    except Paris,

zü bezalakorik.                                                       which is your equal.

Some of the themes mentioned here, such as the new emphasis on Basque instead of more generically religious or French themes in the cultural expression of the pastorala as well as the impact of emigration from Zuberoa, are discussed in detail by Igor Ahedo Gurrutxaga in The Transformation of National Identity in the Basque Country of France, 1789-2006.

*Information sourced for this post from Orhipean, The Country of Basque.

Basque writer Kirmen Uribe selected for fall residency in prestigious Iowa writing program

The Basque poet, writer, and essayist–as well as CBS author–Kirmen Uribe has been selected this fall for the University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program, “a unique conduit for the world’s literatures, connecting well-established writers from around the globe, bringing international literature into classrooms, introducing American writers to other cultures through reading tours, and serving as a clearinghouse for literary news and a wealth of archival and pedagogical materials.” Moreover, Uribe will attend the program thanks to the support of the Etxepare Basque Institute.

Check out the full list of participants, including Uribe and with writing samples, here.

Kirmen Uribe is the author of CBS publication Garmendia and the Black Ridera children’s adventure story set in the Old Wild West.

Downhill and Rock & Core translator Amaia Gabantxo interviewed in Basque daily

The first ever English-language translation of Basque poet Gabriel Aresti’s work by the CBS, Downhill and Rock & Core, is certainly causing quite a splash in the Basque Country. Jon Kortazar, who writes an introduction in the book, has been interviewed on Euskadi Irratia, the main public Basque-language radio station, about he book, and on April 26 the daily newspaper Berria offered an extensive (and lively) interview with Amaia Gabantxo, who was responsible for translating Aresti’s poetry into English.

For Gabantxo, Gabriel Aresti’s work marks a watershed moment for Basque culture in general, hence its importance. In her opinion, understanding Basque culture cannot begin and end with a trip to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; to really appreciate who Basques are, outsiders must be given access to their literature, art, film, dance, and music. And what better way than with Aresti? For Gabantxo, the rock metaphor is most appropriate because, “It’s  no joke, Aresti was a rock star. An anarchic guy, a complete rebel. He broke molds. We Basques don’t appreciate what we have, we’ve been so colonized by what we’ve been told…We laugh at Basque culture, and we don’t get the fact that this is what we’ve been trained to do by the discourse of colonizers. So for sure, Aresti was a rock star, and the English title reflects that.”

As regards the particulars of transforming Aresti’s original work into English-language poetry, she observes that, “the strength of a poem resides on the page, it’s not in the words on paper,  but in that distance between the reader’s eyes and the page. That’s where the essence is. That’s where I translate from, from that essence.”  And moving on to the question of translation (and translators) in general, Gabantxo is quite forthright: “It’s clear in my mind that a translator is a writer. Literary translation is a genre of writing, like theater or poetry. You can’t be a good literary translator if you’re not a good writer.  The history of world literature needs translations to stay alive: translations drive literary traditions and languages.”

See the full text of the interview (in Basque) here.

Gabriel Aresti, the great modern Basque poet, comes to English

We are proud to announce the publication of Aresti’s master works, Downhill and Rock & Core, translated by Amaia Gabantxo and introduced by Jon Kortazar, in complete edition in English for the first time!

These 2 books, Downhill (1959, Maldan behera in Basque) and Rock & Core (1964, Harri eta herri in Basque) were foundations of modern Basque literature and influenced pride in Basque language, culture, and expression for generations of Basques! We are so delighted to bring them to you in English for the first time!

Shop here

“From symbolism to the poetry of social consciousness, Gabriel Aresti’s work is considered one of the turning points in the history of Basque literature.” Jon Kortazar, from the Introduction

They’ll say

this

ain’t poetry

and

I’ll tell them

poetry

is

a hammer.

Gabriel Aresti, from Rock & Core

Gabriel Aresti Gabriel Aresti y la polemica del vascuence en los 60

Gabriel Aresti

“That little poem, in many ways, shaped my thought. I took a whole day to write it in beautiful block letters on the cover of one of my school folders. It made me understand the power of the word to destroy, to alter, to undo—and to construct, to rebuild.” Amaia Gabantxo, from the Translator’s Preface

“Gabriel Aresti was the essential poet for my Basque generation of the 1960s. “If you want to write me/You know where I am,” he wrote, “In this most slippery hell/In the mouth of the devil.” It was the hell of Franco’s repressive regime, the endless darkness of his city, Bilbao, turned into an industrial and cultural wasteland. Aresti was the crucified Bilbao writer howling for justice and truth, the vulnerable man of eternal downfall who created a new poetics and a new subjectivity.” Joseba Zulaika, from the Foreword

And check back, hardcover will be available soon

 

Goian bego Marijane Minaberri

Marijane Minaberri (1926-2017).

