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Featured Verse: Spiny Babbler Museum: Gostan Zarian, Armenia: Poem2
  FEATURED VERSE
This section features international poetry chosen by Spiny Babbler editors from around the world. This poem appears in "Modern Poems of Europe" edited by Patricia and William Oxley.
 
  GOSTAN ZARIAN, Armenia
(1885 - 1969)

Born in Shemakha to a prosperous general in the Russian Army who died when Zarian was four years old. After attending the Russian Gymnasium of Baku, in 1895 he went to Asnières, near Paris. He continued his studies in Belgium, and, after obtaining a doctorate in literature and philosophy, he spent a year writing and publishing verse in French and Russian, delivering lectures, and living a bohemian life among writers and artists. Zarian befriended such poets and artists as Appolinaire, Picasso, Plekhanov, Ungaretti, Céline, and Paul Eluard. Next we find him in Istanbul, But in 1915, the proto-fascist Young Turk government decided to exterminate the entire Armenian population of Turkey. The holocaust that followed claimed 1,500,000 victims, among them 200 of the ablest Armenian poets and authors. Zarian was one of the very few who survived. He died in Yerevan on December 11, 1969. Zarian was a prolific and many-sided writer, producing short lyrics, long narrative poems, manifestoes, essays, travel impressions, criticism, and fiction..
 
   
MY SONG

I want my song to be like the bread
on the labourer's table, humble,
modest as the bride is modest,
she who, like the pomegranate tree in bloom
burns the countryside
with spring fever, burning all the while inside,
with her own silent love.

I want my song to tell
the burning, undeclared and silent pain.
Let it have the voice
and modulation of the saz*
to give wings to common words.

Like the profile of a mountain,
magnificent in simplicity;
like an autumn tree
flowing with gold,
like a heavy pace
of the forced traveler far from home,
like the faded glimmer of the broken mirror,
like the wheat field
on gentle wind;
like the every day sorcery
of light refracted in crystal
let my song sing.

And let the simple hearts who see such things
understand its castanet beat,
the same beat as the pulse in my arm.

I want my song to be simple,
humble as a piece of bread.

* an ancient Armenian lute-like instrument

 
Translated by Diana Der Hovanessian
 
     
About the translator: She is the author of 17 books of poetry and translations. She has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America, PEN, the National Writers Union, American Scholar, and the Paterson Poetry Center. She was Fulbright professor of poetry at Yeravan State University in 1994 and 1999.  
 
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