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March 22, 2007 — From the Arts & Culture section
To see the printed version of the newspaper, complete with photographs
and additional content, visit and download the pdf
files. It’s free.
1. Publishing: One woman’s climb to the peak of the publishing world
(by Adrineh Gregorian)
2. Film: Tadeh Daschi breaks out the camera and the violins (by Karine
3. Film: Musicians, poets, and crocodiles (by Elyssa Karanian)
* Martin Yernazian shoots them all (with his camera)
4. Legacy: The Publisher (Yervant Chaderjian) (by Mark Malkasian)
5. Review: The Theatre of Genocide (review by Shushan Avagyan)
6. Annotations: Dispelling clichés (by Armine Iknadossian)
* Three Apples Fell From Heaven by Micheline Aharonian Marcom
7. Literature: Of political violence and lost love
* A conversation with Micheline Aharonian Marcom
8. Vignette: The pomegranate influence (by Narineh Melkonian)
9. Poetry Matters: Armenian women poets: voices of lullabies and God
(by Lory Bedikian)
10. Reflection: Reflective moments (by Kay Mouradian)
1. Publishing: One woman’s climb to the peak of the publishing world
by Adrineh Gregorian
As I walked through the ultra-sleek lobby of the redesigned Hearst
Tower off the Columbus Circle Station in Manhattan, I was anxious to
meet one of the today’s most powerful forces in publishing.
I proceeded to ride an escalator that ascends alongside a cascading
waterfall. It left me off at an elevator meant specifically to take me
to the floor where lies the office of Donna Kalajian Lagani, senior
vice-president and publishing director of The Cosmopolitan Group,
which oversees the ubiquitous Cosmopolitan and CosmoGirl! magazines.
What ensued could not have been more unlike a scene from The Devil
Wears Prada. Donna greeted me with the warmth of an old friend. Her
positive energy was contagious and her passion unmistakable.
Throughout the interview, I learned about how a magazine created to
enable women to embrace their identity also showed the world how to
turn a magazine into a global publishing phenomenon.
Cosmopolitan has grown to become one of the world’s most recognized
brands. In addition to the U.S. edition, the monthly magazine is
published in 60 different countries, in 34 different languages, and
reaches over 100 million readers.
Among its "how to" articles, Cosmo (as Cosmopolitan is referred to)
is famous for columns such as "Bedside Astrologer Guide" and "Bachelor
of the Month," and advice about most things you’re too embarrassed to
ask your mother. These are just a few of the features women around the
world look forward to every month. However, content is not what mainly
interests Donna; it’s the magazine’s bottom line that she’s
Sitting at the helm of the U.S. edition, Donna has led her team to
surpass record earnings that she herself had set in previous years.
* The early years
Donna grew up in Mountainside, New Jersey, with her brother and
parents. "I always envisioned myself as someone who ended up on Wall
Street," says Donna. She went on to Penn State University and
graduated with a degree in finance, accounting, and economics.
Upon graduation, her next step was a subway ride downtown to Wall
Street. 1 Wall was the first building she saw as she exited the
station. She thought it was a lovely building to work in.
As a business grad, Donna knew she wanted to work in international
credit and applied for a job at the Urban Trust Company, conveniently
based at 1 Wall. She memorized their annual report and aced the
interview, landing a job at the tender age of 20.
After one year with the company, Donna had already moved up to a
minor management position. "I really didn’t like it," she says. "I
felt that there was very much a caste system. It was in the days that
women were really not very welcome on Wall Street, and there seemed
like a real caste system to me and I wasn’t brought up that way. I was
brought up by my parents that you treat everyone the same whether it’s
the person who’s pumping your gas or a president of the company; it
really doesn’t matter — you treat everybody with dignity and as an
individual. And I didn’t find that there. I felt like I was looked
down upon because I was a female."
At 21, Donna remembers thinking, "I’m doing really well here and I’m
really unhappy," she says. "And at that point I made a decision that I
never was going to do anything that I didn’t love."
Donna resolved to leave the financial world but was still determined
to be successful in whatever career path she chose. "I was going to do
it better than anybody but I was going to love it," she says.
* The publishing years
It was a cousin’s friend who introduced Donna to what would become her
yellow brick road to professional success. The advertising-sales
business sounded very glamorous to her. "Let me give that a shot,"
Donna recalls thinking. And just like that, her climb to the top of
the publishing world began.
She first got a job with a small, independent magazine-publishing
company. Of the three owners, one saw that Donna had what it takes and
took her under his wing.
A year later she moved onto Woman’s Day, one of the most widely
circulated magazines in the nation at the time, with a circulation of
8 million. Woman’s Day had a reputation for having one of the top
sales and marketing teams in the publishing industry, yet no women
were represented on it.
"I was very persistent and listened to my Armenian roots, which told
me to just stick with it and be persistent, and keep my nose to the
grindstone, and keep going, and nine months later I got the job,"
Donna recalls. She stayed at Woman’s Day for nine years and eventually
moved to a management position.
Donna’s next stop was Ladies’ Home Journal, which she joined as
advertising director. After only two years, she made history by being
promoted to publisher, the first woman to serve in that position in
the magazine’s 112-year history.
Donna stayed there for another nine years, after which she joined
Cosmopolitan as publisher.
* What’s not to love about Cosmo?
"I love Cosmo," Donna says. "I came in as publisher and had the great
privilege of working with Helen Gurley Brown for a year and a half."
Today Brown is recognized as an icon and has always been an
outspoken advocate of women’s rights and owning one’s sexuality. Since
becoming editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan in 1965, she has turned it
into the most popular monthly magazine and an outlet for women around
Cosmopolitan has grown beyond the pages of a magazine and become a
lifestyle — one that promotes "Fun Fearless Females," a campaign
spearheaded by Donna.
Along with her publishing duties, Donna gave birth to CosmoGirl! The
magazine, whose motto is "Born to Lead," was conceived as a resource
for younger readers. As an introduction magazine to its older sister,
Cosmopolitan, CosmoGirl! is set on empowering and inspiring young
women to be leaders in all aspects of their lives.
Since its launch in 1999, CosmoGirl! has become the number-1-selling
teen magazine, thanks to Donna’s efforts. Its readership, which now
stands at 8 million, continues to grow quickly.
The magazine’s many accolades include being named "Startup of the
Year" by Adweek. In 2003 CosmoGirl! earned a spot on Advertising Age’s
"A List," among the top three magazines of 2003.
"I’ve been here for 12 years and it’s about recreating it," Donna
says, referring to the secret to Cosmo’s longevity. "You have to keep
it fresh; you have to keep it new."
The Cosmopolitan brand can also now be seen, heard, uploaded,
downloaded, and dialed into. Along with its website, there is Cosmo
Mobile, where you can access the magazine’s features on your cell
Two years ago Cosmo Radio was launched on Sirius Satellite Radio, a
24-hour radio channel with interactive programming that offers a mix
of music and talk.
In addition to Cosmopolitan Television Iberia and Cosmopolitan
Television Latin America, on February 14, 2008, Cosmopolitan TV was
launched in Canada as the first 24-hour television network catering to
females between 18 and 34.
