by Jerod Santek, Artistic Director, Write On, Door County
Every February since 2000, International Mother Language Day has been observed around the world to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The United Nations declared Feb. 21 as Mother Language Day to commemorate the 1952 shooting and killing of students who were demonstrating for recognition of Bangla as one of the two national languages of what was then Pakistan.
Since Write On’s first year of programming – 2014 – we have offered the International Mother Language Day poetry reading. It not only celebrates the languages of the world spoken here in Door County, but it also invites audience members to relax and appreciate the rhythm and music of poetry, rather than focusing on the poem’s “message.”
Though we had to take last year off because of scheduling conflicts, our poetry reading will return in 2020 and will take place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County in north Ephraim on Feb. 22, 1-2:30 pm. The reading is free and open to the public, and all ages are invited to take part as readers or audience members.
One of my favorite readers at this event was a seven-year-old girl who read poems in three languages, including Quechua, an indigenous language spoken in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and other parts of South America. Over the years, we’ve also heard poetry read in Bulgarian, French, German, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukranian and Walloon.
One of our readers will be Jānis Valks, a science-fiction writer from Latvia who will spend the month in residency at Write On working on a new novel.
We are also seeking additional readers for the 2020 event. If you would like to read a poem in your native language – by a favorite poet of your homeland or one of your own composition – we want you to take part! Email [email protected] or call 920.868.1457 to participate in the program.
Whether or not you can join us as a reader, I hope you’ll join us as an audience member not only to appreciate the musicality of poetry, but also to celebrate our county’s rich cultural diversity.