Monday, August 31, 2015

Alan Semerdjian and Aram Bajakian collaborate with PRIMER

Armenia, you are more than a piece of ass parade on the newsfeed.
Armenia, you are the split decision.  Armenia, the schism.
The first tribe to be converted.  Armenia is a country of a metaphor
tucked into the folds of breath and veil.  In between forever
bordered and borderlust, in love with a mountain felt
in the pit of the groin.  This aching, this naming,
this never having, thick with Eurovision’s beard, sick with genocide, 
sucking the holy thumb and the Russian cloak spit on with angels, 
miles with lambs, cathedrals, monasteries, characters in suits 
working on tracks with impeccable shoes, pride cascading down 
the runways, more than all of this, a lake cupping the delicious seeds
of history, which may or may not ever break the internet.
I want to write a poem for you, young Armenians from here to there.
I want my poetry to ring loud and clear like a song from a mountain
for all the girls and boys who eat dolma, for the marginalized
who eat dolma, for the wealthy, for all of us ate dolma once in our lives.
I want to make something that makes sense for you and all of them,
and because some poetry just doesn’t make sense with all its matter
of fact witty humor and subtle stabs and no big heart and big laugh,
I want to make a poem that slides off of William Saroyan’s mustache
and lands in a plate of fasulya.  I want to write a poem that shines a flash-
light on the dark rooms of my grandfather’s house of art and your grandfather’s 
and your great grandmother’s and her sister’s and their brothers’.
I want to make sure that my words don’t alienate but reverberate, make sure 
that everyone in Kentucky even, near the beautiful Ohio River, in the Galt House
overlooking the pedestrians, the walkways and highways and in every way
can relate in the heart and in the head.  If Tom Sawyer were Armenian,
he’d throw pomegranate seeds at the girl or boy he loved and use the tongue
to make sure each and every last one is tasted and swallowed.  If Emily Dickinson
were Armenian, well, she already is – pause and hesitation equal longing,
and longing is what we know, young Armenian beauties, what we use
to mark the time, the great and indifferent calendar of the internal universe,
which is, after all, the only real universe for us or for anyone with a heart.
And if Neruda were, and if Anansi, and if Obama, and if Mother Teresa.
I want to make something, anything, that fills even a part of your void, 
young Armenians from here to there, even if you think you’ve filled it up
with prayer, culture, or lahmajoun, friends, miles, or Facebook, modernity or 
solemnity, genuflection, navigation, or irrigation for the new gardens
of the world.  The void, which is everyone’s void, every nation, every person
forgiving and forgiven.  I want to write a poem.  And give it to you.  Now.

The audio clip of this poem is available at

Writer, musician, and educator Alan Semerdjian’s poems and essays have appeared in over a hundred print and online publications and anthologies including Adbusters, Diagram, Ararat, and Brooklyn Rail.  He released a chapbook of poems called An Improvised Device (Lock n Load Press) in 2005 and his first full-length book In the Architecture of Bone (GenPop Books) in 2009, which Peter Balakian has described as “dynamic” and “well worth your reading.”  His songs have appeared in television and film and charted on CMJ.  He earned his MFA at Goddard College in 2002 and currently teaches English at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, NY.  Alan resides in New York City’s East Village.

Guitarist Aram Bajakian has worked extensively with Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed, jazz vocalist Diana Krall and avant garde maven John Zorn. Bajakian's latest solo album, there were flowers also in hell (2014, Sanasar Records), has received universal praise, and was called "one of the best instrumental rock records of recent years," by New York Music Daily. Bajakian’s other 2014 release entitled Dálava, is a collaboration with his wife, vocalist Julia Ulehla, and was called "groundbreaking" by Vancouver’s Georgia Straight and “a masterpiece” by Bajakian received a Masters Degree in Music Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College in 2002. 

“Primer” is the first in a series of collaborative experiments between Alan Semerdjian and Aram Bajakian combining poetry and music.

Alan writes: The poem is a bit of a meditation (Ginsberg style?) on this desire to connect and embrace the other side of our hyphenation.  It stemmed from the attention (good and bad) on social media newsfeeds and beyond around the Armenian Genocide centennial, the reverberations of that attention, etc.  Aram's wildly inventive and free guitar playing was composed after the poem was written from the other side of North America and then pasted together to make what you have here.  It's an idea that was born quickly with lo-fi punk aesthetics and, hopefully, old-school avant-charm.  We all want to write for each other in the end.  The many of us.  And be heard.  Sincerely.  

This collaboration it is being released jointly through both Hye-Phen Collective and The Armenian Poetry Project.

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