This bi-weekly feature on KUMD's Northland Morning celebrates the other languages that make up the rich cultural landscape of our Northland through the medium that communicates it best: poetry.  We'll invite guests to share a poem in their native language, and find out what it is about the poem or the poet that speaks to them. Explore different cultures through the nuance of their native languages - but get a little help in the form of an English translation along the way!

(poetry) on KUMD is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Cristian Ibarra Santillan/Flickr

Phil Fitzpatrick and John Herold wanted people educated - and fired up to take action - about climate change.

They took an unconventional approach: engender action through ... poetry.

Three of Minnesota's finest poets - Joyce Sutphen, Connie Wanek, and Thom Tammaro - offered poetic commentary on life in the time of climate change during the most recent episode of Climate Emergency Poetry.

And Connie Wanek channeled another one when she read a piece from the late Louis Jenkins, and offered one of her own, Old Duluth, that she wrote about her friend.

Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi

UMD student Hooriya Habib is at home with her family in Qatar, but she's getting ready to return to Duluth at the end of August.

Hooriya speaks English and Arabic as well as Urdu, a language she says draws from other Arabic languages and that's called the lingua franca of Pakistan.

She chose to share a poem by Sir Muhammed Iqbal, sometimes called "the spiritual father of Pakistan," that she finds uplifting, even as she confesses, "I'm not a really good Muslim."

Dave & Margie Hill/Kleerup (via Flickr)

Jenna Soleo Shanks, Assistant Professor of Theater History at UMD, grew up surrounded by her Italian American family on Long Island. Later in life when she studied the language further and traveled to Italy for research, she marveled at the dialectical variations from region to region - and even town to town - across the Apennine Peninsula. Despite these differences, she notes that Italians as a whole passionately savor their language.

@Jonathan Thunder. Used with permission.

There aren't a lot of people who write poetry in Ojibwe, nor does Michelle Goose aspire to be one of them.

Michelle is on the Native American Studies faculty at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and she teaches classes in Ojibwe, but she says she's never had any desire to try her hand at poetry in the language.

But she was pleased to find a work - in Ojibwe and English - by Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, (1800-1842), "...the first known American Indian literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language, and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories (as opposed to transcribing and translating from someone else’s oral delivery, which she did also)."

the blowup/Unsplash

It was perhaps the last Zoom event of the Climate Emergency Poetry series.

The series which has taken to Zoom for the past eight months hopes the June 20 event, #9, can be held outside or in Wussow's Concert Cafe.

Regardless of the venue, though, the message will remain the same: take care of your stuff. Be it garbage, a carbon footprint, or pressing your local officials for substantive action, Climate Emergency Poets and their audience want you to take action.

Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Pop culture is doing its part to bring the climate change conversation to our couches.

Network shows like NBC's New Amsterdam show characters grappling with things like carbon footprints and medical waste,  not to mention what increased frequency of severe weather and wildfires could mean to places like hospitals.

Phil Fitzpatrick is the co-founder of Climate Emergency Poetry, and he's a little skeptical of turning over a serious conversation to a TV show, worried it might be played for laughs or trivialized at a time when there is no room for either.


The Climate Emergency Poetry Series' next event is May 16, and this, the eighth iteration, is the "out-of-towners" edition. 

Co-founder (with John Herold) Phil Fitzpatrick says he hopes participants and/or audience members get start "their own climate gig" in their communities" whatever it takes to get folks paying attention - and thinking.


Phil Fitzpatrick is almost always poetic, even when he's pessimistic.

He wrote in a recent column in the Duluth News Tribune:

"After years of trying to understand and solve climate change, there are new distractions, the pandemic being only the most existential. The economy, race relations, immigration, our divided country, gun violence, and more all add weight and gloom. But hanging over Earth like an increasingly sodden, ominous cloak of misery is the unrelenting warming of the atmosphere."

But Phil's not a guy to wallow in despair.  He and local activist John Herold co-founded the Climate Emergency Poetry series, and last Sunday's event featured student poets from local high schools and universities.

Sometimes a dose of young people's optimism and passion is just what you need.

Public Domain/WikiCommons

It seemed unfair to have a poetry series celebrating poets who represent home to people who aren't "from here" originally and exclude Canadians.  So environmental and social justice advocate Jamie Harvie was pressed into double duty this morning.

Seven Council Fires Native Art/Facebook

  (This episode originally aired April 21, 2020)

Jim Rock is a little bit starstruck.

For one thing, he's an ethnoarcheoastronomer.

For another thing, Dakota people believe they come from the star world.

And for another thing, when asked to read a poem in Dakota, Jim not only found one, he wrote another one, a love poem for his wife.

Kezban Arca Batıbeki/ Instagram

  (This episode originally aired April 10, 2020)

Lisa Fitzpatrick speaks a lot of languages.

And she loves poetry.  In fact, she was the one who originally thought of a poetry feature on KUMD, sharing poetry in different languages.

But when she started thinking about a poem to read, herself, there was only one choice for her: Turkish.

This is a poem by Aşık Veysel called "Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım"

National Museum/Jacques Lathion

When Lise Lunge-Larsen needed help finding contemporary Norwegian poetry, she didn't mess around.

She went straight to one of the most famous actors in Norway.

You can hear the complete poem, “Ord Over Grind” in its original Norwegian here.

You might be hard-pressed to name famous Finnish philosophers; in fact, people in Finland might be hard-pressed to name famous Finnish philosophers.

But there is one philosopher – of a sort – that Finns are introduced to from the time that they’re born and they carry his wisdom with them throughout their lives – through his poetry.

Long before she worked at KUMD, our former station manager, Mimmu Salmela was born and raised in Finland.  And it didn’t take her any time at all to select a reading from this poet-philosopher – however unlikely he might seem to begin with.


If you'd set out to design two language with nothing in common, English and Chinese would be a couple of great candidates. 

English belongs to the Indo-European language family and its writing system is known as “Latin script.”  Chinese, on the other hand, comes from the Syno-Tibetan language family and its written language is logographic – symbols represent the words themselves, not letters like in alphabetic systems.