“…The unit of measure is truly the moment of eternity,
But there is also a moment
that counterbalances eternity
on the lever of time
with universal harmony.”
It was exactly that moment of universal harmony that, by God’s will, I had to talk to the wonderful, very unique Armenian woman and poet Sona Van, who has traveled from the United States of America to the Homeland to present her book “Libretto for the Desert” dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Armenian martyrs of the Armenian Genocide and with the longing for her native home.
Hayern Aysor: Sona, many people talk about Sona Van the poet. What moves you and makes you happy the most? Is it being famous, the fact that your poems are read, or the God-given, uninterrupted process of writing?
Sona Van: Thank you for that question. As a poet, what moves me the most is the fact that my poems can touch more souls through the translations, and that is a dream for any writer. The process of writing is very spontaneous for me. I don’t do it specifically for the reader, and I don’t address it to anyone in particular. Writing is my desire to extinguish the fire burning inside of me and calming something down. If my poems touch the heart and soul of the reader and help him or her, it means that I was born for a reason. Writing is a divine gift, and I have the human desire to share that gift with others and help people. That has always been a part of me. That’s why when I was a child, I had chosen medicine as a profession (it was my father’s desire) to help and sympathize with people and share my love and piety with others. But it turned out that I could express this compassion by writing, through which one can change the feelings of thousands of people, make them feel different and bring them out of the evil of our century, that is, the process of becoming a robot. A poet goes against that machine.
Hayern Aysor: You are one of the well-known and exceptional writers whose books are sold quickly and whose works are read and disseminated. What is the secret of your success?
S. V.: Any addiction, say, addiction to alcohol, cigarettes and medicine, stops when a person is pleased and satisfied, sees and discovers himself in some area…I think the same goes for literature where the reader sees himself in the pages and understands that the poet has shared his or her emotions and that whatever is said there is not falsehood, but the truth by which he lives and wakes up every day. So, that becomes desired and important for the reader, and that reader wants to read all the works of his or her preferred poet and understand his or her thoughts and feelings. Recently, my latest book was translated by notable Russian poet Yevgeny Rein, whom Brodsky considered his teacher. One day, this great poet told me the following: “Sona, if there are no more poems to translate, I would like to ask you to send me the Armenian translations because I want to know what you’re thinking about today.” So, imagine, if that kind of a poet wants to see how I feel and understand my emotions, it’s clear that my readers will want to follow up on the release of my works more.
Hayern Aysor: How many books have you published and in how many languages have they been translated?
S. V.: I haven’t translated many books. I have printed 6 books and 10 translated books. My books have been translated into 11 languages. I am most touched by the Russian translations because Russian literature is currently the etalon in literature. This time, I held the presentation for my translated books at the 200-year-old Дача на Покровке (Dacha na Pakrovke) where greats like Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Maiakovsky and Chekhov had had their works read for the first time…The presentation was organized by two young Russian poets, who love my poems. I immediately became a part of the great Russian writers with my almost verbatim translations, and it was very important for me to receive feedback from those great writers, who didn’t know me. Fortunately, they immediately accepted me. Editor of Культура cultural magazine Yuri Belyavsky read my poems and immediately had them printed in the famous Орелmagazine with the translation by Yuri Palikov and with a wonderful preface, after which my works were printed in the Дружба народов (Druzhba Narodov), Новый мир magazines and other Russian journals and magazines.
Hayern Aysor: Sona, how long have you been the “captive” of the literary Parnas?
S. V.: I have been writing as far back as I can remember, but I have been writing professionally for the past 20 years. It was during these past 20 years that I became a part of Russian and other international writers.
Hayern Aysor: Let’s talk about the presentation of the book “Libretto for the Desert”.
S. V.: The fact that the presentation of my book was hosted at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute is very symbolic. It filled my heart and soul. The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute is the only right place where I could share my poem and autobiography about my paternal aunt who didn’t get to wear a wedding gown and whose happiness was short-lived because of the yataghan. I would like to thank RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan and Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Hayk Demoyan, who organized the presentation of my book during the pan-Armenian youth forum. You saw how the youth reacted and how moved they were.
Hayern Aysor: Which world women writers are you compared to? Whose works are closer to your heart?
S. V.: I worship all great women writers, but I don’t compare anyone to me and my literature. Armenian and foreign literary critics have mentioned that it’s impossible to compare me with anyone, and that is the greatest appreciation.
Hayern Aysor: Let’s get back to your first profession, that is, medicine. Why didn’t you study medicine?