Donna works on strategy ideas that set Cosmo apart from competitors
in order to make it an attractive place to advertise. The
responsibility of marketing the magazine to the media community and
generating advertising revenues rest on her shoulders.
"The hardest thing when you’re the most profitable magazine is that
you have to keep figuring out how to become more profitable," she
explains. "And you don’t generally look to see that from your
competitors because they’re smaller than you are, so you have to be
looking at outside things that give you ideas of what you can do
strategically to move the brand forward."
Donna and her nationwide team of salespeople organize huge events to
secure multimillion dollar advertising and sponsorship accounts.
"Every year we have to make it bigger and better," Donna says. "It’s
Twelve years ago, when Donna started at Cosmo, she launched the "Fun
Fearless Woman of the Year" award, which is now joined by the "Fun
Fearless Man of the Year" award.
On April 18, 2008, Donna is organizing the largest bikini photo
shoot in the world, taking place in South Beach, Miami.
"I have a fun job," Donna says enthusiastically. "I work really
hard, I have a lot of stress, but I have a really really good time
while I’m doing it."
* How to be the publisher of the world’s most popular magazine
"We know who we are and always deliver to the consumer," Donna says,
referring to Cosmo’s brand identity.
Though Cosmo publishes a wealth of material on beauty, fashion, and
health, it goes without saying that the magazine is most known for its
"We understand that the most important thing to women anywhere on
the planet is the relationships in their lives," Donna notes. "It’s
their boyfriend, their husband, their mother, their father, their
child, their girlfriends.
"All you have to do is get a bunch of women to sit around and talk,
and what are you going to talk about?" she adds. "You’re going to
start talking about your relationships and that’s what really
separates Cosmopolitan. We understand what it means to be a fun
"What I do is magazine publishing and understand how to market a
magazine to the media community," Donna explains.
A typical day at work as publisher of Cosmopolitan would be spent
out of the office. "I prefer to be out of the office with clients,
selling advertising," Donna says. "It’s a very very fast track at
Cosmopolitan." Much of Donna’s efforts center on meeting with
marketing executives of large companies to help grow their business
through advertising in the magazine.
The most challenging part of the job is beating her own numbers
every year. "I hold myself and my company holds me and I hold our team
to very high standards of achievement," she says.
The most exciting part of her job is "making the sale," she exclaims
with her eyes lit up. "Making the multimillion dollar sale," she adds.
"When you come up with a great idea and someone says, ‘We’re going to
go with it,’ that’s the best part. And the other part is I love
working with a team. I love watching young people come up through the
ranks. We have a very loyal team and that’s really a rewarding part
too, to work with a great group of people."
Inevitably, it’s more fun to work at Cosmo. "Whatever job it is,
it’s whatever you bring to it that makes it fun and brings the passion
to it," she says.
"I bring a passion to it," says Donna, who has always applied
passion to everything she does in life. "If I were collecting tickets
at the movie theater, I would be passionate about doing that as well,"
* How to be a great role model
"I had the extraordinary pleasure of working with Helen [Gurley Brown]
for a year and a half," Donna says. "She lives what she teaches our
women every month in the magazine, which is live big, don’t ever take
no for an answer, if you want it go for it. And maybe in some ways
that’s how I was brought up too. That’s exactly what my mom and dad
always told me. So to come to a brand that has philosophically that
spirit of telling women, telling people, to go for it, you can do
anything, you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.
That’s the message that Helen has told throughout Cosmopolitan in the
40-plus years that we’ve been around and around the world."
Donna’s mother was to her the original fun fearless female. As a
married woman with two kids, "she always had a great career," Donna
says of her mother, who is her great inspiration.
"She is my soul mate," Donna continues, with pure devotion in her
voice. "She always said to me, ‘You know what Donna, I want you to
grow up, I want you to have a great life and be happy. If you want to
have a great marriage, always take care yourself though. Always make
sure that you know that you can take care of yourself financially."
"She was my role model," Donna says. Her mother was a commercial
artist who illustrated comics such as the Little Lulu and Mighty Mouse
Now Donna acts as a role model to her ten-year-old son, Joey. "I
always tell him, ‘You are going to be the most wonderful man to
women," Donna says. "’You are going to be polite and you are going to
be nice and you are not going to break anybody’s heart.’"
Along with this advice, she instills Armenian traditions in her son.
"I will not give up my Armenian roots," Donna stresses. "We say Hayr
Mer every night and he helps me roll grape leaves," she adds.
* Priceless advice
"Follow your passion and just don’t take no for an answer — ever," Donna says.
"When I started, there weren’t women in this business and I had the
nicest bosses who told me I would never make it," she remembers. "Not
because they wanted to be mean-spirited but because they were trying
to be what they thought was realistic. But my reality is I could do
whatever I wanted to if I set my mind to it. And I think that’s the
message that all people should have. If you’re passionate about
something, go for it and don’t be discouraged when the first 20 people
say no to you. So what? Just keep going."
Donna always believed in the saying "Reach for the moon. If you fall
short, you might land on a star."
"I am fearless," Donna says. "Nothing in terms of business or life
frightens me. I want to live it big and I want to have the best
marriage, and I do, the best son, and I do, and the best job."
"I always knew I was going to be happy with it all, even as a
child," she adds.
This can mainly be attributed to her supportive parents. "Honestly,
no matter what I did, they would be proud of me," Donna says.
"Whatever I would have done or chosen to do I, would have been a
success in their eyes because they love me."
Donna’s story is that of one advice column that can be called: "How
to be Successful: Professionally and Personally." The ingredients are
simple: passion in life can make any dream become a reality.
************* ************************************************** ***********
Levity: Meaning of life can be found in L.A.
I am a student at UCLA and my spring break is coming up. Do you have
any suggestions as to where I should go for my vacation? I just want
to relax and get away from homework, research and finals. I just feel
that I need to get out of Los Angeles.
Need a Break
Dear Need a Break,
First of all there is no reason to leave Los Angeles. Don’t you know
that all forms of meaningful life exist between the 405 and 2 Freeways
and there are no forms of intelligent life beyond that? I was
shocked…. Last week I went to New York City because my Uncle’s wife’s
cousin’s khnami, Seta, was getting married and I had to go witness the
wedding because we thought there was no hope for Seta and she begged
that I go to the wedding because I was the reason she got married.
Seta, who lives in Calabasas, came to me in a desperate state with a
plea to get married. So I went to church last year during
Diyarendarach and gave her fruit to eat that the Der Hayr had blessed,
so her dream man come to her. And then I told her to eat salt and
bread during Easter so she would dream about her husband that night.
And then I told her to walk on her knees to the statue of Soorp Bedros
and make an ookht. And after all that I told her to get on
My suggestions worked and in two weeks she had a wedding proposal
from a shnorkov electrical engineer man who lives in New York. (Dr.
