Archiving Poet’s Voice: Czesław Miłosz Reads His Own Poetry

By Marek Sroka, UIUC Library

Many scholars and poetry lovers rightly believe that Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004) is one of the most respected contemporary poets in the world and certainly the most distinguished figure in 20th-century Polish literature.  According to Seamus Heaney, Miłosz, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, created “a unique voice [italics mine]” through his poetry, “a poetry cargoed with a density of experience that has been lived and radiated by an understanding that has rendered it symbolic.”[1]

Miłosz established himself figuratively as a vital and distinctive poetic voice, but one may wonder what his human “poetic” voice was really like.  The best way to find out is to listen to the recording of his poetry performed by the poet himself, which brings us to the topic of this post.

The UIUC Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures Professor George Gasyna has recently come across the tape that included the recording of Miłosz’s readings of his poetry.  In terms of provenance, the “Miłosz tape” most likely came from the late Professor Stephen Hill who for many years taught Slavic literature at the UIUC and nurtured a passion for Polish poetry, cinema, and theatre.  The tape has been digitized by the UIUC Library Preservation Services (thanks to Cristina Kühn, Media Preservation and Digital Reformatting Project Manager) and is currently available for downloading at:

Of course, the question that needs to be further investigated is whether the tape represents an amateur recording of Miłosz reading his poetry in a classroom, at a lecture hall, or at a poetry recital.  At this point, it is impossible to state unequivocally that the tape had been recorded privately.  It should be noted that there is neither audience applause nor a sign of audience participation on the recording.   However, there is no evidence (on the tape itself and on the case) that the recording had been done commercially or that it had been copied from another recording (such as a radio broadcast, a vinyl record, or a commercial tape, etc.).  The only thing that is preserved with the tape is a typed list of poems read by Miłosz.  Moreover, there is no date of the recording, but it may be a good guess to place the recording in the 1970s or 1980s (when magnetic recording tapes were widely used).

The poems come from two volumes, Ocalenie (Rescue), first published in 1945, and Światło dzienne (Daylight), first published in 1953.  Miłosz’s deep voice oscillates between melancholy and indignation, sometimes turning into fury.  It is a real treat to hear him reciting his own poetry while different images come to life as if conjured by the poet himself.  And the beauty of his voice is enriched by the melodic accent of the kresy (the Polish-Lithuanian borderlands where he came from).

Thanks to Professor Gasyna and the UIUC Library the poet’s voice has been rediscovered and has been preserved for generations of students, scholars, and poetry enthusiasts.

The tape.

A list of poems read by Miłosz (included with the tape).

[1] Hawkins, Kaitlin. “Czeslaw Milosz Centennial.” World Literature Today 85, no. 3 (2011): 6. Gale Literature Resource Center (accessed February 23, 2021).

If you would like to find out more about the recordings of key Polish poets check out The Sound of Modern Polish Poetry by Aleksandra Kremer, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University.

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Resources for Jewish Studies: Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia

The collections we manage and develop in the International & Area Studies Library enable in-depth research on countries and peoples all over the world.  As a steward of our Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies collections, for example, I strive to acquire materials in all of the languages spoken in the region, which is a difficult task, and one that was under way since long before I arrived here in 2003.  Our Jewish Studies collection is an excellent example of these decades-old efforts, featuring primary, secondary and tertiary sources in Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Juhuri and many other languages.

The newest major resource in this field for the Russian/East European/Eurasian region is East View’s Jewish Studies Research Collection.  As it is rolled out over the next few months, this digital collection will give IAS Library users access to the personal dossiers of Jewish emigrants from Soviet Ukraine (1926-1930), archival materials relating to Jewish charitable societies in Ukraine (1857-1929), nearly 18,000 pages of materials from the Kyiv chapter of the Russian Empire’s Society for the Propagation of Education among Jews (1850-1919), materials from the notoriously antisemitic Beilis Case (Kyiv, 1913), and much more.  While most of the material in this full-text-searchable database will be in Russian, it is also advertised to contain significant Ukrainian-, Polish-, German- and Yiddish-language content.