S. V.: I psychologically couldn’t stand seeing a person in pain. I graduated from the Medical University with honors, but I didn’t become a doctor because my compassion with patients reaches a point where I can no longer use my professional knowledge and skills. I cure people with my poems.
Hayern Aysor: Have your poems been turned into songs?
S. V.: Yes, there are many songs based on my poems, and new songs are also being composed.
Hayern Aysor: And my last question. What does the Homeland mean to you?
S. V.: For me, the Homeland is a spiritual space where the human pleasing God and referred to as theArmenian walks over my land.
Hayern Aysor: Dear Sona, thank you for this cordial and meaningful interview that was as unique as your poems.
…A natural feeling of time that
is more accurate, than historical time…
After decline of empires the capitals never loose their glory of political, cultures, art center monopoly. In that regards Russia’s capital continues to remain one of the targets of multiparty developments in the world: with its dapple, ebullient illustration of face adage, everything seen, and disbeliever in tears; Megapolis of Moscow. It’s not a joke to get appreciated in such an atmosphere.
On May 24th in the Moscow’s well known "Bilingua" cultural club the presentation of the Russian collection "Parallel Insomnias” selection of Sona Van’s three books, took place. And in one month on June 23rd in Yerevan on the initiative of RA Ministry of Culture and Charents house-museum the presentation of the above mentioned book took place as well. During the event Sona Van’s poems were recited by masters of declamation Silva Yuzbashyanandn and Azat Gasparyan.
- Dear Sona Van please, introduce the birth of your Russian book leaving aside modesty, which in this case is merely waste of time, because we are aware that among the people introducing your edition was nobody else, but, a friend of Armenian people, famous for his impartiality, the famous writer Andrey Bitov, hence it should be assumed that your poetry has attracted his attention, which is enough for Russian reader to accept and love your poetic world as well. As an Armenian writer leaving in the US for more than three decades, for you what worth does the Russian translation contain?
- In my life the Russian language has been the first language of the poetry taking into consideration the fact that in our yard my first friends were Russian speakers, and Lilia, my best friend, was mad about poems and we often used to stroll down together from Kievyan Street to Opera repeating the lines. The boys interested in us in order to gain our attention and be more impressive were writing love letters in verses, often copying them from a book of a famous poet. After correction of mistakes we used to return them back promising to date, not with them but with the real author of the quartering. How well I do remember the joy of those days. Believing that the poetry first of all is a linguistic affair, and that the translation bears a threat of harming it or turning it lifeless, anyhow I am
very much interested in Russia’s, still unsurpassed homeland of world literature, better to say modern Russian writer’s opinion of my "affair": even after losses, or with fear of the possibility of overwhelming criticism. I have never had a status of being refused in my homeland; moreover I was often introduced as the "most reviewed writer": so the purpose was merely to have the opinion of the bearer of that specific language and the literature. As soon as I got a chance, I presented my translations (I have been already translated by several people: Marine Arshakyan, Anahit Khachatryan, Karine Lazareva, Valerik Mesropyan…without any interest, just loving my world) first of all to Yuri Belyavski the chief editor of the "Culture" Periodic, then, almost with difference for several days to Andrey Bitov. They both, independent from each other encouraged me to introduce myself to Russian reader, being sure that "…the stuff they have read is a true poetry, which without any doubt will touch the reader; that those are original creations deserving their own fortune…" I remember the attention with which Andrey Bitov read my works at the tea table, and how he put them carefully back into the folder and told his editor Anna Berdichevskaya “ Take care of these … these are poems”. Meanwhile I was published also in "Orion" authoritative periodic, translation and preface done by the famous poet-critic Yuri Falicov. Then in the "Novi Mir" journal, with translation of Inna Lisnyanskaya, a prize winner of the highest Russian "Poet" award, and after that in the journal "Druzhba Narodov" with the preface and translation of poetess Marina Kudimova.
My book was published by “Arsys" publishing-house (by the way A. Bitov’s last books were also published here and naturally for the publisher who is not a writer, this was also a reason for confidence). The presentation took place in "Bilingua" cultural club. My book was introduced by the editor Anna Berdichevskaya and Andrey Bitov; estimating my book as an attitude towards the true poetry and a literary-cultural event noting the return of the art of translation distorted along with the break down of the iron curtain. I can say with pride that all above mentioned journal editors and translators have anointed my book with wine. Only the main translator Inna Lisnyanskaya was not in the country and instead had sent me a videotape where she was not only appreciating, but also reading my poems wonderfully. "If my health affords, I’ll come to Yerevan one day and read these poems on the stage" the famous poetess has passed me these words through my editor. In the video recording she confesses that was always against translating free poems (poetess Inna Lisnyanskaya is famous of being loyal to the classic versification), but reading interlinear translations of my creations as she says "my soul blazed up and I had a wish to make them to sound in Russian as well". Could the heart of any poet remain untouched from such devotion, from now inhabiting in the heart of another woman writer as well? This is one of those single cases, when "telling the truth" and "being modest” is impossible to combine without endangering the truth.