Phil should take suggestions from me.) Anyway, they exchanged e-mails
with each other and before you know it, oordeghen oor, they found out
that they are both Hadjinstis, a true match made in heaven! So finally
they got married last week and I went to NYC to sing Oorakh Ler at
First of all, I have not been on a plane since I came here from
Beirut 30 years ago. I hate flying. Aman Asdvadz, flying through the
air at 500 miles per hour, shoved in a small metal capsule. I feel
like I am a helpless sarma squished in a metal pan with all these
other sarmas flying in the sky at 35,000 feet. Human beings are
supposed to have their feet on the ground or pressing on the
accelerator of a Lexus, the way God intended it to be.
So I went to New York City and I was scared. It smells like aghdote
kulbas and spoiled hummus all in one. The inner Dandeegeen in me
wanted to take out my weapons of mass disinfection to fight the
uncleanliness: my Lysol Disinfectant spray, Ajax bleach, and Windex
(otherwise known as the holy trinity of an Armenian housewife.)
Besides that, the city was windy and cold — I had just gotten my hair
colored chestnut brown and coiffed for the wedding and by the time I
got to the church my bouffant decreased by 3 inches, which is a
Dandeegeen fashion faux pas. And beyond the aghdodootyoon, I was
having separation anxiety from Glendale. I felt isolated not hearing
Armenian on the streets. New York City is like a big mezze, with every
type of thing or person to choose from; except I noticed a severe lack
of Armenians on the street. I tried striking up conversations with the
Italians and Jews — it was the closest I could get to my people, but
they didn’t care. To cope, I went to Filene’s Basement for some
discount clothing shopping therapy; it was almost like my Marshalls in
La Canada but without Armenian women haggling the cashier to get an
even lower price. My friends tell me there are many Armenians in
Queens. Well, paree yegak, hazar paree, they are welcome to come visit
us here instead.
So honey, stay where you are. For a vacation go to exotic Burbank or
romantic Pasadena. Or may I suggest taking a day hike from Brand
Boulevard up into the hills of Glendale where my house is perched
(it’s the one with the marble Greco columns and Baccarat chandelier in
the foyer.) Or, just like Vegas you can gamble and see a show by going
to Wilson Park and playing tavloo with the elderly men and then watch
them laugh and yell at each other. It’s more entertaining than a
Broadway musical. Or for museums, you can go to the Glendale Galleria;
it is bigger than the MOMA and it has the latest collection of Gucci
purses and Prada shoes. And who needs Carnegie Hall when you have
Harout Pamboukjian singing at Carousel Restaurant.
But the best part of vacationing in the greater Glendale area is
that you will always be surrounded by Armenians, so nothing bad will
happen to you.
* * *
Got a problem? Write Dandeegeen for help: [email protected]
2. Film: Tadeh Daschi breaks out the camera and the violins
by Karine Chakarian
Tadeh Daschi began his movie career by filming battle scenes. He was
11 years old and his cast consisted of a group of G.I. Joe action
figures. The camera, a VHS camcorder, was a loan from the elementary
school his mother taught in. "I started to play around with it and
knew this was the medium I wanted to get into," he says. While the
caliber of the cast and Daschi’s shooting style may have evolved over
the years, two things haven’t changed: his passion for film and his
affinity for composing music.
Born in Tehran, Iran, at the beginning of the Iranian Revolution,
Daschi was only several weeks old when his family moved to the United
States. His parents divorced when he was six years old. Daschi hasn’t
seen his father Armik, a flamenco guitarist who has achieved a measure
of fame, since his seventh birthday, when he in vain awaited his
Daschi’s relationship with his father is now limited to the latter’s
music. "Every time he comes out with an album and I hit the record
stores, there’s a whole shelf devoted to his music," Daschi says.
There isn’t a trace of resentment in his voice when he speaks about
his estranged father. "There’s no pain involved," he says with a
In fact, Daschi, now 27, credits his single mother as his
inspiration. "Her strength, courage, and independence are qualities
that I try to find in myself every day," he says.
And independence, learning, and mastering all aspects of filmmaking
have been prevalent components in Daschi’s career. He not only directs
but has acted in, shot, edited, and even composed the music for his
* Making films
>From a young age Daschi loved writing stories. When he was eight, he
began playing guitar and writing poetry as lyrics to the music he
By the time he entered his teenage years, Daschi was convincing
friends to act in his feature-length movies.
During first year of high school he finished a full-length
screenplay. In his freshman year, he was awarded the Editor’s Choice
award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the National Library of
When he wasn’t sitting in the back of the classroom writing, Daschi
would go visit his cousin Sevag Koundakjian, then a student at the Art
Center College of Design, and watch him work with a professional crew.
"I love to work with people that are equally passionate," Daschi says.
* The captain and the camera
At the age of 13, Daschi was arrested for filming without a permit
near the Glendale police station. "They conjured up a scenario that we
were trying to vandalize and catch it on tape," he says, admitting
that the thick sweater he wore that day when it was a hundred degrees
outside probably contributed to the officer’s suspicion.
While this event would have hindered some, Daschi became even more
ambitious. As the movie he was shooting had a part for a police
officer, he decided to ask one of the officers to act in his film,
since he figured he had already established a rapport of sorts with
the police department. Two weeks after his arrest, Daschi’s mom drove
him to the Glendale Police Department and Daschi managed to convince
the captain to act in his movie.
* Ingenuity equals opportunity
Ever since he can remember, Daschi had wanted to attend the Art Center
College of Design in Pasadena, California. When he discovered that the
college offered a program for high-school students, he signed up
immediately. The program was called "Saturday High," geared towards
teenagers with strong artistic inclinations. While he was enrolled in
the film division of the program, his instructor was so impressed by
Daschi’s work that he kept one of his projects as an example for
Following high school, Daschi signed up at Pasadena Community
College. He built his film portfolio by taking, in some cases, the
same class several times in order to have access to the film equipment
available to students.
While at Pasadena City College, Daschi made several award-winning
films. In 2001, his film And the Winner is…, a mockumentary about two
competitive dancers, won the Best Student Comedy Short award. The
following year, he earned an Independent Film Prize award for Best
Director at the Pasadena City College Film festival for his feature A
Daschi says the movie, about a detective learning to cope with the
loss of his son, took six months to film.
* Break out the violins
After being accepted to Art Center of Design, Daschi spent several
terms. Losing the Tower Records job was the push Daschi needed to
finally apply and get accepted to the Art Center College of Design.
Here Daschi spent several terms learning the art of filmmaking from
In his fifth term, when he had signed up for a cinematography class,
he discovered that the United Nations had commissioned the school to
hold a competition for producing Public Service Announcements (PSA)
for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which were to be achieved
by 2015. Of the 20 students who pitched ideas to a small committee,
four were chosen to film their PSA concepts and two eventually won the
competition. Daschi was one of the winners.
Daschi was awarded an all-expense-paid trip to New York City, were
he attended the UN world summit. His PSA, Helping Humanity Heal, is
currently in circulation in the gallery of the UN.
In 2004 Daschi went on to win the ACCD Digi-Film Festival award for
Best Experimental Short for his film Things Behind the Things.
Daschi’s senior thesis project was a music video for the band, Visa.
Track five, "Breakout the Violins," was the one that caught Daschi’s
attention. The video shoot was the final chapter in Daschi’s
undergraduate studies. He graduated from the Art Center with honors.
