Arthur Kayzakian

Kayzakian, Akbar Shine During ‘Literary Lights’


By Sharisse Zeroonian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

BELMONT, Mass. — On Saturday, June 17, lovers of literature came from far and wide on Zoom to attend this month’s iteration of the “Literary Lights” reading series. The series, curated by the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA), and the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center in New York, primarily highlights authors of Armenian descent and gives them a platform to share their work in a public setting.

This edition featured author Arthur Kayzakian in conversation with poet Kaveh Akbar. Kayzakian discussed his most recent book, The Book of Redacted Paintings, the form of which combines poetry, prose, and visual art. According to the IALA’s Literary Lights web page, the story “takes place in the present day yet alludes to the Iranian Revolution.” The plot centers around a young man looking for his father’s painting — which may or may not actually exist. The book, a poetry collection, also includes pictures of various paintings which are all either real, incomplete, and/or missing, but most of them have been totally erased — or, as the book’s title denotes, “redacted” from history. The concept of redacted paintings is meant to be a stylistic reflection of what can happen to the human psyche in the aftermath of trauma – specifically, the phenomenon of grieving certain lost aspects of the human experience.

“When Arthur first came, he was this new guy with this new voice and incredible ideas….. seeing his work now and reading his book has been so exciting for me…” Shahe Mankerian told viewers at the beginning of the event. “….I saw some of these poems actually take birth at….. gatherings with our friends”.

Kaveh Akbar

After being introduced by Mankerian, the two writers, who are friends and fervent supporters of each other’s work, gave some background information about how they came to be acquainted both professionally and socially.

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“I found your work when I was in an MFA program at San Diego State….my mind exploded from the second I read it from the precision of the imagery and how clean and deep [the imagery] was…..” Kayzakian told Akbar. “….I heard that you were Iranian, and I heard that you were reading in L.A., and I came…What really helped was taking your workshop…..We stayed on for eleven weeks during the pandemic……nothing brings me more joy than to do this with you here today.”

Akbar, too, had nothing but high praise for his former protege’s work.

“……One of the things I love so much about this book is that it is a straight narrative from the beginning, middle, and end….” said Akbar when presenting Kayzakian to the audience. “It has characters….It has a narrative arc….There’s a story being told, and a propulsivity to it despite the fact that poetry is made of endings….This is a book that is so engrossing and engaging…One of the things that feels so exciting to me about it is how crafted it is in these quiet ways…..”

The event culminated in a question-and-answer session between the authors and the audience.

“It’s been a pleasure to co-sponsor this year-long reading series along with IALA and NAASR to showcase the works of talented Armenian writers working today across a variety of literary genres,” Zohrab Center director Dr. Jesse Arlen said of “Literary Lights.”

The series will continue in the fall.

A recording of the event will soon be available online for public viewing.



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