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Spotlight >> Diana Der-Hovanessian


Diana Der-Hovanessian, 20th Century Armenian Poet & Playwright Diana Der-Hovanessian is a well-known poet who has also written a number of plays. Born and raised in New England, she often uses the imagery of her Armenian ancestry in her poetry. Herbert A. Kenny, former book editor of the Boston Globe, said of her: "A striking and original artist in her own right, Der-Hovanessian is also the foremost translator of Armenian poetry." Diana was Fulbright professor of American poetry at Yerevan State University in 1999 and 1994. She is the author of 22 books of poetry and translations, and has won awards from the NEA, PSA, PEN-Columbia Translation Center, National Writers Union, American Scholar, Prairie Schooner, and Paterson Poetry Center. Her work has appeared in the American Scholar, Agni, N.Y. Times, Christian Science Monitor, Paris Review, Nation, Poetry Magazine, and others. Diana has taught workshops in translation, poetry of human rights, and How to Sell What You Write at various universities and at the Boston Globe Book Festival. She is president of the New England Poetry Club. One of her fondest memories is her afternoon high tea with Sergei Paradjanov.
Website: New England Poetry Club
EXCERPTS
The following is a scene from the play called Secret of Survival written by Diana Der-Hovanessian. It was done as a dialogue between Diana and Broadway star Michael Kermoyan and performed in various universities around the country, the proceeds of which were sent for 1988 earthquake relief in Armenia.
The Armenian poem is different
from any other poem.
It is the Hittite chant
if it's ancestors, the Greek chorus
of it's ancestors. It is the Urartuan
song of the past. The Christian hymn
it inherited. It is the bardic tale
of it's middle ages. It is the golden
flight of the 19th century phoenix
out of the dark. It is the secret
revolutionary heart that beats
inside Serop and Murad that Lorca
and Neruda imagined beat inside
only the Spanish poem.
It is the lonely prison poem
of Varoujan which Whitman thought
could be written only in America.
But the Armenian poem is different.
It had to be written in exile.

It is the song of the crane,
a dry rattle without words
or music, only yearning.
No other language can sing
the Armenian poem except perhaps
the Palestinian and the Israeli
can each sing half of it and understand
how one poem can grow two different
flowers from a single root.

The Armenian poem has a landscape
without humans left on it.
Its old heroes are all poets
turned revolutionaries.
Look at Varoujan ablaze, Siamanto
a storm, Charents a red fire.

Only Gomidas knows the true melody,
of the Armenian poem but
he wrote only half. The other half
is lost in the hills of Armenian
Anatolia, never sung, only echoed.
The last scream of a mad Gomidas
was no, no. But the old poem
had said, yes.

Cold as the stars that once blazed heat
the poem is written in cold light
different form other unless
you have heard the Polish poem
about strangers walking, walking,
walking through as if their country
were a highway, not an inn.
The Armenian poem is
different. It does not confess
a personal pain, personal love
or describe the eye seeing the star,
only how the star can blind the eye.
Only the Cambodian poet describes
such flesh-scarring light.

The Armenian poem is different
from any other poem. Even though
it sees its past repeated in Karabagh
it does not repeat the same old rhythms.
It wants a new tempo.

Only one other poem has such a heavy heart
and that poem is waiting to be sung.

Only when a great Turkish poet comes
and reaches out a hand drenched in blood
and says "Wash me clean, I want to write
without the ghosts of dead poets between
us, cursing my songs." Only that Turkish poem
can know what the Armenian poem knows. 
TITLES
THE SECOND QUESTION, Sheep Meadow Press 2006
 
RECYCLING DAY, Armenian Writers Union 2003 (poems in Armenian)
 
THE BURBIBG GLASS, Sheep Meadow Press 2003
 
ANY DAY NOW, Sheep Meadow Press
 
THE CIRCLE DANCERS, Sheep Meadow Press
 
SELECTED POEMS, Sheep Meadow Press
 
VALLEY OF FLOWERS, Nairie Press Yerevan
 
SONGS OF BREAD, SONGS OF SALT, Ashod Press
 
ABOUT TIME, Ashod Press
 
INSIDE GREEN EYES, BLACK EYES, Sovetpress, Yerevan
 
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR PAST, Ararat Press 1979 Ararat Press
 
TRANSLATIONS
THE OTHER VOICE, ARMENIAN WOMEN'S POETRY THROUGH THE AGES, AIWA PRESS 2005
 
ST GRIGOR NAREKATSI, VEM Press with Ton Samuelian 2003
 
ACROSS BUCHAREST AFTER RAIN, Quarterly Review of Literature, Princeton
 
SELECETED POEMS OF MARIA BANUS, Die Young Press, Louisiana 1990
 
COME SIT BESIDE ME AND LISTEN TO KOUTCHAG, Ashod Press
 
FOR YOU ON NEW YEARS DAY, PEOMS FOR GEVORG EMIN, Ohio University Press, Athens Ohio
 
SELECTED POEMS OF GEVORG EMIN, International Poetry Forum Press,Pittsburgh
 
COMING TO TERMS, Seleced Poems of Vahan Derian, Ashod Press
 
LAND OF FIRE, SELECTED POEMS OF ENGLISH CHARENTS, Ardis Press, Michigan
 
SACRED WRATH, SELECTED POEMS OF VAHAN TEKEYAN, Ashod Press
 
THE ARC, SELECTED POEMS OF SHEN MA, St. Vartan's Press Press NY
 
ANTHOLOGY OF ARMENIAN POETRY, Columbia University Press 1979
 


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