As fate would have it, shortly thereafter he was approached by
actress and filmmaker Carolena Sabah, who had seen Visa’s music video.
She was interested in having Daschi direct another Paulo
Coelho-inspired project. The author is sponsoring an "Experimental
Witch Film Competition" based on his latest book, The Witch of
Portobello. Daschi and Sabah are currently in the pre-production stage
of the movie.
Daschi’s mantra for his film technique, "using style as a substance
instead of over substance," probably best sums up his approach as a
filmmaker/composer. He’s all about storytelling with vision and depth.
And for a director uninhibited by boundaries, the world is his
3. Film: Musicians, poets, and crocodiles
* Martin Yernazian shoots them all (with his camera)
by Elyssa Karanian
Twenty minutes into my interview with Martin Yernazian, it is shocking
to hear his ambitious voice say, "Well, I’m only 25 years old."
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Martin studied and
practiced a variety of filmmaking forms under the mentorship of his
father, Ricardo, and great uncle, Kerope (both production assistants),
as well as Argentinean director Jose Aguirre Lamas. In 2001, Martin
moved to Los Angeles, where he met and immediately began working for
Roger Kupelian at Fugitive Studios. In time, Martin moved to the San
Francisco Bay Area, where he established Pyrotechnia Productions, a
company destined to tell unusual and unique tales that may well
transform the film industry. As he talks about his goals in
filmmaking, Martin finishes where he left off talking about his age:
"I’m only 25, but my thing about filmmaking is we need to do a little
bit of revolution. No, I mean a lot. We need to do a lot of
In addition to completing post-production on his most recent feature
film, Art Officially Favored, Martin is currently working on another
feature as well as a short film. He hopes to finish all three projects
in time to submit them to the Sundance Film Festival in September.
With these films in the works, it’s incredible to hear Martin talk
about recently completing a project that he "just sort of picked up."
Having become acquainted with the Argentinean-Armenian musicians of
the band Hashish, Martin was rather puzzled when they decided to
embark on a US tour "just for the experience," without publicity or a
record release. Martin knew they could do better. During the final leg
of their tour, he convinced them to stay an extra day so he could
shoot footage of the band for a music video. After the band was
filmed, Martin would finish shooting the character scenes for the
video, using his own creative approach. "The idea was to make it as
big and strong as possible, so that they can actually market the
video," Martin said. "There are no second tries with me. If we’re
gonna do it, let’s do it right."
The song "Gogordilos" is about a crocodile. As a self-proclaimed
conceptual director, Martin wanted to create a video with a story line
and a message. His final product features a character — half man,
half crocodile — who grows tired of his life in the city and quits
his office job to return to the freedom of the wild. "It’s pretty
hilarious," Martin said. "I mean, the band is talking about… actually
I don’t know what they’re talking about, to be honest. But I just
really wanted to do something with a message."
Apart from his own projects, Martin is now working as director of
photography on Roger Kupelian’s East of Byzantium: Fugitives and
Warriors. "Fugitive Studios is huge," Martin said, "and I think that
was the thing that propelled me to do so many things." Martin spoke of
the privilege of working with a new technology for film, one that only
a handful of production companies are currently using for high-end
cinema. The new technology, known as Red Cam, allows for the recording
of raw digital files of motion, enabling a much greater range of
versatility in creating scenery. "We are easily the first Armenian
crew to shoot with the technology," Martin said proudly.
4. Legacy: The Publisher
by Mark Malkasian
He began every morning in exactly the same manner, reorganizing the
tubes of ink, stacking sheaves of paper, peeling away the straw scraps
of tape from the lightboard, and then finally turning to the bay
window that looked out on the Tower District traffic.
The used-book store was across the street. A dark, musty place
crammed with an odd assortment of rickety bookshelves and display
tables. Customers were rare, except for an old man in a tweed jacket
who browsed over the collection every afternoon. The lettering painted
on the front window was badly chipped and the string of bells dangling
from the door battered and rusty. Nonetheless the sight mesmerized the
publisher, untethered his mind from the gritty surroundings of his own
little shop and rekindled the plans of eleven years ago.
"Hello?… Oor es too?" (Where are you?)
The publisher rushed to the counter to greet his first customer. It
was always the same: wedding invitations, graduation announcements,
banquet programs, business cards, perhaps a newsletter for Hamazkayin.
The publisher seemed not to notice. He scanned the copy, sized the
picture, noted the specifications, offered a date, a price.
"Did I tell you about my idea? I want to publish a volume on Yeghise
"Great… Now can you put a 20% grey screen on this box?"
"Sure, sure. So what do you think? Maybe you can contribute an essay."
"Ya, Charents… Well, I’m so busy."
"Just a small article."
"I’ll think about it… Can you have this ready to proof by Friday?"
"Sure. Don’t forget about Charents."
"Ya. I’ll think about it."
He had in fact been a true publisher in Beirut, issuing at least two
or three books a month, shipping to more than twenty cities in the
diaspora. But then the war. The Green Line ran less than a block from
the entrance. One by one the workers quit. Insurance was out of the
question. Supplies seldom arrived. Then one day an artillery shell
slammed into the roof and the publisher himself decided to give up. He
crated up whatever equipment he could and came to Fresno on the advice
of a cousin. Of course he had not been prepared. He was after all a
publisher, a man dedicated to literature, an editor, a critic, even
occasionally a poet.
"Have you seen the new book?"
Another customer had entered the shop.
"We did this last month — ten short stories of Krikor Zohrab
translated into English."
The customer usually glanced over at the bookcase.
"Very interesting," he mumbled, then opened his briefcase. "Okay,
just like the last time. All the pictures are numbered on the back.
The text is in order…"
"I translated it myself."
"Huh?… Yes, good job."
The customer laid the photographs on the counter and placed two
pages of handwritten notes beside them. Nothing special; simply
another flyer of real estate listings.
"Just like last time. Photo, text, text, photo, photo, text, so on and so on."
"Have you read Zohrab?"
"Let me change this to $78,000…. What?"
"Zohrab. You should read his work. Perhaps the best short-story
writer to come out of Bolis."
"I should…one of these days."
The publisher scooted out from behind the counter and snatched a
book from the top shelf.
"Here, take this with you."
"No, really. You don’t have to do that…."
"Please, a gift."
The customer aimlessly thumbed through the first few pages and then
tucked the book behind a flap of his briefcase.
"Well thanks…I’ll be by in a couple of days to pick this up."
"Read Jidin Bardke (The Burden Around His Neck) first. You’ll like that one."
The customer seemed to nod as he reached for the doorknob and then
trotted to his car. Again the publisher was alone with his bookcase.
There were actually only four titles, one for each shelf. Occasionally
the books could be given away before the afternoon sun crinkled their
spines, but even that was difficult. In six years twelve copies had
The publisher returned to the back room and plopped himself behind
the typesetting machine. He shoved in a diskette, punched a few
buttons, and then moved over to the lightboard. The goldenrod for the
delicatessen circular required more work. The publisher grabbed an
Exacto knife and pulled out his reading glasses from a vest pocket.
