Karen Samunjan

Karen Samunjan: ‘The Mosaic of Armenia’s Soul Is Larger than Armenia’

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By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN/CLOSTER, N.J. — Karen Samunjan (Garry Samunjian) is a multitalented professional, born in 1967 in Tbilisi and living in the US. In 1985 he entered the Faculty of Architecture of the Georgian Polytechnic Institute. In 1990 he emigrated to the United States. He is the author of The Gardener and The Case of Taste; his poetry has been published in litprichal.ru and other Russian literature web sites.

Dear Karen, at first, I learned about you as a poet, but it turned out you are involved also in design, architecture, painting and photography. What profession is more characteristic for you?

Architecture projecting and design is more characteristic for me. Although partially, fine art is my profession as well. Most of my paintings are for sale. Photography is solely a passion and necessity for when I travel. My cell phone is my only camera… that seems a little far from a profession… doesn’t it?

Yes, it is… You were born in Tbilisi, a city with rich Armenian past. Tell us please about your family and what Tbilisi gave to you.

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I was raised in a diverse Armenian-Russian family. Both my parents (Rafael Samunjan and Lilia Samunjan, nee Gavrin) were born in Tbilisi. My father studied at the Georgian Academy of arts. My grandfather, Hakop Samunjan, was born in Akhalkalaki. This makes me a third-generation Georgian.

I have a vast understanding of the Georgian culture and accept the nation as my own. Tbilisi gave me a lot but most important would be gratitude. To appreciate all the little things, enjoying a piece of bread or a glass of wine, spending quality time with friends and sharing good will with one another. Life’s simple pleasures.

“Face” by Karen Samunjan

You write in Russian, which is your native language. It has been 30 years that you live in the US. You  also write in English. Do you occupy a certain place in contemporary Russian and American poetry?

Fluently, I speak in three languages – Russian, Georgian and English. Unfortunately, I understand very little Armenian. Russian is my native tongue and most of my followers speak the Russian language. I have written over 1,000 poems which I find to be enough seeds planted. I guess now all we need is time to harvest. Right now, it is difficult to say which exact place my poetry will occupy other than in the hearts of my readers. The sky is the limit.
You are interested in religious philosophy, esoteric teachings and the phenomenon of time. In another context I would like to talk to you especially about the last one, but here I will ask you only — now even children complain about the fast passage of time — how you can explain this?

My favorite conversation piece! I believe time is a conflict between our eternal soul and temporary ego. Which perspective does one choose? There is no tool one can use to measure time. The depth of an existing second is far too vast to be restrained. The second before one dies… the second after one is born… cannot be compared.

Russian-speaking Armenians in the US usually do not have contacts with local Armenian communities. What about you?

Around here in North Jersey we have a few Armenian churches. It is a large community that I became part of when I was younger. Like in Tbilisi, my relationships here are very friendly and casual.

What is your view of Armenian culture?

The prodigious Armenian culture has a great history. The nation’s antiquity heavily influenced the Armenian art community around the world. The mosaic of Armenia’s soul is larger than Armenia. As an artist, as a poet and as an individual… I am one piece out of thousands in this puzzle.

You have put together the photographic albums “My Italy” and “My Argentina.” What about “My Armenia?”

Unfortunately, I did not visit Armenia properly… last year, my trip was far too short for me to do what I wanted. I would like to explore Armenia how I see fit next time. Usually after my journeys, I am inspired. I start writing with the images in mind. My photo album being attached to my poems has the purpose to attract fellow explorers. Armenia is special. I need to plan the right time to visit her the right way.

You have several poems dedicated to Armenia. Please share one of them with us.

With pleasure. This piece is translated by our compatriot Estella Dadasieva-Mina, a native of Baku and currently living in Cyprus.

 

Ararat…

There – in circles of Ararat Highlands

The Sunrise sparkles, splashes like the wave….

And Gopher’s Spirit in the Noah’s garments,

And olive’s branch with vernal foliage….

Survivors sing a hymn to blissful land,

Birds happy circles, snarls the animals;

Into the sweated land of former waters

Are entering the human being’s souls…

And by the valley of the Holy bible,

Amidst the flows of waterfalls and winds,

For happiness’ blossoming sprouts,

Seeks to the Life the Hope of Universe…

And reveling with Glory of Sunrise,

Getting drunk from Divinely Bliss…

Sings Love;

– Beauty of Innocent Nature,

At the very beginning of Circles….

 

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