- During the presentation in Yegishe Charents’s house-museum David Gasparyan who is an expert in Charents poetry, literary critic and the main speaker introduced you as a queen of poetry, as a new Sapho of our days, famous from the antique times, a well known, progressive woman-poet leading highborn women groups; who had sang the beauty, love and enjoyment, possessing her unique literal style. What feelings do similar parallel give birth to, when even in world culture history names of famous women are very rare.
- Any poetess would be happy to bear the mentioned attributes, but as the comparison was done by the famous literary critic then I think that he has his own comment on it. And I am mostly enchanted by the phenomenon of Sapho’s poetical durability; it’s a miracle that her name is still being remembered.
- The majority of literary workers from very beginning, or after some time start to create using different literary genres: prose, poetry, dramaturgy or passing from one to another. Is there a premise that tomorrow you will become just as famous in prose or especially in playwriting, because your poems often have a dramatic structure, are full of motion; play and perhaps many of them could be staged? How do you choose the form of your saying?
- My saying chooses its form itself. Regarding this consideration I do not have a problem of choosing that or another literary form. For me the poem is a whole respiratory act, which is not possible to extend or to postpone. In this case there exists the problem of staying alive, which is an instinct; while, the prosaic or drama creation is being extended, prolonged as the life itself. Even the slightest intent of seeing them accomplished gives birth to a fear of the end of life... I am delaying, extending them instinctively. Let a little bit more to live my heroes, let them to get a chance to become more to kind, experience apostasy even. Who rushes behind them? Their metamorphose: occasionally directed against me, is interesting for me - like watching a new move.
- It is well known that over five years now "Narcis" cultural periodical is being published with your, better to say your husband’s doctor Nubar Janoyan auspices. It already has become cultural mirror of Armenia and a waited guest for Armenian writer, intellectual and artist. Journal’s regular crew (Vahan Vardanyan Chief Editor, Shant Mkrtchyan poet, translator, editor, Karen Mkrtchyan the graphical constructor and Armen Avanesyan -literary critic) conduct their mission with honor, directing the reader towards the sphere of Armenian and worldwide modern literature and censorship leaving contested only headline selection. Why just "Narcis", when it first
of all is paralleled with being in love with own ego? Has the editorial crew ever rued for this naming?
- Idea of entitling it "Narcis" is exceptionally mine. Being in love with own ego, which is only one of phenomena of fabulous Narcis (myth presents also possibilities for metamorphose, introspect, overcoming of solitude, penetration of love area of somebody else’s), is important for the artist, with the condition not to be in love with himself; but the art aroused inside him. Otherwise it will not be reverent to present something to someone, that you are not attracted yourself. I am glad that the most authoritative modern Armenian persons consider "Narcis" to be the largest cultural percolator of recent years, where the literary "waters" are slowly purified. Out of numerous opinions my heart gets mostly warmed by the observation of our magnificent composer Tigran Mansuryan, a day before his getting back from Los- Angeles to Armenia, when I presented him a new "Narcis" – he said: "When I remember that there is "Narcis" in Armenia it makes my return easier, this long way thoughts". On those days, when journal publishers were busy with breeding of glistening, artificial, having a butterfly life "starlets", and "Garoun" literary journal, which had fed generations, was bedridden with dying status (in fact, this situation is also a result of not sufficient state support), and the field of literary-cultural media was in apoplectic situation, the birth of "Narcis’" birth had a power of an imperative. Today the best intellectuals of the nation are gathered around the journal, also the ones who are away from homeland. Due to translations from more than 25 languages done especially for "Narcis" the Armenian writer today can hear his voice in a Pleiades of world literature. My wish is that one day the journal becomes self- sustainable; quarantine its existence above the sponsoring individual life.
- According to 100 of world sages the most valuable book in the history of mankind is the novel “Don Quixote” by Cervantes. After learning this I have conducted my own observations leading to a single answer - Bible. And your opinion?
- Let me agree with you; a little bit clarifying the sequence. Though it is possible to leave it like this as well because the Bible is out of any competition. Anyhow, we need to think over it, and today it is very hot for that.
- However it seems, today a man has got tired of thinking, of worrying and even of becoming anxious for consequences of the evils, ravages and immorality he has created. In that case is it possible to think that mankind swifts rapidly to, as they say in spoken language goes on “Jackpot”; and does it so quickly and desperately that "doesn't look back even "?