His eyes could no longer beat the strain of more than an hour hunched
over the lightboard. Besides, he had rarely performed such labor in
The publisher arched his back to soothe the fatigue of his muscles.
His eyes swiveled hopefully to the window. The used-book store across
the street appeared vacant. Even the owner apparently had stayed home
today. Perhaps the publisher could sell his business. Most of the
equipment would be obsolete in four or five years. At least now he
could earn some money and perhaps look into a few investments. He
would soon be 60 years old. An early retirement. His son had offered
to take over his mortgage. No one would fault him.
The publisher dabbed the negative with opaquing fluid. A few minutes
of drying and then the plate could be made.
The publisher wandered over to the typesetting machine and began
rummaging through the heap of papers that had accumulated. Program
booklet, brochure, flyer, flyer… each page slipped quietly into the
The publisher suddenly realized he had already begun to compose an
introduction. Almost instinctively he had crumpled the paper but now
he was painstakingly mending the draft and searching for the proper
diskette. The work of course must continue.
* * *
Yervant Chaderjian of Meshag Publishing, the hero of this story, was
the father of Paul Chaderjian, editor of the Arts & Culture section of
the Armenian Reporter. Yervant Chaderjian instilled the love of the
written word not only to his son, but to all those around him. His
inspiration and legacy continue to live on.
* * *
Mark Malkasian is the author of "Gha-ra-bagh!" The Emergence of the
National Democratic Movement in Armenia.
5. Review: The Theatre of Genocide
Robert Skloot, Lorne Shirinian, Catherine Filloux, Kitty Felde, Erik
Ehn. The Theatre of Genocide: Four Plays about Mass Murder in Rwanda,
Bosnia, Cambodia, and Armenia. University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.
review by Shushan Avagyan
As Aristotle wrote once about tragedies and tragic narratives, he
examined their effects through catharsis, which purified feeling and
emotion by forcing the audience to identify with the play’s
characters, compelling them to experience their suffering and to learn
the true causes of their death. Through catharsis we reach that
overwhelming feeling of having been exposed to ("lived through") the
dark and ominous forces that lay just beneath the surface of human
life, and of having survived. We "redeem" tragedy by experiencing it,
but, despite this redemption, we do not get over it. Rather, to
achieve redemption we are compelled to dramatize and redramatize,
experience and reexperience the trauma, i.e., we identify and
sympathize with the victims of the trauma, we bear witness to their
This is perhaps the overarching premise of The Theatre of Genocide,
a collection of four plays that present retrospective assessments of
specific historical genocides. However, unlike earlier theatrical
explorations of tragedy and trauma, these plays, insist upon the
notion of nonclosure. As Robert Skloot notes in his introduction,
"Certainly, the cry of ‘Never again!’ that was heard first in the
aftermath of the Holocaust has come to seem little more than a hollow
And it is precisely this feeling of nonclosure that prevails in
Lorne Shirinian’s Exile of the Cradle, the unresolved conflict of
adequacy and inadequacy; is the act of telling, instructing the
progeny on the Armenian genocide adequate for the healing of wounds,
or does transmittance in itself somehow perpetuate cultural trauma?
Shirinian’s characters, members of an Armenian diasporan family living
in Canada, want to expose the clichés of history, they want to reveal
the emotional automatism that the genocide evokes but they can’t break
free from two self-imposed and uncompromising paths: internalization
of the trauma and its habitual replication, or estrangement from the
trauma and the pursuit of new paths seemingly devoid of cultural
baggage. Ultimately, Shirinian interrogates the categorical nature of
these distinct paths, searching for ways in which they might overlap
and, moreover, go beyond the bifurcation.
Catherine Filloux’s Silence of God is a play that deals with the
genocide in Cambodia. The play’s protagonist is an American journalist
who conducts an interview with Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge,
who was responsible for over one million deaths. The play explores the
duality of erasure, the erasure of the victim’s identity and the
erasure of the perpetrator’s crime, as Pol Pot declares: "There must
never be a face to the act." This facelessness then links perpetrator
and victim, as well as the contending forces of ego and anonymity in
human life and deeds.
A Patch of Earth by Kitty Felde employs the trope of a trial to
explore the nature of crime and justice, as the protagonist of the
play, Drazen Erdemovic turns himself in to relieve his conscience,
pleading guilty at the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. Felde’s
particular interest in the perpetrator is his internal mechanism of
guilt, which is more often suppressed in the conscience, like in
Erdemovic’s comrades in arms from the Tenth Sabotage Detachment of the
Bosnian Serbian Army, who irredeemably fall into the cycle of chronic
denial and destruction. Like the ancient Greek Erinyes, the ghosts of
the dead from Srebrenica plague Erdemovic in his dreams and reality,
culminating in the voice of his own infant son who calls him
A dramatized story taken, like Felde’s play, from an actual trial,
Maria Kizito by Erik Ehn is a lyrical meditation around the
inexplicable actions of Benedictine nuns refusing refuge to Tutsi
women and children, and helping the Interahamwe soldiers brutally
murder innocent civilians on the very grounds of their monastery.
While the two characters, Sister Maria, a Rwandan who is on trial for
taking part in the atrocities, and Sister Teresa, a white American who
thinks ("Do you think thinking hides you?") that learning about the
trial will help "expose something" in herself ("I am the empathy
fairy. The atrocity Tinkerbell"), seem unconnected, they share
complicity through actual deeds and through deliberate
The construction and representation of the tragic narrative in these
four plays is critically important for the personalization of real,
embodied trauma and persons involved–survivors, instigators, and
witnesses. Rather than focusing on larger-than-life-leaders, mass
movements, ideologies, these dramas portray the events in terms of
individuals, families and friends, parents and children, brothers and
sisters, thus personalizing these monumental catastrophes and bringing
* * *
Shushan Avagyan is a doctoral student in English and Comparative
Literature at Illinois State University. She has translated a volume
of poetry by Shushanik Kurghinian and a book on plot by Viktor
6. Annotations: Dispelling clichés
* Three Apples Fell From Heaven by Micheline Aharonian Marcom
by Armine Iknadossian
I must stop writing, for this book says it all and better. I thought
it had all been said and done, about the Armenian question, that is.
What else could be said about the atrocities that hasn’t been painted
or composed? The art of suffering is so difficult to express in words
without being too polemic or sentimental.
Micheline Aharonian Marcom knows how to ingest and dispel clichés.
The intricate workings of the vignettes, the subtle irony each
character endures, the naïve trust of the Armenian people are all so
well expressed in these chapters. I read each vignette twice, each
line three times, each word five times and here I am ready to stop
writing, so I did, stop writing, for a little while, and then I went
through her book and tried writing like her, and of course, that was a
pathetic disaster, so I just started all over again. I sat in that
chair until nothing came so I did what all poets do at one point or
another, and what Billy Collins warns us against: "I tied the poem to
a chair with rope and tortured it."
I am not an Armenian writer, nor an Arab writer, nor an American
writer and of course I am all three, and here lies the paradox. How
to approach my craft? From what perspective, what angle? Whose story
do I really want to tell? Do I care enough about my family’s history
or am I such a narcissist that I would rather focus on myself?