A proper overview of the Library’s Jewish Studies resources for this part of the world would be more like a book than a blog post, so I will try to just mention a few more highlights that provide an idea of the depth and breadth of the collection.  IAS Library users have access to hundreds of issues of Der Emes, the main Yiddish-language newspaper of the Soviet Union, dating from 1921-1931.  They can also access the many Yiddish- and Russian-language publications from the early years of Birobidzhan, the autonomous region for Jews that Stalin established on the border with China in far eastern Siberia in 1931.  Another of the Library’s main Yiddish-language resources is the Poale Zion/Poalei Tsion Archive, comprising over 5,000 microfiches’ worth of materials relating to the main left-leaning Jewish workers’ organization in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century.  This resource also includes a large amount of material in Russian, Hebrew, and other languages, all dating from between 1917 and 1928.

One of the most prestigious institutions for Jewish Studies in Eastern Europe is the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, which holds hundreds of newspapers, journals and other publications in Yiddish, Polish, German and Hebrew dating as far back as 1817.  The UIUC Library has copies of hundreds of these titles as part of its Rare periodicals of the ŻIH microfilm set.  Individual works pertaining to smaller Jewish communities are also available to IAS Library users.  A few examples include David Bakhshiev’s Bibliograficheskii spravochnik-ukazatel’ izdanii na dzhu’g’uri, evreisko-tatskom iazyke gorskikh evreev, za vtoruiu chetvert’ XX veka (= “A bibliographic guide to publications in Juhuri, the Judeo-Tat language of the Mountain Jews, in the second quarter of the 20th century”), published in Moscow in 2017;  Szonja Komoróczy’s Yiddish printing in Hungary : an annotated bibliography (Budapest, 2011);  the 810-page Bibliographia Karaitica : an annotated bibliography of Karaites and Karaism (Jerusalem, 2011);  and the 659-page Jews in the Bulgarian hinterland : an annotated bibliography (Sofia, 2002).

For later in the 20th century (and beyond), IAS Library users can consult sources like Yitsḥaḳ Kohen’s Pirsumim yehudiyim bi-Verit ha-Moʻatsot, 1917-1960 = Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1960 (Jerusalem, 1961);  N. I. Rutberg’s Evrei i evreiskii vopros v literature sovetskogo perioda : khronologichesko-tematicheskii ukazatel’ literatury, izdannoi za 1917-1991 gg. na russkom iazyke (= “Jews and the Jewish question in Soviet literature : a chronological-thematic guide to materials published in Russian from 1917-1991”), published in Moscow in 2000;  the Jewish State Museum of Lithuania’s Žydų tema Lietuvos spaudoje : bibliografijos rodyklė = Evreĭskai︠a︡ tema v presse Litvy : bibliograficheskiĭ ukazatelʹ = The Jewish theme in Lithuanian press : bibliographical index (Vilnius, 2000- );  and the great bibliographic series of Studia Polona-Judaica/Studia Judaica Cracoviensia (Krakow, 2001- ).  Bibliographies and other reference works for individual Jewish writers, scholars, artists and political figures are held in abundance, along with many of their own writings in multiple languages.

This is just a brief overview of the types of sources that are available.  For more sources on Russian, East European and Eurasian Jewish Studies, Shlomo Shunami’s 1,000-page Bibliography of Jewish bibliographies = Mafteaḥ ha-mafteḥot (and its 1975 supplement) is a good place to start.  The IAS Library’s Slavic Reference Service has also created research guides on Jewish Studies topics here, here, and elsewhere.  Enjoy!




