Commentary: Exploring God

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

A book with an unusual title has just been released by a contemporary poet with a number of volumes to his credit. The poet is Jacques Hagopian, who despite his advanced age of 92, is on a tour to promote the new volume.

His new book is unusual in content and character; it is neither poetry nor fiction; it is a diary balancing between poetry and narrative.

The hallmark of Hagopian’s poetry is coining new words and expressions with poetic charge. This new volume is titled Tekeyan
Vahan the Explorer of God
. The book was published by the Tekeyan Cultural Association, at the initiation of the Los Angeles
chapter. It was compiled and edited by Vatche Semerjian.

The book can be divided into three thematic sections. The first part is the evaluation of Vahan Tekeyan’s legacy as a poet. The second
part consists of day-to-day jottings of a young and budding poet, sometimes dwelling on the mundane. In this segment, the poet Tekeyan has some cameo appearances as the young poet Hagopian engages in an old-fashioned love affair with his future wife, Azadouhi. One would have discounted this segment had it not contained some valuable references to the Egyptian-Armenian
community’s intellectual and cultural life. The last part reads like a novel featuring the agonizing last years of the poet Tekeyan and
his demise, inspiring the young poet to pen a series of poems having as a theme death and the elderly poet.

Vahan Tekeyan is a poet whose literary legacy grew intensely after his death. Jacques Hagopian’s book brings new light on Tekeyan’s life and legacy. Many literary critics have evaluated Tekeyan’s poetry, but very few have done it justice: Hagop Oshagan and Shahan Shahnour have analyzed his poetry in penetrating forays. Hagopian’s evaluation comes very close to those of these two literary giants.

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Hagopian will be touring the US East Coast and Canada, where Tekeyan chapters have dedicated literary evenings. Hagopian himself
is a respected poet in his own right and those who are fluent in Armenian can enjoy a rare treat.

Tekeyan’s poetry revolves around a few fundamental themes: love and intimate thoughts, love of nation and some philosophical
discourse with his supreme being, the Lord. Hagopian mostly dwells on this last theme, himself having dedicated volumes to God
and his only son, Jesus. Tekeyan’s God is a literary symbol, whereas Hagopian, a born-again Christian, has some differences with
Tekeyan’s approach. The latter appeals to God as a last resort in his personal desperation and pleading mercy for is dying nation,
whereas for Hagopian any deviation from the Scriptures is an aberration. Fortunately for Tekeyan, he has defined his God within literary parameters shying away from ordinary Bible study, which most of the time is the antithesis of poetry. Very few poets have
dealt with theological themes without killing their poetic verve. In Armenian literature, we can count only a few such as, Nerses
Shnorhali (Jesus, the Son) and Gregory Naregatzi (Book of Lamentations).

Tekeyan’s God is an ordinary one — everyone’s God without theologian trimmings.

In spite of his confrontational take on Tekeyan’s theology, Jacques Hagopian’s book makes for a captivating read about Tekeyan’s poetry and the poet’s last agonizing days.

Armenian literature also has fictionalized biographies of poets and artists, like Somerset Maugham’s treatment of Paul Gaugin’s
life (The Moon and Six Pence) or Henri Troyat’s biographic series on Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chekov and other Russian
writers. In this genre of literature, we can mention Chobanian’s moving account of poet Bedros Tourian’s last days. In recent years,
we have seen two novels on the martyred poet and writer Roupen Sevag, by Antranik Zaroukian and Alexander Topjian.

Therefore, Hagopian’s book becomes important on several levels and dimensions. It will be interesting to hear him.

It is also time now to cross the language barrier for similar books to captivate wider audiences.

In Exploring God with Tekeyan, Hagopian explores Armenian poetry, his own soul of the Armenian nation.

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