About dpcoffey

I am a librarian and writer, often reviewing avant-garde recordings and poetry publications.

Modern Language Association “Language Map”

One of the lesser-known resources offered by the Modern Language Association (MLA) is its Language Map. The Language Map mines data from the 2000 and 2005 US Census to give a detailed breakdown of which languages are spoken throughout the United States.

There are several ways to use this resource. One can click on “View the Map” to see an interactive map of the United States. There is a “zoom” tool which allows users to focus on a specific area of the U.S., and a drop down menu to select a language (the default is English). What is displayed is a color-coded graphic that shows the percentage of citizens that speak the language in question in any chosen area of the country. This information is taken from the 2000 U.S. Census.

To a lesser extent, information from the 2005 Census is used in the “Data Center” (accessible by clicking on “Create Detailed Tables” on the Language Map home page) as well as information from the 2000 Census to show demographic trends and changes in the thirty most commonly spoken languages. Using this tool, one can view as broad an area as the “Northeast” or as narrow an area as a zip-code range. The MLA also uses data collected from other its own surveys to make available informati0n on college enrollment in language courses. Survey dates range from 1958 – 2009.

An excellent resource for all kinds of information related to language demographics in the US!

An e-press? No! A press with an “e” at the end!

Ugly Duckling Presse has been making waves* in the world of literary translation during the last few years. Elena Fanailova’s The Russian Version (translated by Stephanie Sandler and Genya Turovskaya), published by UDP (and reviewed here), won the 2010 “Best Translated Book Award for Poetry.”** This book is part of UDP’s Eastern European Poets Series (EEPS), which the press started in 2003, and which now boasts a back catalog of 27 publications, many of which are bilingual editions, ranging from the iconic (an edition of new translations of poems by Osip Mandelstam) to the very new (recent MFA graduate Natalie Lyalin’s book Try a Little Time Travel). (The latter (reviewed here) isn’t translated, so I’m cheating a little bit, but Lyalin did emigrate to the United States from Russia, having grown up in Leningrad.) Oh, and then there’s a new translation of The Song of Igor’s Campaign. According to UDP, it is “one of the foundational works of Russian literature. In muscular, expressive language it describes the disastrous campaign of 1185 waged by Prince Igor of Chernigov against the pagan Polovtsians.”

Ugly Duckling Presse also has a “Lost Lit” series, described as being “dedicated to publishing neglected works of 20th century poetry, prose, and important & resonant works that fall outside those confines.” Lost Lit was initiated in 2006 and has far fewer titles than the EEPS series. However, of its nine titles published to date, six are translations (two French and two Spanish poetry volumes, one collection by an 11th Century Chinese poet, and an unclassifiable pamphlet by a German author).

Virtually all of the UDP books are owned by the Iowa State University Library. The best way to get an overview is to type Ugly Duckling Presse in the Quick Search box on the e-Library home page, and then select “everything but articles” from the first drop-down column, “with my exact phrase” in the second column, and “anywhere in the record” in the third. After you enter the search, you can use the “Refine Results” section on the left side of the screen to limit the results by language, topic, or author.

Although much of what UDP publishes is not translated material, it is one of the increasing number of smaller presses that are becoming “found in translation,” if you will.

*Among the waves UDP has been making is an Ugly Duckling Presse podcast, featuring UDP authors reading and being interviewed.

**This award is given by “Three Percent,” a “resource for international literature at the University of Rochester,” that is closely tied to another up-and-coming publisher of literature in translation, Open Letter Books, about which, more… soon.

Big Bill Broonzy Redux

As my colleague mentioned in her previous post about the wonders of the NAXOS music library, country blues legend Big Bill Broonzy (whose music can be heard in streaming form via the aforementioned resource) did indeed grace Ames with his larger-than-life presence for a time.

Broonzy was part of Studs Terkel’s “I Come For To Sing” traveling revue, which performed in the late 1940s in the Iowa State Armory. After the show, Broonzy met ISU English professors Leonard and Lillian Feinberg at a reception hosted by the couple. Shortly thereafter, Broonzy was told by his doctor that he needed to get out of the city (Chicago), or face a significantly lower life expectancy. He wrote to Professor (Leonard) Feinberg asking for work on an ISU farm. Feinberg was able to get him a job, instead, as a janitor in Friley Hall in 1950 (Jorgen Rasmussen, Ames Historical Society Newsletter, Summer, 2003). Rumor has it that ISU undergraduates taught Broonzy to read and write in exchange for some guitar tutelage. Only a year had passed, however, before Broonzy realized it would be much more lucrative to tour Europe, which he did with some frequency, and in the meantime, moved back to Chicago in 1951.*

In addition to the Broonzy material available in NAXOS, the library owns the following recordings and books of interest:


  • Broonzy, Big Bill. Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order (Document Records, 1991-1995). This is a 12-CD set that spans the dates November 1927 –  1947.  Each one of these discs has its own call number and they’re all sequential: The call number for disc one is DISC 001 986, and at the other end of the range, the call number for disc twelve is DISC 001 997.
  • Broonzy, Big Bill. The Bill Broonzy Story (Verve, 1960, reissued in 1999). This is a 3-CD set that includes biographical notes by Bill Randle and program notes reprinted from the original 5-LP box set liner notes. Recorded in Chicago, July 12 and 13, 1957 (DISC 001 776).
  • Broonzy, Big Bill. Trouble in Mind (Smithsonian Folkways, 2000; originally released in 1957 on the Smithsonian label as “Big” Bill Broonzy Sings Country Blues.) Recorded in 1956-1957 in Chicago and New York City. Pete Seeger plays banjo on one track! (DISC 003 053)

Additionally, Broonzy is featured on a number of compilation recordings owned by the ISU Library, such as Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? American Song During the Great Depression (DISC 004 177), and Classic Protest Songs from Smithsonian Folkways (DISC 007 055).

The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy


  • Broonzy, Big Bill. Big Bill Blues: William Broonzy’s Story as Told to Yannick Bruynoghe. (The 1964 Oak Press edition is available in the Parks Library General Collection at the call number ML420 B78 A3 1964, and the 1992 Da Capo edition is held in the Parks Library Special Collections Department at the call number ML420 B78 A3 1992. Note that items held by Special Collections can only be viewed in the Special Collections area (403 Parks Library) during their open hours, Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm.)
  • Riesman, Bob. I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy. (U of Chicago Press, 2011.) Call number: ML420 B78 R54 2011. This is a very recent acquisition, and includes an “appreciation” written by Pete Townshend.
  • House, Roger. Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy. (Louisiana State UP, 2010.) Coming soon.

Please check out some of the above materials (pun intended) if you like what you hear on NAXOS, or just want to learn more about a national treasure with an almost-forgotten Iowa State University connection.

*Thanks to the staff of the Iowa State University Library Archives for their help in procuring some of the information included in this post.