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Chasing Down Secret Comics: New Global Comics for the Library Collection

By Paul Richmond

I’ll be quick: I would love it if you read one of these comics. After all, this project started with a serendipitous in-person encounter, but as it ends I am left with uncertainty about whether I will be able to visit the University library before I graduate in the spring. So I’m living vicariously through you, presumed reader, who will be able to actually hold all these comics that I tracked down through research, guesswork, and judicious use of Google Translate. Not all of them are written in English, but some are (I’ve included a handy guide down below), and I’ve personally always seen comics in languages I can’t read as more of an inviting challenge than a stone wall. So please, check them out. I hope you enjoy.

Image of the cover of Dead Balagtas: Tomo 1

Pictured: the cover to Dead Balagtas: Tomo 1 by Emiliana Kampilan.

Ok. With that out of the way, I should explain a little more. I’m a master’s student in Library and Information Science, and this past spring I met with Mara Thacker, the Global Popular Culture and South Asian Studies librarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to plan a practicum. I was given a $3,000 budget and the task of selecting comics for addition to the University library’s Global Popular Culture collection. Starting in late May, I reviewed the existing collection and then identified comics that would complement and expand the existing focus, settling on the niche of international comics from underrepresented countries (that means not Franco-Belgian comics; not Japanese manga, yes Pinoy Komiks and Lebanese anthology series). At this point I’ve submitted my selections, but they haven’t yet been acquired, which means that some of the more niche items may not appear in the library for a few months or more. Nevertheless, I’d like to take you through a tour of the comics that most excited me in order to give a sense of what will soon be available.

The Major Trend

Two side by side cover images from š comics from Latvia

Pictured: covers for š! #39 ’The End’ and the forthcoming š! #40 ‘The Very End.’

The majority of the comics on my list (I haven’t done the math, but it probably adds up) fit into the same general category of independently organized local comics anthology series. A prototypical example is the first one I found, kuš! komiksi from Latvia. I discovered it in an article from World Literature Today called “International Comics: 5 Groundbreaking Publishers,” by Bill Kartalopoulos, and immediately knew I’d stumbled on to something special. Here’s how kuš! describe themselves:

kuš! (speak koosh!) is a comics art anthology from Latvia founded 2007 in Riga. Every issue contains comics from international and Latvian artists to a certain theme which changes every issue. The aims of kuš! are to popularize comics in a country where this medium is practically non-existent and promoting Latvian comics abroad. (From

Kuš! is remarkably successful at this task: it won the Prix de la bande dessinée alternative at Angoulême in 2012, and in 2020 was nominated for Eisner and Ignatz awards. They are stocked in American indie shops like Quimby’s, and their webshop evidences their consistency of output, with volume #40 of their flagship anthology š! forthcoming in December and their minicomics series mini kuš! climbing past 94 releases. Though not every local, independent anthology can match kuš! in success, they do in spirit. The creators know that comics exist everywhere, whether mainstream publishing has caught on or not, and there are a lot of incredible artists out there that the world deserves to encounter. When anthologies break national boundaries, like kuš! does, they also show off the incredible capacity for this visual medium to transcend language while retaining a deep cultural and aesthetic specificity.

Chasing Down Secret Comics

Examples of some SC5 comics from the publisher Special Comix

Pictured: SC5 from Chinese publisher Special Comix, image via

The moment I realized that there were more projects like  kuš! to be found was when I learned about Special Comix. It was still early on, and I had been digging through the archives of the International Journal of Comic Art, reading any essay that seemed likely to give me leads on notable comics, creators, or styles, when I was caught up by a sentence in Matthew M. Chew and Lu Chen’s article “Media Institutional Contexts of the Emergence and Development of Xinmanhua in China.” (Xinmanhua, which literally means ‘new comics,’ is a Chinese-specific style influenced by Japanese manga.) The sentence read: “The independent comics group SC, which is composed of comic art teachers, students, and xinmanhua artists including Xiao Yanfei, successfully publishes a self-financed comics magazine.” The similarity to kuš! was immediately appealing, an effect that was only strengthened by the challenge of tracking down a Chinese comics series based off of just the letters ‘SC.’ In fact, although I eventually tracked down an English-language blog post that mentioned the group under the name “Secret Comics,” and then an official-seeming Chinese site, where the proper name was identified as Special Comix, it wasn’t until nearly the end of the project that I finally found a Chinese e-commerce site where volumes were actively listed for sale.