Marcom’s book reminded me of my first reading of House on Mango
Street by Sandra Cisneros with my high school freshmen five years ago.
Also written in vignettes, it was miraculous how Cisneros approached
her own past with the past of others, how she so simply, elegantly and
precisely expressed the fears and anxieties of so many teenage girls
while commenting on immigrants, poverty, feminism, child abuse and
religion. Not one cliché in the book, not one redundant idea.
Surprisingly, Marcom’s book does not anger me, as it should. It only
impresses me. It makes me want to explore my language more fully, to
explore the terrain of Armenia, the vegetation, the cuisine, the
poetry. I went back and read Siamanto and Taniel Varoujan, two
Armenian poets who were killed during the Genocide, who witnessed the
horrors of the massacre and wrote about it. So much love poetry mixed
in with macabre retellings of chilling murders and tortures. Armenian
poetry has always been ironic. I wonder why.
I believe Marcom did not set out to preach or denounce or accuse
necessarily. Her goal was to write well and to honor her grandparent’s
memories. Her book is labeled as fiction and yet the accuracy of the
dates, the locations, names and incidents make the first chapter,
"This is the Story Rumor Writes" even more relevant. This chapter is a
poem, and no matter what anybody says, it will always be a poem to me.
It is sarcastic, ironic and mad. It is appropriate and controversial
since the Turkish government still does not take responsibility for
what happened in 1915. Are they simply rumors, exaggerations of the
truth? Will anyone ever believe us? Just write, keep writing. It
doesn’t matter. Just listen. Let me tell you, but don’t believe me.
7. Literature: Of political violence and lost love
* A conversation with Micheline Aharonian Marcom
Micheline Aharonian Marcom is the award-winning author of Three Apples
Fell from Heaven and The Daydreaming Boy. Her third novel, Draining
the Sea, has just been released. In this interview with the Reporter’s
Atina Hartunian, Ms. Marcom discusses her new book, her bittersweet
travels in Western Armenia and Guatemala, and the transformative
powers of memory.
Armenian Reporter: How did your writing career begin?
Marcom: I never thought I’d become a writer, and I certainly never
thought I’d be writing about the Armenian Genocide. But I started
writing in my early 20s, a relationship ended–that’s what heartache
does, I suppose, pushed me, in any case, to express in language what I
was experiencing internally. I started by mostly writing poetry. Then
I made an intentional shift to writing prose a few years later, when I
was unemployed for several months. Years after that, I ended up
taking classes at Mills College (where I sill work, but in a different
capacity; at the time I was the assistant director of an education
program for high school kids) with one of the professors in the
Creative Writing MFA program — her family is also from Lebanon.
Eventually, I enrolled in the MFA program. I was 29 when I started the
program, and by then I had come around to realize that I wanted to
write the story of my grandmother and about the Genocide.
AR: What was that moment of realization like?
Marcom: When I started writing I didn’t write about anything
Armenian per se. My short stories were mostly set in the U.S. One
day, I remember particularly, I was hanging out with a group of
creative-writing peers, and I wrote a piece, two or three pages long,
and it was about my grandmother, whom I didn’t know that much about,
in terms of her experiences during the genocide. And I knew that I had
stumbled onto the novel I wanted to write–that the few pages I had
written was the kernel for a longer piece. It took me years to
realize that the stories that I needed to be writing were much closer
to home, right up against the bone. This was the story I had
inherited, the four or five sentences about my grandmother and her
siblings. And although it’s obvious in hindsight, the stories that
obsess you are the stories you need to tell.
AR: I understand that Three Apples Fell from Heaven is going to be
made into a movie.
Marcom: Yes, José Rivera, the Oscar-nominated writer of The
Motorcycle Diaries, wrote the screenplay.
AR: Have you worked with him on the screenplay?
Marcom: Not directly. It’s been an interesting collaboration in
spirit. He’s a friend of mine, however, and he’s married to a dear
friend of mine, she’s Armenian, and we’ve traveled together to a lot
of places, including Harput [Kharpert], which is where Three Apples
takes place. But he wrote the screenplay on his own, and once he wrote
it (he’d done a lot of research), he showed it to me. Right now,
they’re shopping the script around to directors. He optioned the novel
officially a few months back.
AR: What do you think of the topic of the Armenian Genocide in the arts?
Marcom: Well, in terms of literature, when I began writing Three
Apples, there was very little out there. There was [Carol Edgarian’s]
Rise the Euphrates, and then [Nancy Kricorian’s] Zabelle, a little
before mine came out. Those were the only two books in
English-language literature that I knew of. And that’s not very much.
I think, for Armenians, the topic of Genocide can be tiresome ("OK,
lets move on"). In terms of literary output, I think that there’s room
for much more. I think that some of that is happening now by younger
writers, which is great.
AR: When you traveled to Western Armenia, what were some of the
revelations you had there? Did something mystical happen?
Marcom: It kind of did, yes. I didn’t necessarily expect to feel
something when I traveled to Anatolia. I wanted to see it. And at that
point I was writing the third book in the "genocide" trilogy: Draining
the Sea. There are pieces in the book that are directly taken from
experiences during my travels. The scene with the bone boy, for
example, where he shows bones found in the desert in Der Zor, that was
true. I made the trip to Syria the year before I went to Turkey. I
went to Syria, to the Der Zor desert, because the journalist, Robert
Fisk, had written an article saying that he went there and he found
bones in Der Zor, and I wanted to go see if that was true. It was. We
met this Arab caretaker and his son — on whom the bone boy in
Draining the Sea is based. The father took care of a monument to honor
the Armenian dead. Then, the following year, I went to Turkey. I went
to Van. I went to Kars and then ended up in Harput, which is where my
AR: Did you meet any Armenians there?
Marcom: No, I didn’t. But once I started talking to people there in
private, I would hear stories. Many people talked of their "Armenian
grandmother" and how they would hear prayers in Armenian, etc. So,
even though Armenians are not there as we once were — and of course
it’s a very taboo subject in Turkey, the "Armenian question" as it is
referred to — once you actually start talking to people, they
acknowledge, individually, that Armenians were there, and also that,
for some people, there were Armenian members in their families. There
are traces everywhere of the Armenian world.
AR: So there was a sense of an Armenian presence there?
Marcom: Yes, in a way. As my friends and I were walking around
Harput, for example, a merchant started befriended us, and later, as
we got to know him over tea and cookies, as one does in the Middle
East, he said to me and my Sona, José’s wife, "I knew you both were
Armenian." The merchant wasn’t Armenian, he was Kurdish, but he
recognized us, despite our American appearance and clothing. It was
amazing to go back there. And very sad also.
AR: Why sad?
Marcom: Because, you see, I finally understood on some level what I
couldn’t understand before, what it was I had been told in those
stories about grandmother. I understood in my body what the loss was
like for them–to see the land, to smell the air and feel the place
was moving. And it was strange and, for me, unexpected. Harput now is
largely deserted, and has been for many years. In fact, I had been
told that it was completely abandoned, which is not turned out not to
be true. A few people live in Harput, and now there is a budding
"amusement park" up there, there are bumper cars and cafes and sweets’
vendors. There is also an enormous nationalist statue honoring some
Turkish leader. That was very strange too; and upsetting.
