By Adnan Mehmeti
Carrie Hooper, an American professor, lives and works in New York State. She knows several languages and her poetry is full of life. She is an idealist with a deep faith. She is fascinated by the beautiful Albanian language and by Albania’s long and glorious history. She reads everything she can find about the Albanian language and the Albanian people. She is particularly interested in the Albanian communities in America and elsewhere. The story of her love for the Albanians, especially for the Albanians in America, is charming and beautiful and consists of a variety of experiences.
Carrie Hooper has been well known to readers for many years. She has given several interviews and different people have written about her. We can rightly call her book a morning flower in Albanian poetry. Read Carrie Hooper’s book in Albanian. Readers who have difficulty reading Albanian may read these poems in English. Life is beautiful, declares the poet in one of her verses. And I would add: Life is beautiful when you read her book in our native language and in English. An American has made a sublime contribution to Albanian literature.
Carrie Hooper writes about the Albanian language and the Albanians with great respect as Edith Durham once did. Therefore, read the book “Word Paintings,” especially the first two cycles, Reflections Of An Albanian At Heart and The Embodiment Of The Albanian Spirit. You will be impressed by the poet’s love and longing for Albania. She speaks with love and longing and teaches the Albanians a lesson forgotten by those of us who live in America.
Carrie Hooper is a gifted singer, an advantage when writing poetry. Indeed, she has the ability to combine poetry with music. Her poetry is enchanting and resembles a beautiful painting in words.
Biography of Carrie Hooper
Biography of Carrie Hooper Carrie Hooper was born in Elmira, New York in 1975. Elmira is located in the southern part of New York State near the Pennsylvania border. Carrie was born two and a half months premature and as a result, her lungs did not fully develop. Therefore, when she was eight days old, a part of one of her lungs was removed. After she underwent this operation, Carrie remained in an incubator for three months. She suffered scarring of the retinas from too much oxygen and this caused her blindness. However, blindness has not kept her from experiencing the world with her other senses. Indeed, sighted people could make much more use of other senses but they depend so much on their eyes. In short, Carrie lives a rich full life. Carrie went to school with sighted children. She received Braille and audio materials and at times, people read to her. While in school, she learned to walk with a cane. She began piano lessons at the age of four and voice lessons at the age of fifteen. She played percussion instruments including the drums, the xylophone, the marimba, and the glockenspiel in the school band and she sang in school choirs. She began composing music at the age of eight. After graduating from high school in 1993, Carrie studied voice at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor’s in music with an emphasis in vocal performance in 1997. While a student at Mansfield University, Carrie began learning German because she needed to take a foreign language as part of her studies. She believed that knowing the language would give her a better understanding of the songs she sang in German. From the first day of class, Carrie knew that she wanted to become a German teacher. In middle school and high school, she had taken French but at that time, the language did not interest her much. She did not work hard to learn the language. However, she practiced German and other languages that she learned later by listening to them, reading, and talking on the telephone to native speakers of the language in question. During her time in Mansfield, Carrie also learned Italian because the choir in which she sang traveled to Italy as part of a European tour. She also learned some Russian and Latin but she does not know these languages well. After receiving her Bachelor’s from Mansfield University, Carrie received a Master’s in German (1999) and a Master’s in music with an emphasis in vocal performance (2001) from the State University of New York at Buffalo. During that time, she began learning Spanish and also learned a little Finnish. In addition, she learned Swedish because the conductor of the university orchestra came from Sweden and Carrie wanted to be able to speak Swedish with him. At that time, the English service of the shortwave radio station Radio Sweden broadcast a program called In Touch With Stockholm. Listeners could write in with questions about Swedish life and culture and the program’s producers put them in touch with Swedes who could answer their questions. Listeners would converse with Swedes via telephone and these conversations were broadcast during the program. Carrie emailed the program inquiring about life as a blind person in Sweden. The producers of the program put her in touch with Ulrika Norelius, a blind student at the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm. Carrie and Ulrika had a conversation via telephone and their talk was broadcast on In Touch With Stockholm. They stayed in touch and Ulrika told Carrie that foreigners could apply to study at the music conservatory in Stockholm for a year. Carrie decided to apply for this program and she also applied for a Fulbright scholarship to finance her studies. She was accepted as a student at the music conservatory in Stockholm and she received a Fulbright scholarship. She studied at the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden from August of 2001 to June of 2002. In 2002, Carrie began teaching German at Elmira College in her hometown of Elmira and she continues to teach German there. From 2007 to 2016, Carrie taught Italian at Elmira College. She also teaches voice and piano lessons at Studios On The Square in Horseheads, New York. In addition, she plays the piano at Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Horseheads. She also sings with Common Time Choral Group and gives vocal concerts at churches, at nursing homes, and for other groups and organizations. In her free time, Carrie enjoys reading, writing poetry, talking to friends, and learning foreign languages. In addition to German, Italian, and Spanish, she also knows Swedish, Albanian, and Romanian.
