Mark Abley

Mark Abley is a poet, non-fiction writer, journalist and editor living in Montreal. He has written five books of non-fiction and four collections of poetry, as well as two books for children. "Glasburyon," the title poem of his second collection, has been translated into Esperanto and Jerriais. The poem deals with the fate of disappearing languages, which is also the subject of his non-fiction book "Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages" (2003). In that book Abley describes his visits to Australia, Oklahoma, Wales, Provence, the Isle of Man and the Canadian Arctic documenting the threats to minority languages and the heartfelt attempts to keep them vibrant.

"Spoken Here" was one of the inspirations behind Bob Holman's PBS documentary "Language Matters." Abley also took part in a People's Poetry Gathering in New York that focused on endangered languages. By contrast, his 2008 non-fiction book "The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English" looks at such topics as Spanglish, Asian English, hip-hop, and language in cyberspace.

His writing also deals with the loss of cultures and species. "Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott" (2013) is a creative non-fiction book in which Abley confronts the ghost of a gifted Canadian poet who oversaw the Department of Indian Affairs at the time when the residential school system was at its height. His most recent book is "The Tongues of Earth: New and Selected Poems" (2015). Abley is now working on a memoir of his father, tentatively entitled "The Organist."

In Spoken Here, Mark Abley takes us on a world tour from the Arctic Circle to Oklahoma to Australia in a fervent quest to document some of the world's most endangered languages. His mission is urgent: Of the six thousand languages spoken in the world today, only six hundred may survive into the next century. Abley visits the exotic and frequently remote locales that are home to fading languages and constructs engaging and entertaining portraits of some of the last living speakers of these tongues. Throughout this exhilarating travelogue, he points out that the same forces that put biological species at risk -- development, globalization, loss of habitat -- are also threatening human languages, and with them, something very basic about their speakers' cultures.