Featured Verse: Spiny Babbler Museum: Gostan Zarian, Armenia: Poem2
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.
ZARIAN, Armenia (1885
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..
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.
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
by Diana Der Hovanessian
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.