AR: Statues and bumper cars?
Marcom: Pretty much. People go up to Harput, it’s up on a hill, to
get out of Elazig and have tea, buy for their children. For me, it was
surreal actually. To return to my grandmother’s town, and children are
running about eating candies and riding on bumper cars. And then it
was somewhat disconcerting, in a way, how kind and friendly people who
live there were to us. A Turkish man came up to my friends and said
that he had just refurbished a house that was built before the First
World War, and he asked us if we wanted to go see it. So we went
inside this house, this kind of pre-World War I-style house, a kind of
house my grandmother might have lived in. It was wonderful.
You know, you have this weird mirroring experience in Turkey, that
these are the people you’ve been raised to think of as your enemy, and
yet they eat the food you grew up eating, and their customs are
similar and their hospitality is familiar. So it’s very strange,
because of this familiarity, and comfort almost–I felt very
comfortable with the culture of Turkey. And yet, of course, my own
people no longer live on this land because of the awful events of
1915-1917, I can’t forget that either.
AR: Do you think both cultures need each other?
Marcom: I’m not sure if I understand what you mean, but, as I said,
there are certainly many similarities in culture, it seems to me. And
I think it’s important to deepen the understanding of modern Turks and
of modern Turkey–their history did not either end in 1915.
AR: What is the story line of Draining The Sea?
Marcom: It’s a strange book and it was hard to write. It’s about an
American man in Los Angeles who is half-Armenian. But he doesn’t
really know anything about being Armenian. He becomes obsessed with a
young woman from Guatemala who is indigenous, part of the Ixil group,
and of the genocide that occurred in Guatemala in the early 1980s.
Parts of the book is about that, while other parts are about which
histories get told and which are suppressed. And it’s about loneliness
in the United States. I think when I turned my gaze to Los Angeles, I
realized what a lonely city it is, at least it seems so to me. The
book is also about the strange parallels between the Armenian Genocide
and the Guatemalan.
AR: Why did you decide to write about the Guatemalan genocide?
Marcom: Partly because I follow my own obsessions and interests. I
went to Guatemala when I first started writing the book, and what
interested me initially were these eerie parallels between the two
stories: Armenian and Guatemalan. And what I was interested in, and
what you can do in literature, is look at these two very different
stories, of two very different cultures, one in the "Old World" and
one in the "New," side by side.
I was interested in thinking about the Americas and its history, and
about the fact that the character in the book doesn’t know his
personal history. So part of the journey in the novel, is about the
character coming to know what he’s inherited (from his mother, say,
about the Armenian Genocide) without knowing the history of the
AR: What are the parallels between the Armenian and Guatemalan genocides?
Marcom: One of the major similarities, is that the Guatemalan army
carried out the massacres and denied it, both while it was doing it,
and afterwards. The only reason that the state doesn’t or can’t deny
it any longer, is because the United Nations’ sponsored truth
commission wrote a report which affirmed that genocide had occurred.
Otherwise, the state of Guatemala would have continued to deny it to
So there is the parallel of denial, which was the first thing that
drew my interest me. And then, when you look at the awful material,
the barbarity of the genocide and even the language employed, are
similar. The indigenous people in Guatemala were called dogs, and
treated as such. You debase the "other" and destroy him — just as the
Turks did in the First World War with the Armenians, referring to
Armenians as "curs" etc., using much of the same language. I was
interested to think about all that in a book and collapse time a
little bit. It was a hard book to write, and took the longest of the
three books: four years. I had to do a tremendous amount of research.
I went to Guatemala five times. I interviewed people there. I read I
don’t know how many books–on Guatemala, Central America, the U.S.
AR: After writing your three books, and given your family’s
histories and migration patterns, do you feel a stronger connection to
the Armenian identity?
Marcom: Yes, I definitely do. Because to write the books, I traveled
a lot, and did a tremendous amount of research over the years, and
with those travels and readings, I became very familiar with the
material history of the Genocide. I do feel now that I have a better
sense of where I come from, in addition to my family’s stories.
I think in part why people feel so lost in America, is that we don’t
know our family stories, our blood histories, our old ties to the
land. And there is, perhaps, some freedom in this disconnection, but
there are also some heavy losses–of continuity, of traditions, and
of a rooted sense of who one is,–and these things, I think, are very
big things to give up.
*************** ************************************************** *********
8. Vignette: The pomegranate influence
by Narineh Melkonian
Have you heard the buzz about that "new" super-healthy fruit?
Pomegranates have recently caught America’s attention. This is
probably due to the emergence of the health wave which causes people
to be more conscious about eating healthy.
As an Armenian, pomegranates seem to be a regularity for me, but now
the fruit is on its way to being a part of the American lifestyle. As
the new "in" fruit, they have proven to be healthy because of their
vitamin filled interior. Pomegranates are especially abundant in
vitamins B and C. Not only do they provide significant amount of
nutrients, but they are also rich in anti-oxidants, which tend to get
a lot of people excited.
Due to its popularity, pomegranate goods are plentiful in grocery
stores. Other forms of pomegranate such as its juice, have been
receiving notice from nutritionists, because pomegranate juice is
proven to reduce arterial plaque, and cholesterol. You can eat them in
salads, soups, and some people make pomegranate wine. Or you can put
on an old shirt, in order to be prepared for the mess, and eat the
seeds right off the peel.
As Armenians know though, this miracle fruit is not nearly as new as
it may seem to others. This ancient fruit was originally from Persia,
and eventually spread to other countries within the Mediterranean
region. As a result of the spread, they have played a crucial role in
the Armenian culture for centuries.
Although this seemingly new fruit has just caught peoples’ attention
in America, it has persisted in the Armenian culture for centuries.
Decayed pomegranate remains from 1000 BC have been discovered in
abandoned settlements located in Armenia. In traditional cultures,
like ours, pomegranates symbolize abundance and fertility.
In my grandmother’s garden near Fresno stands a pomegranate tree
that grew from several saplings before it. This tree goes back to my
ancestors’ town of Marsovan in present-day Turkey. Friends and family
have planted dozens of other saplings from this tree. This is just one
example of how it is a big factor in our culture. This ancient fruit
seems to have taken to the soil of the new world.
* * *
Narineh Melkonian is the 10th grade Op-Ed writer for the AGBU
Manoogian-Demirdjian School newspaper. She loves writing about culture
and its oddities.
9. Poetry Matters: Armenian women poets: voices of lullabies and God
by Lory Bedikian
The women of my childhood sang lullabies to me day and night. The
women of my childhood spoke to me of God, and at times, were the
voices of God. And in my search for my own words, for poetry, when I
read or hear the voices of any women I feel those voices of my youth
come back to me, clear and distinct as individual notes played on the
keys of a piano.
Women’s voices shape our lives and yet are often muffled because of
either the louder cultural dogmas dictated to us or because of
male-dominated literary canons. So, how can we hear the utterances of
women in our lives, in our literature? How can we know what drives
them to action, what injustices paralyze their lives?