At some point along the way, I discovered that SC5 (subtitled 无字漫画, “Wordless Comics”) had won the same award in Angoulême as kuš! just two years earlier, in 2010. Although the series was difficult to track down, and harder to purchase, it has even made it to the US in the form of a 2009 exhibition at Portland indie comic shop Floating World. I won’t further catalogue the parallels; in short, SC was every bit the mirror to kuš! that I hoped it would be, and it was hardly the only one. In between those two bookends, while the search for SC was still ongoing, these types of comics anthologies became my favorite thing to chase.

International Comics Anthologies

On the left is a cover for TokTok 15 and the right is the cover for Kommunity 2020y

Pictured: covers for TokTok 15 and Kommunity 2020: Manila 2019-2050.

Here’s a quick rundown of all the series I’m hoping we’ll be able to acquire:

kuš!: Latvian comics publisher with works mostly in English. Š is an anthology series featuring local and international artists; mini kuš! is a series of individual minicomics by featured artists. More info at kuš!

Special Comix: Chinese comics collective with an irregularly published anthology series. Works are mostly in Chinese, although SC5 is organized around the theme “wordless comics.” More info at Special Comix (website is in Chinese).

KOMMUNITY: Yearly anthology organized by the Phillipine komiks convention Komiket. The language is mostly Filipino/Tagalog. Recent volumes have been focused on specific themes (the LGBTQ+ community, the future of Manila). More information at Komiket.

The Daging Tumbuh: Underground comix anthology out of Indonesia (published in Indonesian). The creators seem to have spun it into a clothing and design brand as well. More info currently available at Daging Tumbuh (note that they are in the process of switching websites).

Samandal: Lebanese collective working to develop a more mature comics scene. Their comics are mainly a mix of Arabic, French, and English. Recently they have been recovering from a religiously-motivated libel suit that lasted from 2010-2015. More info at Samandal.

TokTok: Arabic underground comics anthology based out of Cairo, working to keep Egypt connected with the international comics world. More info at TokTok.

Lab619: Tunisian experimental comics magazine. As far as I can tell, the main languages are French and Arabic. See the Lab619 Facebook page or read a writeup from Art for Ness.

Ugrito: Minicomics series published by the Brazilian comics shop Ugra, highlighting a variety of talented artists. Mainly Portuguese. See more about the store at Ugra or check out the full catalog of Ugritos.

Le Cri du Margouillat: Historic comics review out of Réunion, recently rebooted as an anthology series. Mainly in French. Visit them at Le Cri du Margouillat (French website) or let Wikipedia plus Google Translate do its best to sum up their history.

What Else? 

Not everything fits into the box I’ve been describing, and many of the comics I’m most excited about don’t have a place on the list above. To wrap things up, here are a few recommendations based around other categories (with a little bit of overlap):

Comics for English-language readers

Cover images for "The Mythology Class" and Factory

Pictured: Covers for The Mythology Class (20th Anniversary Edition) and Factory.

š! #39 ‘The End’: the latest anthology from kuš! is based around a timely theme, and their comics tend to be in English.

SC5: Wordless Comics: Special Comix’ international breakthrough moment was always about leaving the limitations of language behind.

Meanwhile…: Graphic Short Stories about everyday Queer life in Southern and Eastern Africa: not listed above because it isn’t part of a series, this anthology of queer stories by queer writers was originally published in English.

Factory (工廠:在世界工廠的背後, English subtitle “The Story Behind ‘Made in Taiwan’): this work of social commentary is mostly wordless, and in places where text is used it appears to be mostly multi-lingual.

The Mythology Class by Arnold Arre: this winner of the Manila Critics Circle National Book Award from 2000 was originally published in English. It features a whirlwind quest through the world of Philippine mythology.

Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna: a personal reflection on the author’s family’s struggle to survive the Khmer Rouge. Translated from the French by Helge Dascher; look for L’année du lièvre if you are interested in comparing it to the original.

Our Story: A Memoir of Love and Life in China by Rao Pingru: the author’s loving, illustrated memoir of his relationship with his late wife. Translated from the Chinese by Nicky Harman.

In the Starlight (volume 1) by Kyungok Kang: a classic blend of Shojo manhwa and sci-fi from Korea, which I discovered in an IJOCA article titled “Science, Technology, and Women Represented in Korean Sci-Fi Girls’ Comics.” Sadly, only a couple of volumes have been translated, so try not to get too invested!

Taiwanese Comics

I was able to pick a variety of fantastic-looking Taiwanese comics based on recommendations from Books from Taiwan and the Golden Comic Awards. Highlights include 粉紅緞帶 (The Pink Ribbon, an award-winning story about girls in love), 南方小鎮時光:左營‧庫倫洛夫 (Small Town, Southern Time, a beautifully painted travelogue), and 大仙術士李白 (The Poet Sorceror, a series of magic and adventure that wins an award seemingly every year).

Excerpt images from inside The Poet Sorcerer Taiwanese comics

Pictured: excerpts from the aforementioned comics with English translations via Right image is from The Poet Sorceror IV, but we are only initially acquiring Volume I.

Korean Manhwa

Working off of a machine translation of magazine article that described the favorite manhwa of both Korean critics and general readers, I was able to put together a list of some standout comics from that tradition. Some titles of note, with apologies for the awkward machine translation: 열혈강호 (Hot-Blooded, a 25-year-long ongoing martial arts manhwa that may be Korea’s longest-running comic), 공포의 외인구단 (Horror Foreign Club, a beloved Baseball manhwa), and 1999년생 (1999ers, another woman-led sci-fi like In the Starlight).

Cover images from manhwa comics the library will acquire

Pictured: the first volumes of 열혈강호, 공포의 외인구단, and 1999년생.


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Completed Graduate Assistant Digital Projects: Indonesia and Timor-Leste

In December 2018, Glocal Notes posted a preview of two digital projects from IAS graduate assistants Laura Rocco and Mariah Schaefer.  The finished projects were presented February 1, 2019, at the library, along with Slavic Reference Service GA Erika Weir’s Scalar collection “Lithuanians in Chicago.” The goal of creating these online tools was to connect patrons with library materials on niche research topics and materials that might otherwise be difficult to locate, as well as to explore publishing platforms that libraries can use to showcase their collections.

Laura – Balai Pustaka: A Snapshot of Publishing in Indonesia

A screenshot of a webpage that includes items from the Balai Pustaka fiction collection

The fiction exhibit currently showcases 22 works of fiction published by Balai Pustaka.

Omeka is a digital publishing platform for creating digital collections and exhibits and is great for projects that are highly visual in nature and centered on “objects.” This digital collection showcases a sample of the Balai Pustaka, post-colonial fiction titles held in the University Library collections. Each item entry includes scans of pages with important bibliographic information – the cover, title page, copyright page, etc. – as well as bibliographic metadata about the item. Users can browse by item, by exhibit, or by tags. There are also links for finding other resources or using the library catalog, which holds over 150 titles from the publisher Balai Pustaka.

Mariah – Research Guide to Timor-Leste (East Timor)

The overview tab has a map showing where Timor-Leste is located.

Library guides are great for showcasing research resources on a specific area and can be divided into several tabs that focus on different topics. This research guide follows that format and presents resources on the country of Timor-Leste, which is located in Southeast Asia. The guide is broken down into an overview tab, a history tab, a languages tab, and a government tab. All of the resources listed on the Research Guide to Timor-Leste (East Timor) can be accessed through the University of Illinois Library.

