QUEBEC—Poets, wordsmiths and fans of literature from all around the world gathered at the 30th International Poetry Festival at Trois-Rivières in Quebec from Oct. 3-12. Among the writers invited to share their work was New York poet Lola Koundakjian.
“Lola is the first Armenian poet coming to Trois-Rivières,” said festival president and founder Gaston Bellemare. “I am very happy to welcome her to our city for our 30th Festival International de la Poésie.”
The 10-day festival featured hundreds of events and attracted more than 35,000 participants and spectators from all seven continents, as well as national and international media.
“I had the fortune of reading at least three times a day,” Koundakjian told the Armenian Weekly. “The festival is one of the top gatherings for poets in the world. It’s organized by a dedicated staff of four individuals who work year round and a group of volunteers who help host each reading.”
Koundakjian’s poems have appeared in print and online and have been translated into French, Spanish and Ukrainian.
“I met Lola at a poetry festival two years ago in Lima, Peru,” said Bellemare. “I listened to her readings, read her poems over again, and I immediately put her name on my future list of guests. I was and still am sure people will strongly love her.”
Koundakjian has been a relentless, driving force in bringing Armenian poetry to non-Armenians, international audiences and younger generations of Armenians.
For more than two decades, she has organized the Dead Armenian Poets’ Society gatherings, where people recite the poetry of deceased Armenian poets in Armenian or in translation and share biographical notes about the authors.
She is also the creator and curator of the online Armenian Poetry Project, which launched in 2006 and features extremely popular podcasts.
“It’s humbling to share the stage with notable and award-winning poets from around the world,” said Koundakjian. “Yeah, it’s a bit unnerving but a great opportunity to share my words and our culture with fellow poets and international audiences.”
Koundakjian appeared more than a dozen times during the festival, and she read her work in Armenian, English and French.
“What makes the Trois-Rivières Festival so fascinating is its broad reach to multiple audiences,” said Koundakjian.
Koundakjian has spent decades writing and reporting in Armenian media. She reads her poetry regularly in the Big Apple, its tri-state area and both coasts of the United States. She has also appeared at international poetry festivals including ones in Medallín, Colombia, and Ramallah, West Bank.
By day, the poet is an internet technologies professional for one of the largest international media conglomerates. She used her IT know-how and skills to bring Armenian poetry into the 21st century and information age through multiple internet platforms. Hundreds of thousands of readers and listeners from more than a hundred countries access the content of her sites regularly.
“I started the Armenian Poetry Project in 2006 as a free community service and made it available on RSS, Twitter, SoundCloud and iTunes,” explained Koundakjian. “Currently it has more than 2,100 poems by Armenian poets. It also features non-Armenian poets writing in various languages about Armenian subjects.”
The Armenian Poetry Project also contains works from more than a hundred poets from Armenian communities around the globe. The poetry chronicled ranges from the 19th century to contemporary poets. The site also includes some classical and medieval Armenian poetry.
Post-Genocide era Armenian poetry was the subject of an article Koundakjian co-edited in 2012 with Catherine Fletcher for the Rattapallax literary journal and database.
Koundakjian’s translations of modern Istanbul poets have been included in Dora Sakayan’s newest edition of the Western Armenian language teaching manual.
Her first collection of poetry, The Accidental Observer, was published in 2011. Her second manuscript, Advice to a Poet, was a finalist in Armenia’s Orange Book Prize in 2012. It is due to be published later this year.
To learn more about Koundakjian’s work, visit her website.