Poets bring voices to the surface. They weave words into webs that
grasp our attention, hold us, even if only for a few moments, and
remind us of what has gone unsaid, what has been unrecognized. Women
poets enact this for women’s voices, and to go further, Armenian women
poets have built and are building their own canon of poetry,
vocalizing the songs of ancestral grandmothers, mothers and
articulating their own lives in verse.
The Other Voice: Armenian Women’s Poetry Through the Ages –
translated by Diana Der-Hovanessian – is one of the most comprehensive
anthologies of Armenian women’s poetry translated into English, and I
believe the only collection of its kind to be found. And here we can
find voices of Armenian poets, Armenian women from the earliest female
bards to those presently writing in Armenian.
The anthology opens with anonymous folk chants and lullabies. It
includes "Fortune-Telling Verses" and "Ancient Magical Cures and
Spells" from pre-Christian times. One of the lullabies or "Orors"
which opens the book paints a dream that any child would love to enter
* Oror, Oror
Oror, oror, you’re so sleepy.
Your crib is a silver boat.
Your blankets are woven gold.
You are sailing; you’re afloat.
Oror, oror, you are sleeping.
Naneh, naneh, I am keeping
watch beside my little dove
in a nightgown sewed of love.
The poems of two Armenian poets of the eighth century,
Khosrovidoukht and Sahakdoukht, begin a series of translations which
span a time period of poets writing all the way to the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries. The volume then presents several translations of
well-known poets including Maro Markarian and Sylva Gaboudikian and
many contemporary poets living in Armenia and in the Diaspora.
And, of course, many of the women poets who have been featured in
this column, including the one-named poets and others throughout the
year and this month, are found in this very important collection.
Without it, I would not have been able to read and appreciate the
poems of these talented women.
Just as it is important to know and study the works of our
well-known poets of the past, it is just as crucial to be acquainted
with those writing with much accomplishment today. In The Other Voice,
we are introduced to poems from poets such as Sona Van, who was born
in Yerevan and currently lives in Los Angeles.
was a minister.
He believed in
God from 9 to 6.
At night he
My father was
a physicist. From
9 to 6 he ignored
God. After 6
he secretly believed.
My aunt kept all
her love letters
in her Bible. And
read them both with
the same rapt look.
Watching her through
the keyhole I couldn’t
tell which redemption
I almost forgot
to mention my mother.
She was too busy
to believe or not.
She was too busy
making things, baking
all day long.
My father, the physicist
believed in Christ’s
manger birth. He said
most ridiculous stories
were true because
no one would make up
such stuff. He also
believed in miracles.
For instance Mother.
Father always said
she was a miracle and
had made us all from dough.
Some of the elements at work here may be obvious: the repetitions of
"God," "9 to 6," "She was too busy," or "miracle(s)." Poetic elements
of imagery and figurative language are not at play in this poem.
Instead, the poet relies on a narrative structure, on story-telling,
unlike the older "Oror, Oror," which gave us a metaphor of "Your crib
is a silver boat." But in contrast to the lullaby, this
"Autobiography," gives us more of a surprise ending to the poem. We
expect the lullaby to end with words of "love," but we don’t expect
Van’s poem to end with the speaker saying they were made "from dough."
It may be strange to compare an anonymous lullaby to a contemporary
poem, but in doing so we remind ourselves that throughout history
Armenian women poets have sung their children to sleep with poetry,
and now, address issues of God and family in their stanzas.
The anthology includes what we would also expect, love poems,
chiseled odes to one’s nation, one’s homeland. And all the poems
matter. All the voices behind these poems matter. These are the women
who have – in the face of much trauma and tragedy – created solitude
somewhere, somehow and documented their beliefs and views in verse.
These are women who today continue to voice themselves, hoping that
future generations will read their lullabies of golden threads, will
hear their many questions to God.
* * *
"Oror, Oror" and "Autobiography" from The Other Voice: Armenian
Women’s Poetry Through the Ages, translated by Diana Der-Hovanessian,
edited with Maro Dalley, AIWA Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.
* * *
Lory Bedikian received her MFA in Poetry from the University of
Oregon. Her collection of poetry has been selected as a finalist in
both the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition and the Crab
Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Competition.
10. Reflection: Reflective moments
by Kay Mouradian
The year was 1976 and I was on sabbatical from my college in Los
Angeles. I had submitted a doctoral proposal for developing a
competency-based yoga curriculum for community colleges. When the
proposal was accepted, I contacted several yoga centers throughout
India and soon after was on a plane with a ticket so fat it impressed
even airline personnel. The first of my 32 scheduled stops was
Germany, followed by three touristy weeks in Egypt. Then I boarded
Japan Air to fly on to India. I had been with family and friends up to
this point, but for the next five months I would be on my own. Nervous
but elated at the thought of finding a yoga teacher who could answer
my questions, I sat in my window seat and watched white fluffy clouds
gently disappear into the blue sky. Finally, when the 747 made its
approach into Bombay, now called Mumbai, I viewed the ancient city in
the morning’s first light. My excitement soared.
As my cabby drove wildly through the littered streets, I drank in
the early morning sights. Life was still quiet. Men, women, and
children clothed in lightweight white cottons slept on sidewalks close
to doorways of paint-peeling apartments. Were they escaping India’s
unbearable heat? This early September morning was already hot and
humid. Our Indian Ambassador taxi had no air-conditioning, and my
clothes were sticking to my body. Relief flowed over me when I checked
into the air-conditioned Taj Mahal Hotel. I quickly unpacked, eager to
start my interviews. I had assumed yoga was a way of life in India,
and I wanted to understand that lifestyle. I’d hoped to meet that
someone special who could teach me life’s secrets. When the student is
ready, the teacher will come. Isn’t that what all the books said? And
I was ready.
It didn’t take long to discover that being ready was not enough. I
realized many of my questions would never be answered. My first
interview was my first betrayal.
As I entered an old building that advertised a Bombay yoga center
and walked up the creaky, narrow stairs, I found myself in what looked
like an ordinary apartment with no furniture. I had traveled thousands
of miles only to be greeted by a twenty-something American girl. The
yogi, her teacher, was out of town. So instead of interviewing an
Indian yogi, I observed this 26-year-old American from Florida
teaching yoga postures to Indian teenage girls. Was this why I had
traveled to India?
I refused to be discouraged. I had many more interviews scheduled.
One, in particular, held intrigue. A government-sponsored research
center housed a hospital, a medical doctor, and a swami. Research on
the effects of yoga postures on insulin production in diabetics was in
progress. This one interview would prove that the books and all their
claims of yoga’s healing powers were true. But when I arrived, my
heart sank. The small hospital was dirty, the doctor with whom I had
corresponded was away in Madras, and the excited swami who was
expecting me had Richard Hittleman’s yoga book, A 28-Day Exercise
Plan, sitting on his desk. I’m sure he thought I was going to take him
to America and make him famous. That was the day the magic ended.
Look into a man’s eyes
Learn to read his spirit.
His countenance and his eyes
Tell you what quality is in him
More than the words he speaks.
* * *
Kay Mouradian is author of Reflective Meditation and A Gift in the
Sunlight: An Armenian Story.
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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress