30 copies of How to Say ‘I Love You’ in Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet left.
They’re almost sold out, and we won’t be reprinting. You can get yours here.
Ghent really has some of the loveliest places to have a cup of tea or coffee (two coffeeshops beloved of younger Gentenaars are the trendy Simon Says and Clouds in my Coffee). Besides traditional cafés (serving alcohol and other drinks), Ghent’s many coffeeshops are full of students on laptops, families having a day out in the city, tourists, and ordinary people. Some of our favorites are Le Jardin Bohémien (especially nice to sit at the long central table), Barista Zuivelbrug, OR, the Leescafé in the central library with its fabulous constellation ceiling from the 1960s, and Mrs. Beanzz. One caveat is that in general (although less so in the latter two locations) service can be poor. Barista especially tends to have grumpy service! But in all of these locations, you can stay and write for a good long time with one drink—and Barista’s tea comes in big (almost pint) glasses; definitely the best value in Ghent, where a tea generally costs between €3 and €4.
This month, we were thrilled to be able publish an edition of Nancy Campbell’s How to Say ‘I Love You’ in Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet. Usually we have some grace after the actual release date to bring the book to this space, but—incredibly—the edition has almost sold out. We have about 30 copies left of an edition of 175, as well as a huge amount of gratitude for all of those who’ve placed orders. Thank you.
Printing the books was always going to be a risk: we wanted to have the cards and paper wrappers that comprise the books be 100% cotton paper (more expensive) and to have the belly bands foil stamped. But the number of people who placed pre-orders alone covered almost half the cost of printing the edition (just over €1200). It was a huge relief (because we figured that then the rest of the printing costs would be covered by sales in the longer term). What a surprise and what a joy that the orders have continued to come for this book. Thank you.
The books are beautiful. Nancy’s monotypes reproduced so well. Tompkin Press, our printers, did an incredible job. The silver foilstamping shines and is clean and precise (it was done by De Sloovere BVBA). The effect of the book, wrapped in the pale blue coversheet and bound by the crisp white belly band with the silver foil, is like a very cold day after a heavy snowfall—that kind of shine. Nancy, qujanaq.
We’ve published eight chapbooks/ books/ objects by women. Two more are forthcoming this year. We’ve also published two books by men, with three more forthcoming. Our literary magazine contributors include 41 men and 66 women.* (Thank you, writers and artists, for letting us print your work!)
We count and aim to pay attention to writing by underrepresented voices.
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* (We also know that a man/woman binary is an insufficient reflection of the actual diversity of our submitters and of the literary world more broadly. We know there’s more counting and accounting to be done. We accept the binary here as the rubric under which VIDA counts, and we say in concert with this counting: Hey you, with your voice of difference, we want to hear from you—we want to read your work. You count.)
Today we’re pleased to welcome Nancy Campbell to the blog. Nancy’s How To Say ‘I Love You’ in Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet has just come out, and it’s wonderful to report that the edition is more than half sold already. Please enjoy Nancy’s essay, which gives some background on the book.
I had just finished a series of poems about light—a collaboration with a photographer, considering the way light moves through space, how it is used by the camera to freeze moments in time—when an invitation arrived to be writer in residence at Upernavik Museum. I had an appetite for darkness, and was curious to see what kind of work I might make under these conditions.
The tiny plane in which I made my journey north struggled to land on the Upernavik airstrip in a snowstorm. Even once the winds had passed on the sky remained a dense indigo, only broken by stars and the lamplight that shone from homes scattered between the hillside and the harbour. But snow and ice have a luminescent quality, and many objects—distorted and concealed under slopes of snow—glowed from the darkness. I recalled the Inuit myth which describes how early arctic people saw by the light of candles made of ice before the creation of the sun.
Each morning, obedient to my alarm clock, I rose and made a cup of strong coffee, then sat with the lights off, looking out from my dark room towards the dark sea. I watched the icebergs gleaming faintly out on the horizon, and noted their progress south. In silhouette, the varied forms—domes and pinnacles, and a few great tabular bergs—looked like a new typography, a slow communication unspooling from the Pole. I felt I might understand its message, if I looked long enough.
The islanders certainly understood the ice. Their lives depended on it. The vocabulary for a variety of different ice forms in the Greenlandic language shows their awareness of its nuances: anarluk—black piece of calf ice; imuneq—hummocky ice; kassuk—bits of ice drifting in the sea; mitillivoq—ice that prevents a door from closing; nutarneq—new ice; sarrippoq—slippery ice; and siku—ice on the water, leading to sikuaq—thin ice.
I began to learn the language, copying down the same words over and over again. The loops and ascenders echoed the patterns formed in the shore ice.
The environment changed constantly, as if to illustrate my lessons. As the days grew brighter the moat of ice around Upernavik began to fragment. More icebergs drifted past, calved from glaciers further north. The islanders told me their concerns. Fishermen needed to walk across the ice to reach their fishing grounds, but a misjudged step on thin ice would propel them to sudden death in freezing water. It was a risky way to make a living. They could no longer read the ice, because its sounds and appearance did not conform to the rules their elders had taught them.
It is not only the ice that is disappearing from the arctic. The Greenlandic language that describes it so well is also vulnerable, and has been added to the UNESCO Atlas of World Languages in Danger. I decided to record the narrative of one young fisherman using his own language. I chose an alphabet book, traditionally an educational tool, to reflect my experience as a slow learner of Greenlandic. How to Say ‘I Love You’ in Greenlandic is illustrated with images of icebergs, for those who chose to read neither English nor Greenlandic but just to view the horizon.
As January moved into February the skies that stretched between the snow-covered mountains and the ice-covered sea began to grow lighter. The sun appeared for the first time on Valentine’s Day. A golden line rose over the snowy peaks, rested there for a moment, and then slipped away. Once the sun had returned, the days lengthened at bewildering speed. By early March the long darkness was just a memory.