Other Resources

Erika Weir’s blog post about “Lithuanians in Chicago”

Scholarly Commons – Omeka

Omeka: A User’s Guide

Getting Started with LibGuides

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‘Black Panther’: A Realistic Africa within a Fictitious Wakanda

Black Panther theatrical poster

Post by Ashley Adams

For months now, people have been raving about Marvel’s Black Panther movie. It has received some criticism, but also overwhelming support and love from people all over the world.

Marvel produces superhero movies that are fascinating to watch, and sometimes have brief historical and realistic components, but this is the first time when fiction and reality combine in this specific way. Not only is this movie a first of its kind, with an almost entirely black cast, but it sets out to provide its viewers with a connection. For the first time, there is a black superhero who takes center stage. And although this story is based in fantasy, the filmmakers took the opportunity to fuse fantasy with real African concepts, cultures, and histories.

Wakanda is a fictitious Central East African nation that has not yet been discovered, let alone exploited by outside colonizers. It directly counters many common perceptions of Africa as being a dark, poor continent. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author, comes to mind when considering this perception and “the danger of a single story”. In reality, however, Africa is so much more. It is a continent rich in so many ways, and equally rich in diversity. This movie provides some insight into the diversity that is present throughout the continent, while it can also be seen as promoting a sense of identity, a sense of pan-Africanism.

A map of regions in Africa

One of the most visually exciting components of this movie is the fashion. Ruth E. Carter was the costume designer for the film, and she created a combination of traditional African attire with hi-tech Afropunk influences. Carter had the goal of creating attire for a fictional African nation that was completely original, but that also represented and honored both African history and African-American history. She took several trips to Africa and drew inspiration from those visits. Some of her specific inspiration came from the Dogon people of West Africa, the Turkana people in East Africa, the Hemba people in Congo, the Suri tribe in Ethiopia, the Tuareg people in Western and Northern Africa, along with several others, totaling over 10 different tribes and groups of people from throughout the continent (Giles, 2018). She combined these inspirations with an Afro-futuristic edge to create the original attire for the film. Check out a brief red carpet interview with Carter here when she talks about some of her favorite inspirations:

Throughout the film, characters are sometimes seen speaking to each other in another language. What is even more interesting, however, is the fact that this is a real African language. The filmmakers decided to incorporate isiXhosa, a South African language with over eight million native speakers, into the story line (Eligon, 2018). This language was not chosen at random, but was suggested by one of the actors in the film. John Kani, who plays T’Chaka, the father of T’Challa, in the film, is a native of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, and a native isiXhosa speaker. He suggested that the directors should incorporate some isiXhosa into the film’s dialogue to increase the African authenticity of the film. The filmmakers loved the idea, and the film’s director, Ryan Coogler, “wanted to make it a priority to use Xhosa as much as possible” throughout the film (Eligon, 2018). The usage of isiXhosa, however, was not random or sporadic throughout the film, but rather was strategically used during what would be considered natural or authentic situations. An example of this would be when two Wakandan characters wanted to discuss something privately but were in the presence of an outsider. The language itself is very difficult to learn, and because none of the cast were native speakers of isiXhosa, the filmmakers hired several dialect coaches, including Mr. Kani and his son. If you’re interested in hearing a bit about the pronunciation of isiXhosa, check out this video:

This film has definitely paved the way for new narratives about Africa. It has inspired viewers to consider more than a single story, and has increased pride for African culture, language, and history.

For more information on African Studies resources, visit the International and Area Studies Library’s African Studies Collections & Services page, or contact:

Atoma Batoma, PhD
African Studies Bibliographer
323 Library

Search for African language resources:

News Sources:

Eligon, John. (2018, February 16). Wakanda Is a Fake Country, but the African Language in ‘Black Panther’ Is Real. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Giles, Chris. (2018, February 19). A journey into Wakanda: How we made Black Panther. CNN. Retrieved from

Ashley M Adams
MS in Community Health Candidate, MA in African Studies Candidate
Department of Kinesiology and Community Health
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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