Shooting from the Lip

Shooting from the Lip: Bertsolariak Ipar Amerikan
Improvised Basque-Verse Singing 

Compiled, edited and translated by Joxe Mallea Olaetxea

To purchase this book for $25, please call 

Mary Curutchet 650-588-2249

This book is a compilation of the bertsoak (improvised Basque verses) of North American Bertsolariak (improvisers) including Johnny Kurutxet, Jesus Arriada, Jesus Goñi, and Martin Goikoetxea, who In 2003 were the recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. This is the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. 

The introduction includes an explanation of the art of the bertsolari (improviser) and some verses of Fernando ” Xalbador” Aire, a renowned bertsolari from Urepele in the Basque Country about his visit to North America. Each verse appears in the original Euskara and also in English translation.


From the back cover: 
Basque people and bertsoak (improvised verse-singing) go hand-in-hand, and wherever the Basques emigrated they took along all the elements of the tradition: the bard and his audience, improvised and written poetry, and even the tunes learned in their hometowns. The bertso plant has stayed small and scrawny in some American places because of the climate or the lack of soil. However, at other times it grew and gave wonderful fruit.

Until now in the Americas, Argentina has been the champion of bertso singing. Let us mention just one name, Pedro Mari Otaño, who verse-singing enthusiasts still remember. The art is more recent in the U.S., but right now it is the strongest and most promising. While those in Argentina invited only one bertsolari (improvising singer), Pello Errota, U.S. Basques have played hosts to Xalbador, Mattin, Azpillaga, Lopategi, Euzkitze, Peñagarikano, Egaña, and others.

We, Basques have been rather negligent concerning our own culture, and we thus began late collecting bertsoak. That happened in the Basque Country and abroad even more so. But with this superb compilation, it appears that things are turning around. A poet once said that as you travel you build the road, and author Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe intends to carry on with the project he started. May he nurture the bertso tree of the United States so that it may turn into reality what Iparragirre said about the Oak Tree of Gernika: “Give forth and spread your fruit in the world.”

Antonio Zavala
Publisher and Editor, Auspoa Bertso Poetry Books
JOXE MALLEA-OLAETXE is author of numerous articles, Speaking Through the Aspens: Basque Tree Carvings of California and Nevada, and The Power of Nothing: The Life and Adventure of Ignacio "Idaho" Urrutia.  He is an instructor in Nevada and teaches Latin American history at Truckee Meadows Community College and is a researcher at the Center for Basque Studies ad the University of Nevada, Reno.