Celebrating the Art of Vahan Tekeyan

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By Kevork Keushkerian

LOS ANGELES and FRESNO — Tekeyan Cultural Organization’s Los Angeles Chapter organized a special two-book presentation of Vahan Tekeyan’s selected poems on Thursday, September 18, at the Raymond and Ani Kouyoumjian Hall of the Glendale Armenian Catholic Church.

Chapter Chair Vatche Semerdjian made the opening remarks. He welcomed the guests and then introduced the editor of the two books, Edmond Azadian. He expressed his amazement at Azadian, who amid his many travels, organizational engagements and weekly commentary in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, found the time to edit Tekeyan’s two books of selected poems. He later invited master of ceremonies Parsegh Kartalian to proceed with the program.

Kartalian introduced the first presenter, Dr. Arpi Sarafian, who was asked to analyze Tekeyan’s Selected Poems, translated by Gerald Papasian and John Papasian and edited by Azadian and Gerald Papasian. Sarafian earned her PhD in English literature from the University of Southern California. Currently, she is a lecturer in English at California State University in Los Angeles.

Sarafian said the book was composed of 23 poems and was published by the California State University Press in Fresno in 2014. She said translating any piece of literature is hard enough, but translating poetry is more difficult as it involves rhythm and rhyme and the translator has to perform a delicate balancing act in order to capture the spirit of the poetry and maintain its essential authenticity.

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Considering all these, she continued, Gerald Papasian and John Papasian did an excellent job translating the 23 poems, which are structured around three major themes: love, spirit of nationalism, and humanitarian concerns.

The artistic portion of the program was composed of two songs and two recitations from Tekeyan’s poems. Sere Khaghdni (Secret Love) and Gantsreve Deghas (It’s raining, my son) were artfully performed by soprano Heghine Harboyan, who was accompanied by Shoushan Hagopian on the piano and Ophelia Nanagulian on the violin. These were followed by Lilit Keheyan’s poetic recitations.

The second presenter was Yervant Kotchounian, who analyzed Tekeyan’s book of selected poems in Armenian, edited by Azadian. The book is composed of 172 poems and Kotchounian listed them in five categories:  Self Eulogy, dealing with innermost feelings and their echoes;  Sex and Impossible Loves, with all their emotional expressions; Nationalistic Verses; A Horrible Thing over There (the Genocide) and Beyond Life and Death. These are philosophical reflections, stressing the poet’s intellectual mindset.

Azadian, who flew in especially for this occasion from Michigan, expressed his heartfelt appreciation to the presenters in his remarks. He also thanked the participants in the artistic program for their beautiful renditions and the members of the audience for their attendance.

Kartalian, in his closing remarks, once more thanked everybody and invited them to the reception that followed. Azadian was at hand to sign the books.

 

Presentation at Cal State Fresno

On September 19, a capacity audience gathered at the Alice Peters Auditorium of California State University, Fresno, to celebrate the publication of the bilingual volume of Tekeyan poetry published by the Armenian Studies Program of the university. Program Director Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian was instrumental in publishing the book. He was also in charge of organizing the evening jointly with the Tekeyan Cultural Association chapter of Fresno and the Leon S. Peters Foundation.

Der Mugerdechian had invited Sarafian along with the editor of the bilingual volume to share the podium.

Semedrjian and his wife, Sossi, accompanied the guests from Los Angeles to Fresno, after the earlier event in Glendale.

Tamara Hovhannessyan, a poet, had driven all the way from Carmel with her husband, Michael, to participate in the program. She presented the Armenian collection of Tekeyan poetry, compiled and edited by Azadian.

Sarafian presented the translated poems, a masterful joint achievement by the Papasians. Two Armenian students presented recitations of Tekeyan’s poems in both Armenian and English.

Der Mugrdechian served as the master of ceremonies and gave a comprehensive and concise presentation of the two books.

A reception followed the program, when faculty, students and guests met with Azadian, who signed copies of the books.