By Helene Pilibosian
The Accidental Observer, a book of poems in three languages—Armenian, Spanish, and English—has recently been published in New York by Lola Koundakjian, the director of the Armenian Poetry Project. Noted as a stylist in poetry, Koundakjian’s interest in presenting Armenian poets writing in any language anywhere in the world has become legend. The book is sponsored by the NoMAA Regrant Program, made possible by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation.
The subjects of the poems concern the Armenian soul in its everyday interpretations of living, whether in Armenia, Europe, or in America. She expresses that duality of feeling in a lovely poem entitled “Fall”:
I take the subway
to go to…
…that other life.
But how can I live in both places?
These few words suffice to take readers to that subjective area. The poems make their points briefly for lovely personal moments to be shared and remembered. One notices the affection for friends and family in jewel-like lines that indicate so much more than what their words say. One of these charmers is entitled “Manifesto,” and reads:
Father wanted me to be a great musician
I became a music lover.
My aunt is a ballerina
I didn’t become a dancer
But I love Love for the sake of love.
My brother is a multi-linguist
And I love languages
Mother is an intelligent woman
So I try to be wise
But I love Art like my own breath.
The poem is particularly poignant for those who love art and love poetry for what it can communicate about art and family. The concept of family here seems to be equated with the concept of art. Loving family is indeed kind of art. The reader must understand that these poems are in the tradition of modern poetry, where what is meant is not stated but indicated in an indirect manner. The lines, being so few, tend to draw the reader’s attention and emotion to the experience of the poem more than the more direct and drawn out statements of a more traditional approach to verse.
Thus this very short tribute to Hrant Dink, killed in Turkey for writing about the Armenian Genocide, is very powerful and says it all without saying much:
I wore white
I wore white at Hrant Dink’s memorial
Because love is everlasting
Hope is immemorial
And thoughts reverberate eternally
Some food imagery graces these pages. Those of us who are Armenian, or who appreciate Armenian food, can easily identify with sentiments such as these:
Cookbooks with recipes of curry, hamam meshwi,
Grandmother’s lentil soup and Mum’s mujjadarah,
As I meander through them, I smile at my Present,
knowing that it and the Future have a solid Past.
Twenty-seven poems, each in the three languages, complete this volume which, with the inclusion of the Armenian language alone, endears itself to the Armenian reader. It is available for $12 on Amazon.
Helene Pilibosian is the author and publisher of My Literary Profile: A Memoir and several volumes of her poetry.