Saturday, February 18, 2017

ASA Announces 2017 Arthur Halvajian Memorial Armenian Poetry Competition

The Armenian Students’ Association, Inc. recently announced the start of its seventh annual poetry competition. As in the past six years, the ASA, Inc. is partnering the Armenian Poetry Project for the writing competition named in honor of the late Arthur Halvajian, a trustee who led its Board in sponsoring the first competition. The 2017 competition is now open and the deadline for submissions is April 30. The competition winners will be announced by the jury in May 2017.

“Over the past six years we have received hundreds of entries from across North America and continue to be impressed with the creativity, quality and range of poems. We look forward to reaching out to even more communities in the coming months,” said Alice Movsesian, a member of the ASA, Inc. Board of Trustees as well as its liaison to the competition's organizing committee.

ASA national board secretary M. Manoog Kaprielian sees the poetry competition as a particularly meaningful window of expression for Armenians who endured as Azerbaijan refugees out of and survivors of the ongoing war in Syria, who have settled throughout the United States and Canada. “We will do all that we can to reach out wherever they may be”, stated Kaprielian.

The Armenian Poetry Project lead by poet Lola Koundakjian, is a research and documentation site for 19th to 21st century Armenian poems and related topics. Currently containing over 2,500 poems, it is celebrating its 11th anniversary this year. APP has a worldwide following and releases poems through RSS feeds, Twitter and podcasting.

All individuals of Armenian descent, residing in the United States and Canada are invited to submit their work in English or Armenian for the competition. Entries should be e-mailed by April 30, 2017 to with the subject heading “Halvajian ASA/APP Poetry competition”. Only one original unpublished poem per individual may be submitted.

The competition groups submissions into three categories: students (ages 12-17), college age (ages 18-22), and adult (ages 23 and older). A top prize will be awarded for each of the categories in the amounts of US $75 (students), $125 (college age), and $300 (adult).

Each poem submitted for the competition must be accompanied by the author’s full name, age, and home address/telephone number. Students must include school name and sponsoring teacher’s telephone number. You can learn more about the Armenian Poetry Project by visiting

The Armenian Students’ Association of America, Inc. encourages educational pursuits by Armenians in America and the raising of their intellectual standards, providing financial assistance in the form of scholarships to deserving Armenian students, developing fellowship among them, cultivating in them the spirit of service in the public interest, and acquainting them and the entire American community with Armenian culture.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Shahe Mankerian: WHERE I WAS BORN

Twenty years later, we went back to Beirut
and stood in front of CMC Hospital
for a photograph. We couldn’t go

inside because during the war,
it burned down, not because of misguided bombs,
but because a doctor set himself on fire

after they wheeled his dead wife
into the Emergency. Years later, hollyhock
bushes and wild fig trees covered the pink

and black walls of the entrance.
Militiamen had posted pictures of martyrs
on the crooked wall that separated

the sidewalk from the front lawn.
The statue of Virgin Mary with broken
hands cried near a dehydrated water fountain.

This poem appeared in Poetry City, USA, Vol. 6

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Today you will have breakfast, two hardboiled eggs 
and squeeze blood oranges. Today you will save

the peeled shells to feed the mad waterfalls in your head.
Today your fingers will feel pain without paint.

You cover the canvas with the Mother’s face.
Today you will remove the clothespins from the clothesline.

You will need the rope and the sunshine of your studio.
You will need a sturdy chair and the ceiling fan.

Today will mark another birthday as you swing lightly in midair,
suspended like the butcher’s meat back in the city of Van.

This poem appeared in Poetry City, USA, Vol. 6

Monday, February 13, 2017

Aaron Poochigian: Song: Defiantly of Love

Meet her at Grand Central Station
and walk her down under the bridge
where the wild kids play in the street all day
and your neighbor, a passionate Haitian,
sings ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically of love.
Feed her potatoes au gratin,
meatloaf and corn on the cob
when the couple upstairs quarrels and swears,
and all the rats in Manhattan
sing discordantly, discordantly, discordantly of love.
Worship her like a religion,
like Mary the Mother of God,
while he-dogs compete for a she-dog in heat
and a lonesome grizzled pigeon
sings obsessively, obsessively, obsessively of love.
Promise to love her forever
and always, come what may,
while the basso bum with his bottle of rum
and the post-industrial river
sing defiantly, defiantly, defiantly of love.