The writer Marijane Minaberri–also known by the pen names “Andereñoa” and  “Atalki”–passed away last Thursday. Born in Banka, Lower Navarre in 1926, she was responsible for what children’s and young people’s literature expert Xabier Etxaniz terms “real change” in Basque letters, almost single-handedly creating the children’s genre in the Basque language.

As a child she attended the village school in Banka before transferring at age 12 to continue her studies in Donapaleu (Saint-Palais).  She then went briefly to Angelu (Anglet) in Lapurdi to study for a high school diploma, but was forced to return home to care for her sick mother without completing her studies. In 1948, she took up a secretarial position in the Banka Town Hall, but in 1954 she relocated to Uztaritze in Lapurdi, taking up a teaching position at a Catholic school in Baiona (Bayonne). During this time she also began to work in the local press, first as a secretary for the Basque Eclair newspaper, the Basque edition of the Eclair-Pyrénées de Pau newspaper. Through this position, she began writing occasionally for the paper and met significant figures in the Basque cultural world such as Canon Ddiddue (Grégoire) Epherre, Father Joseph Camino (founder of the Basque-language Pan-pin comic for kids), and the journalists and writers Gexan Alfaro and Jean Battitt Dirizar.

By the 1960s, then, she was already an established article writer for Basque-language media in Iparralde, the Northern Basque Country, contributing to the likes of Herria, Gure Herria, Almanaka, and Pan-pin. She also started broadcasting in Basque on the short spots reserved for the language on Radio Côte Basque, hosting shows on bertsolaritza, children’s programming, and record request shows. Later, she would also collaborate on the Basque-language stations Gure irratia eta Lapurdi irratia.

As part of her regular contributions to the Basque-language press in Iparralde, she began publishing poems and short stories in the 1960s.  According to Etxaniz (p. 297-98 in Basque Literary History, edited by Mari Jose Olaziregi):

Marijane Minaberri published her first work for children, Marigorri, a version of a well-known story, in 1961. From 1963 her stories, collected in the book Itchulingo anderea (The Lady of Itchulin), and her poems published two years later in Xoria kantari favor a love of reading, enjoyment, and entertainment over instruction. Minaberri gave birth to children’s literature in Euskara; in her work, although the moralizing intention is present, the careful language, descriptions, and the narrative itself reveal the author’s main concern to be aesthetic. In this sense, Minaberri’s most literary work is the book of poems Xoria kantari (A Bird Singing, 1965), in which, the reader can find a great deal of repetition, onomatopoeia, and rhyme, making these simple poems suitable for children.

Here is an example:

Euria                      Rain

Plik! Plak! Plok!   Plik! Plak! Plok!

Euria                      Rain

Xingilka                 Limps

Dabila.                  Along

Plik! Plak! Plok!   Plik! Plak! Plok!

Jauzika,                Bouncing,

Punpeka,             Jumping,

Heldu da.             Here comes.

Plik! Plak! Plok!   Plik! Plak! Plok!

Pasiola                  Fetch

Behar da              your umbrellas

Atera.                    now.

Of the twenty-three poems in the book, seven include the words for well-known songs. At the end of 1997, the folk group Oskorri produced a record with lyrics by Minaberri called “Marijane kantazan” (Sing, Marijane) in honor of this writer who never knew best-selling success (marginalized because she was from the Northern Basque Country, a woman, and a children’s writer), but who worked silently and unceasingly on [Children’s and Young People’s Literature] projects.

In 1975, the newspaper Sud-Ouest took over Basque Eclair, and she worked as a journalist for her new employers until her retirement in 1990.

Among her many other works, she also published two grammar books to help encourage the study of Basque in Iparralde, Dictionnaire basque pour tous (A Basque dictionary for everyone, 1972-1975) and Grammaire basque pour tous (A Basque grammar for everyone, 1978-1981), as well as a collection of plays for children, Haur antzerkia (Children’s theater, 1983).

In sum, she remains one of the often unsung heroines of Basque letters in the twentieth-century.

Goian bego.

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