Silva Zanoyan Merjanian Donates Proceeds from Her New Book to SARF
Special for the Armenian Weekly
In her new book, a collection of poems titled Rumor, poet Silva Zanoyan Merjarnian writes of change brought about by war and the feeling of hopelessness in leaving behind one’s country; she writes of rooftops and dead birds, laundry and war drums, threading the words into a harsh reality of loss, bitterness, fear, and longing. Merjanian also addresses the ever-elusive concept of memory and time and the voices of those “grateful for meager humanity.”
With poems like “Doves of Beirut,” “My Slivered Lebanon,” and “Rooftop,” Merjanian speaks to the simultaneous existence of nostalgia and fear. In “Exile” and “Home,” she speaks of the role of country in one’s identity. In “Tell Me about Your Father,” she writes of wanting to “catch” a memory, and in “Motherland” she writes of a girl with “a yearning [she doesn’t] understand.” A poem titled “Ninety-Eight Springs” is dedicated to the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
In an interview with Asbarez, Merjanian said, “There are love stories, tragedies, survival, longing—there is something for every taste.”
Merjanian juxtaposes physical distance with time—one can be traversed and one cannot. While “Doves of Beirut” is set in the midst of war, “My Slivered Lebanon” is told looking back. “Home” tells the transformation of belonging which started with the story told in “Exile.” In “Tell Me about Your Father,” the speaker is able to connect to her memories, whereas in “Motherland,” the speaker cannot. As the speaker says in “Rooftop,” “there’s no distance to my pain.”
Merjanian was born and raised in Lebanon and witnessed eight years of civil war before moving to Geneva. She said, “It’s a ‘love and hate’ relationship, because there is the nostalgia of home, but one cannot separate from it the violence and terror, it is not possible to sever that relationship with a city completely, it has seeped into the subconscious.” Perhaps this is why, like her first book of poetry, Uncoil a Night, which was released in 2013, all proceeds from Rumor will be donated to the Syrian-Armenian Relief Fund (SARF). So far, Rumor has raised over $4,000 for SARF.
Merjanian’s poems are about relationships—with oneself, with memory, and with time. Rumor paints a picture that envelopes perspectives from both the past and the present, and holds many voices including that of an eight-year-old refugee, a skeleton of a teenage girl, and a voice looking back on the deportation of a man whose bones still lie in an unmarked grave in Siberia. The last lines of the poem, “Home,” expose the desire for all of these voices—a place of belonging—when the speaker says that he is “fearing [the] many names / but one left on rooftops.” Merjanian says her book is “not about one gender or about one race, but extends the full length of humanity.”
Amanda Berger currently interns at the Armenian Weekly, as part of the Armenian Students’ Association of America Inc. (ASA) Internship in Journalism program.