This poem appeared in Don't Talk to Me about Love

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Aaron Poochigian: The Only Way

When Mister Right has strayed so far you hate him,
pluck a winter leek from peat-rich soil
and eat the stalk before you go to bed.

Spit thrice at sunrise, bathe, then scratch, verbatim,
this lethal summons into kitchen foil:
“Vengeance, go find him, bind him guts, heart, head.

Compel the traitor, no will of his own,
into my bedroom to be mine till death.
Should rival hags assail him, make him fail

to function, make him pleasure me alone—
Roll up the love-charm, pierce it with a nail

and seed it in a field where fireweed
attests to ashes. With the next moonrise
he will arrive, the lover you deserve,

less work than when you knew him, guaranteed
to lock you, goddess, in his zombie eyes,
worship you, service you, and never swerve.

This poem appeared in Don't Talk to Me about Love

Saturday, February 11, 2017


I want to believe in something unique.

Like fluorescent blue light bulbs?

Like senators projecting themselves in cautious dance.

I’ve got something you may need.

A duty-free container?

Someone to write letters to.

They say, “Kindness exists in portions.”

Like a cake.

Like a football field.

They say, “Happiness exists in corners.”

Like a pile of sweaters.

Larry Levis said something about trees.

That’s why I’ve called you here.

Take a seat.

Open the window.

No, take a seat.

I’ll open the window.

How long have you been a crocodile?

Can you stop green?

Can you begin fern?

I can’t repeat questions.

Questions have expired.

Vanished into tea air.

This poem appeared in issue 5 of Poetry City, USA

Friday, February 10, 2017

Alina Gregorian: MANICURED SKIES?

We move keyboards to different locations.

Because nothing exists without mauve in your voice.
It’s red, dear.

It’s a noun without color, analogies without verbs.
The way you coordinate galaxies using your eyes.

The way you kiss, leaving post-its on my cheek.
What’s the weather like in Hawaii?

Blue skies with grey streaks.
Like being on a farm in a computer.

Like taking lemonade to a string quartet.
You sold your clothes and got in bed.

“We make a dwelling in the evening air.”
Said Wallace Stevens.

We said hello to the illusion of something there.
Like conditioning verbs to say hi to adjectives.

So many people print documents in the night.
So many people buy bagels in Seattle.

You draw guitars on my arm.
Your lamp is like a bell.

You said.
A thought inside a ship.

This poem appeared in issue 5 of Poetry City, USA

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Shahé Mankerian: Keepsake

In my office, Father’s framed

black and white photo rests 
next to my green Olivetti. 

When I look elsewhere, 
students under scrutiny stroke 
the dusty typewriter with caution 

because he scowls at them 
with his thick eyebrows. 
The fearless force the faded 

alphabet keys to strike the black 
cylinder without paper. 
Fingers tap dance 

as they throw sideway glances. 
A brown-eyed kindergartner 
in a dirty ponytail bangs 

the space bar until she hears 
the ding of the bell. She fiddles 
with the ribbon and asks, 

“Is it dead?” I know 
she means the typewriter, 
but I keep looking at Father.

This poem was published in These Fragile Lilacs Poetry Journal, Volume II, issue II. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Shahé Mankerian: Burial

When the shovel fell, the dirt exposed

the white baby shoes. The eroded soil 
failed to bury the stitches on the soles 

and the scratches on the left tongue. 
Father looked away and gazed 
at the curling smoke from his cigarette. 

The shallow grave aggravated the anthill 
near the foot of the mulberry tree. 
The lantern trembled as the wind 

intensified from the belly of Mt. Sannine. 
The last of the dogwood twigs smoldered 
and kept the coffeepot warm. 

Father stomped on the white leather, 
yet the eyelets of the shoestrings stared 
back from the mud like a choking snake.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Shahé Mankerian: Brioches in Beirut

The bakery crowd looted the last
of the loaves. A beggar child
driven by hunger ignored

the falling bombs; he sucked 
on rancid raisins stuck 
between his teeth. 

Pregnant Fatimah didn't mind 
the mold on the leftover crumbs; 
she devoured them 

as she crossed the checkpoint 
full of pungent militiamen. 
No one noticed the Druze 

cabdriver on fire. No one 
tasted the difference between glass 
shards and sugar beads 

piercing the bloated belly 
of brioches. A roach crawled 
into the barren oven. The broken 

baker sat on the curb 
and cried because he ran out 
of yeast, butter, and flour.

"Brioches in Beirut" was a runner-up in These Fragile Lilacs Poetry Journal, Volume II, issue II. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Sotère Torregian: record world

my heart at thy sweet voice
                                –Saint Saëns’ Samson et Delilah

        The girl
                        flushes the gold
seas and her eyes lift
with the temperature
of the day
become two moons…
Her hair is an album
of the despoiled countryside
I wander sounds
of love’s fallen arquebuses
devesting themselves

Camille Sabie (second from left in the picture) was a graduate of East Side High School, pursuing a degree in education at Newark State Normal School when she was photographed training in Weequahic Park for the first Women’s World Games in Paris. At the August 1922 competition Sabie set a world record and won the gold medal in the 100-yard hurdles. She also took the gold medal in the standing long jump and the bronze medal in the running long jump. Women’s track and field events were added to the Olympic Games in 1928.
Sotère Torregian’s multiethnic upbringing in Newark led to experiments with internationalist and surrealist poetry. The piece above comes from his 1970 collection The wounded mattress.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Ella Chakarian wins Silver Key for her poem

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have announced their winners for 2017. Ella Chakarian from Holy Martyrs Armenian School in California was awarded a Silver Key for her poem Laughing at Feminism and another Silver Key for her short story Salt. Congratulations to Ella for these achievements.

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in grades 7–12.

Laughing at Feminism

“Boys, looks like we’ve got a little respecting to do today.”
It was women’s equality day, when those words were said.
“Today?” we asked our history teacher. “Why not everyday?”
“Oh, I was just poking some fun,” replied the man, with a shrug.

Poking some fun.
I guess that’s our permission to laugh now.

Let us laugh, at the little girl down the street, ponytail high, dressed in pink,
Combing the hair of her slender Barbie doll,
Wishing she could someday be so happy, pearly teeth and all,
She’s starved herself, pushed bread away, stared down at scales, measured her waist,
Perfect here and perfect there, it wasn’t all right for her to be anything else,
When it was the only thing she was taught,
How could any of it be her fault?

Let us poke fun at that fully grown girl,
Pinching the remains of her blotchy, pink skin,
Wondering where all her Barbie doll curves went,
If she even had them to begin with.
Let’s sit and laugh as we watch her starve,
Starve not for food, but to feel something warm in her heart,
She’s eaten her pain and done her time,
To the prisoner society has trained her to become.

Let us poke fun at the millions of women just like her,
More so reminded of their “incapabilities” due to their gender,
The women who try and overcome double standards,
The constant reminder that things could be worse-
“At least we are first-world American girls,”
The truth that girls come with restrictions,
Like we are objects, assembled by instructions,
Instructions that read quiet, small, and pretty,
Judgment hurled towards those falling out of all those categories.

Let us poke fun at the victims of rape, survivors of assault,
After they have been stripped of something beyond their skin,
After their hearts have been hollowed from unforgivable sins,
After they are given a bruise that becomes bluer with every attempt to be contained.
Let’s laugh as they are consumed with the ideas,
That their clothes speak louder than their words,
There really is no difference between yes and no.

Let us poke fun at the feminist movement,
At the sacrifices made by intelligent, zealous women,
The very history you are supposed to teach us of,
The future you are supposed to prepare us to love.