- The reason for all evil is just that "doesn't look back even "; it is stated in Bible as well. God looked and saw that what He has done is good, and… that is to say, to look still does not mean to see. It is possible to pass to the successive step only after looking back - seeing, after evaluating. In this all-embracing clatter, where the speaker never refers to the good or bad effects of what he has said, to the consequence of his deed, to the responsibility, to the reality of sin and punishment, everything transfers into sticky, incomprehensible mixed sounds, almost like in public bath reminding a nightmare from my childhood memories: nakedness without shame, speech without importance to be heard, a sense of impunity elicited by impressionist undistinguishness created in dense vapor. Unfortunately in our days of distorted scales of soul and material, when the material has eaten the souls and sidewalks are full of seeming alive but dead souls, every logical effort, that of an artist, writer or any anxious, thinking man, will be aimed to return the human being to his essence, to create a possibility of pleasant to God conversation aura between a man and its kind. Let it be as it is stated in Bible "let dead ones to bury dead ones", and we, living ones shall dance hand in hand in our human family curve, even for the last time, the dance of death even, but still hand in hand, but dance… I beg you. I am trying to do that in my versus "… I feel a ballet in your versus, a dance...” once was spelled out by a darling thinking man - writer Varuzhan Nalbandyan. Really, like Milton I love everything that testifies movement, that flows, that supposes a continuation, that contains a promise of surprise - the milk streaming out from the pressed nipple, as a poetic string, lava, blood, waters of birth, urine streaming out with itch, even the menstruation blood, which overflows carrying away a non-fecundated egg.
- They say the road of art is full of suffering, though talent or genius is considered as a divine grace, supposing an effortless and unprovoked movement, and some artists introduce the moment of creativity as recording of what has been told from heaven. In short, how would you formulate the phenomenon of true or divine creativity?
- Divineness obtained through suffering, patience and solitude. Probably so. Every successive step towards the superior requests more amount of suffering and therefore it won’t be wrong to call the way towards the spiritual as a one full of suffering. The artist instinctively feels that clinging to one’s own ego and life at any possible price leads to everlasting death, whereas finding strength and courage to die within yourself leads to perfection, immortality. A common reader is inclined to measure the immeasurability with a common eye, even to explain like a teacher, all what is inexplicable itself and is improvident as ecstasy is. I think it is a crime not to see what has been earned with suffering, the solitude of soul and sometimes the uniqueness of invisible suffering granted by God l and determining the greatness of artist, even if he is Mozart seeming infantile, jolly and strangely laughing.
- You have already been translated in numerous languages (Russian, Georgian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, French, English, even Abkhazian – learnt from Internet) and all on translators own initiative. Why does your poetic world enchant so much a foreign language reader? What is close to him? How does it happen that the story of a writer becomes someone else’s story as well? How does Sona Van - a poet famous of a new sort of literary " free verse", living in Russia in a foreign land over 30 years, refer to soulless reality of today's world? Do you hope that whenever it will be changed? What is today's world in poet’s eyes?
- The world is a mirror reflection of my eroded body, and it is useless to blame someone else in it. Death endlessly comes with different faces and forms. Black Death - plague has come with Crusaders. Syphilis has come with Columbus. The truth, the life will also come one day… With the return of God’s Son; a return which is postponed endlessly like arrival of outer-space inhabitants. So long I am happy that my body above my neck still manages to dream. I am not speaking about a hope. Having a hope, means to decline responsibility, to believe that someone else may do what I was unable to do myself, means to believe in miracle and in a more complete miracle than the Christ was able to perform. I prefer not to think about "having a hope", prefer to walk in the street and allow ozoneless air ravage totally my skin, absorb in my blood, destroy everything. Today my skin wants more obedience than resistance. A feeling of intensive living is born as a result of that. It has never happened that I feel myself only a woman, only a mother or only a doctor for a moment. I always live in parallels of numerous egos and opposite emotional states. It is hard to say who am I more at this very second? Like it is hard for me to say whose soul of the numerous women living in me will go to Paradise. Probably that is why my story becomes a story of others as well.
Like a feather
on the lips
of sleeping Heavenly Father
I float up and down
in the mute rhythm
of his breathing
clear is the sky to-day
like the deep lake
… I see you
what about you
I stretch out
and come to you
through the air
like two drops
striving for each other…
… my Lord
kind of fusion
excluding for a moment
You… you too
in the mirror of the sky
right now… moments ago
I have discovered
but it’s late
like with Narcissus
I’m in love
in the heights
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