My Work with The Albanian Language
I began learning Albanian in October of 2008 after I had a student from Albania in my Italian class. At first, I used a Braille book that I ordered from the Library for The Blind in England. My student also helped me with the language. Furthermore, I bought an Albanian-English/English-Albanian dictionary and a woman in my area transcribed the Albanian-English section into Braille. Besides that, the Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille sent me a book on audio cassette with Albanian folk tales. In the summers of 2009 and 2010: I took Albanian language courses at Arizona State University in Tempe. Nowadays I read articles from the Albanian newspaper The Sun using my Braille computer. Also, my friend Tim Hendel, who lives in Huntsville, Alabama, records Internet radio programs for me in Albanian. In addition, I practice speaking Albanian by talking to Albanians on the telephone.
In September 2010, I presented a concert of Albanian songs at Saint Elia Orthodox Church in Jamestown, New York. In October 2010, I sang at Saint George Albanian Orthodox Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In June 2011, I sang during the Albanian schools’ end of year celebration in Toronto, Canada.
In April 2012 I participated in the 100th anniversary celebration of the founding of Vatra. As part of this event, I sang the American national anthem and I performed an original composition with an original text in Albanian called O popull i dashur (Beloved People.) In June 2012 I gave an interview for an Albanian film produced by Piro Milkani and directed by Petrit Ruka. This film explored the history of the Albanian national anthem. During the interview, I sang the Albanian national anthem. The film won a special award for the 100th anniversary of Albania’s independence. At the end of June of that same year, I gave two presentations at Arizona State University. In my first presentation, I discussed learning Albanian as a blind person and the accommodations that I needed to accomplish this task. In the second presentation, I talked about learning Albanian and I sang several Albanian songs.
In October 2012, I visited the Albanian school in the Bronx, New York. I gave a presentation for parents and students in which I talked about learning Albanian. I also performed several Albanian songs. In June 2013, I participated in the end of year festivities at the Albanian school in the Bronx by performing four Albanian songs. I also attended Mass at the Albanian Catholic Church Our Lady of Shkoder in Hartsdale, New York. After Mass, I met a priest named Gjergj Meta who was visiting the church. He lives in Durres, Albania. Father Gjergj Meta wrote an article about our meeting which appeared in the newspaper Mapo. During that New York visit, I became a member of the ensemble Bashkimi Kombetar (Albanian Unity) directed by Gjergj Dedvukaj and I now play the cifteli. For those not familiar with this folk instrument, it is made of wood and has a long narrow neck and a bowl-shaped bottom. It has two strings that you pluck with a special pick. I participated in a concert presented by Bashkimi Kombetar at Saint Paul’s Church in Detroit, Michigan in July of 2013.
In recent years, I have given interviews for Gazeta Dielli (The Sun), for journalist Raimonda Moisiu, for journalist Beqir Sina and the newspaper Bota sot (The World Today), for journalists Kozeta Zylo and Zyba Hysa, for Flora Durmishi’s program on Radio Kosovo, and for Radio e diela, a program broadcast on CHIN AM 1540 in Toronto, Canada. I also participated in a television program called Shqiptarët e Amerikës (Albanians In America) which is produced in New York by Qazim Doda.
I have written poems in Albanian and some of them were published in The Sun and in the magazine Kuvendi. Several years ago, I gave presentations about Albania for various clubs in my area. During these talks, I also sang Albanian songs. Furthermore, I gave two presentations about Albania at Elmira College, the college where I teach.
In Honor of the Albanian Language
“I am from Albania,” my student said. Who would have thought that three such small words would have had such a great impact on a life? But that is what happened that unforgettable day.
“I am from Albania.” That simple sentence called to mind a girl, eleven or twelve years old, who heard the name Albania for the first time. I was that girl.
In the awkward moment that followed his utterance, I wanted to show that student that I knew at least one thing about his country. I wracked my brains trying to remember the capital of Albania. I had learned it long ago but in that precise moment, I had forgotten it. Of course I remembered it as soon as he told me.
This unexpected experience ignited the flame of curiosity and thus was born my desire to learn Albanian. Nothing would stop me! I had to learn Albanian come what may! I searched diligently until I found the only Albanian textbook available in Braille from the Library for the Blind in England. This book would serve as the key that would open the door to that mysterious and different language and culture. I cheered so loudly the day the book arrived that surely the whole world must have heard my excitement!
The more Albanian I learned, the more the language held me in its grip. How often my head ached with the effort. Nevertheless I did not give up.
I asked myself many times if I would ever understand Albanian. I remember the joy I felt when I said my first word in Albanian. I remember the pleasure I felt when I understood one word on the radio. I remember my gratitude for the ability to write one sentence in Albanian.
O language of Albania, the music of your words fills my spirit with joy! Your expressive words fill my heart with joy! When I hear your words, my whole being is filled with joy! Through you I have come to know a strong, brave, and courageous people, who have survived the oppression of foreign rulers and an evil dictatorship.
Resound, O beloved language, no matter where your people live! May you live forever, O beautiful Albanian language!