Let us poke fun at white women, black women, small women, large women, women across the globe, the women in your very home,
The feminist movement.
Let us watch you, as we rise from slender Barbie dolls and sealed lips,
Blue bruises and sets of instructions,
As you run away, from the fun you’ve created.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

ARA ALEXANDRE SHISHMANIAN: cum se striveşte un bob de strugure

ce ciudat se striveşte un bob de strugure
un bob de strugure se striveşte ca un gândac verde –
ca un păianjen cu oglinda lichidă
ca un glonte cu o singură pleoapă jur împrejurul pupilei lui dulci
un bob de strugure se striveşte ca o evadare strălucit eşuată
sau ca un personaj dostoievskian monoschizofren
el se mai striveşte şi ca o mînie filmată
cu toate absenţele explodate de tribul la putere
strivit, un bob de strugure e şi o variantă extraterestră a sângelui
bobul de strugure e un bob special
plin de misterele transparenţei şi de transpiraţia groazei
unde celălalt nu poate fi nimic altceva decît o teroare strivită
nimicul e bobul lucru debordînd de reificare victorioasă
nimeni e bobul deja strivit –
deja măturat şi cu sucul şters cu o cîrpă
nimeni e un alt nume al victimei
nimic, un alt nume al preţului de dispreţ
bobul de strugure se striveşte ca un sîmbure de spaţiu-timp –
ca răstignirea generalizată a spaţiu-timpului
pe erezia razelor de lumină
bobul de strugure trebuie strivit
ca să-nceteze să mai fie reacţionar sau eretic –
trebuie strivit cu un zîmbet senin şi dulce ca mustul
sau bobul de strugure trebuie strivit pur şi simplu
ca să semene cu o pictură expresionist abstracţionistă –
ceva între kandinsky şi jackson pollock
sau poate bobul de strugure trebuie strivit
pentru că e preferabil ca neştiutul să fie –
ca neştiutul să abolească nimic / universul / multiversul
plin de silabe – inutil de precizat
e preferabilă o gaură neagră omniversală
unui cosmos aşteptînd doar cîrpa care o să-l şteargă
aşteptînd clovnul cu nas de nebun care o să-l şteargă –
care o să şteargă toată murdăria asta

Translations from the Romanian by Flavia Cosma

How You Crush a Grape

How funny it is to crush a grape
A grain of a grape is crushed like a green cockroach—
like a spider with a liquid mirror
like a bullet with a single eyelid around its sweet pupil
a grain of a grape is crushed like an escape brilliantly failed
or like a Dostoyevsky’s mono-schizophrenic character
it’s crushed also as a filmed anger
all its absences exploded by the tribe in power
Crushed, a grain of a grape is an extraterrestrial variation of the blood, too
the grape’s grain is special
full of the mysteries of transparency and of a nightmarish transpiration
where the other cannot be but a crushed terror
nothingness is the grape-thing overflowing with royal victory
nobody is the grape already crushed—
already swiped and its juice mopped with a cloth
nobody is another name for the victim
nothing, another name for the cost of despise
The grape-grain is crushed like a space-time pit—
like the generalized crucifixion of the space-time—
over the heresy of the light’s rays
the grape must be crushed
because it has to stop being reactionary or heretic –
must be crushed with a light smile, sweet as grape-juice
or the grape must be crushed purely and simply
to look like an expressionist-abstractionist painting
something between Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock –
or perhaps the grape must be crushed
because it’s preferably that the unknown be—
that the unknown abolish nothing/ the universe/ the multiverse
full of syllables—inutile to precise
a black hole omni-versal it’s preferable
to a cosmos waiting solely for the cloth to wipe it out
waiting for the clown with a fool’s nose who’ll wipe it out—
who’ll wipe out all this dirt

About the poet: Ara Alexandre Shishmanian is author of several studies in Vedic literature and Gnosis, written in French and English and published in specialty revues and collective volumes in Belgium, France, Italy, Romania, United States. He also has published fifteen collections of poems in Romanian. His first collection in French, Fenêtre avec esseulement (Window with solitude), translated by Dana Shishmanian, was published in 2014 by Editions Harmattan (Paris). The three poems translated here by Flavia Cosma are excerpts from the Romanian original volume, Nestiute (Unknown), 2012.

About the translator: Flavia Cosma is an award-winning Romanian-born Canadian poet, author and translator residing in Val-David, Quebec, Canada. Flavia has published twenty-eight books of poetry, a novel, a travel memoir and five children’s books. She is the Director of the International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency, Val David, Quebec, Canada, and of The International Biannual Poetry and Arts Festivals of Val-David.