Hagop Missak Merjian, “Father (19??-1997): Chiromancy”

Daniel Varoujan Award, selected by Fanny Howe
Honorable Mention: Hagop Missak Merjian, “Father (19??-1997): Chiromancy”


Father (19?? – 1997): Chiromancy

          Who would carve words must carve himself,
          first carve himself; and then alas
          finds, too late, that Word is only Hand.
– Aiken: Time in the Rock 42

His hands were the first language I learned.
And in their riven death, the last.

These were hands that might have learned to
Weave Hittite mandalas into Persian kermans,
To carve and curve the tympanies of Turkish brass,
And shake the shakhshakha in incensed ceremonies
Deep in the ocher penetralia of tuffa cathedrals—
Those peasant bull churches—which, for Mandelstam,
Crumble and break…the teeth of your vision.
They would have preserved the secrets of
Curing camel’s flesh, making the basturma
His father made with his fathers before him.
Instead, nations orphaned his lost people.

Possessing only the languages of the East
He came to America, worked like a hamal for
Sixty years, desperate to earn The Dream,
Building his small Rugs and Carpets shop,
(Weaving/Washing) with his own hands,
Until one day the Machine of the Good Life
Locked his hands in its gleaming steel rollers
And drew off his fingers, one by one.

Deep in the nepenthe of strong anodyne,
His hands, or what were his hands, bloated,
(Bandaged white balls like boxers’ mitts),
Hoisted up like a rood splayed on davits,
In the deep tenebra of his delirium he muttered:
This is my punishment for killing those who
Were killing us. This, hairig’s savaged heart.

I will never know if the teeth of the dragon
Were sown in the dark soil of his lost youth.

Nor shall I know if those hands, now gone,
Were doomed to kill or bless.
What I do know is that I still dream of his
Whole and steely hands,
And of their lost caress.


Hagop Missak Merjian
Hagop Missak Merjian has been a teacher all his life and spent years teaching in Cairo, Egypt, and Thessaloniki, Greece. He writes: “I have a large collection of poetry/memoir and hope to enjoin a publisher—soon—for I am old. But not to worry, Aeschilleus was 89 when he wrote some of his most poignant dramas.”

Diana Woodcock, “Fire Raging, Questions Blazing”

Daniel Varoujan Award, selected by Fanny Howe
Winning Poet: Diana Woodcock, “Fire Raging, Questions Blazing”


Fire Raging, Questions Blazing

          Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far into the future, you will gradually,
          without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

A fire raging in my hair,
I live the questions now as best
I can, though I admit I do at times
attempt to answer them.

But mostly I trust Rilke was right.
When Harvest Moon beams on wild
asters in bloom, and light and dark
present themselves in equal balance,

when I taste summer in apple and chestnut,
perceive maple leaves becoming all fire
and the full moon cooling every lingering,
nagging desire – filling me

with compassion, when I refuse
to turn away, living the questions today
though bits of shrapnel lodge
in my skin, and I’m torn between

pop culture and politics,
saints and heretics, when I whirl
in my white robe in the company
of gulls and ghosts along the deserted

Inland Sea’s coast, when I finally believe
with my whole heart this is all I need –
little dot of a desert with its rapt light
delineating a thousand shades of tan,

brown, white – when camels,
earth spirits and wildflowers become
my mentors, fire raging, questions blazing,
no end to the suffering, the dunes

continually shifting, hamadas and gravel
plains cracking, white-cheeked bulbuls
flashing yellow vents like glints of gold
as they flush out insects and moths

from the lofts of desert scrub.
Fire raging, living the question:
What in God’s name
could it possibly be for –

this latest insane war?
My neighbors just back from
their country, Iraq – telling
the horrors, eyes full of sorrow.

And I, from Cambodia –
landmines still claiming limbs,
mosquitoes lives. Fire raging
in my hair, I would live spare –

spin Khmer silk in a room
small and bare. Living
the questions – this world,
the next – each question mark

a glimmer of hope, pinprick
dispelling the dark, each one
a likely key to unlock the deepest,
most guarded answer.


Diana Woodcock
Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and two collections of poetry, most recently Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale. Her third collection, Tread Softly, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. She teaches creative writing, environmental literature and composition in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus.


@Yenching Library

7:00 Meeting and Election (members only)

7:30 Reading (open to the public)

Paula Bonnell, honorable mention, Rosalie Boyle/Norma Farber Award

Rhina Espaillat, Der Hovanessian Prize

Len Krisak, honorable mention, Der Hovanessian Prize

Alfred Nicol, co-winner, Rosalie Boyle/Norma Farber Award

Jean L. Kreiling, co-winner, Rosalie Boyle/Norma Farber Award

Suellen Wedmore, winner of the Erika Mumford Prize

Followed by OPEN MIC

NEPC Member News, week of 10/16/17

1. Alfred Nicol will be reading at the following upcoming events:
  • Thursday, October 19, 2017, 7 PM. The Custom House, 25 Water Street, Newburyport. A Melopoeia with Rhina Espaillat, Alfred Nicol, and John Tavano.
  • Friday, April 6, 2018. Boston National Poetry Month Festival, The Boston Public Library: A Melopoeia with Rhina Espaillat, Alfred Nicol, and John Tavano.

    2. Ellin Sarot will be one of the contributors reading from the new anthology, “Black Lives Have Always Mattered,” on Tuesday, October 24th @ 7pm at Porter Square Books. 

    3. Anna M. Warrock has a new chapbook, “From the Other Room,” out from Slate Roof Press. Her book is available for purchase at Porter Square Books (also see order card below for mail ordering).From Nina MacLaughlin’s literary column in The Boston Globe:
 “From the Other Room wades into the waters of grief … Though suffused with sorrow, Warrock’s lines aren’t leaden. They move with the simplicity of haiku. At the center, the poems suggests how it is possible to become at home with loss.”

    4. Atar Hadari has a new book, “Lives of the Dead,” out from Arc Publications.

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1908376643Atar Hadari was born in Israel, raised in England, trained as an actor and writer at the University of East Anglia before winning a scholarship to study poetry and playwrighting with Derek Walcott at Boston University. His plays have won awards from the BBC, Arts Council of England, National Foundation of Jewish Culture (New York), European Association of Jewish Culture (Brussels) and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was Young Writer in Residence. Plays have been staged at the Finborough Theatre, Wimbledon Studio Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum (where he was a Mentor Playwright), Nat Horne Studio Theatre (New York) and Valdez, Alaska. His “Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik” (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award and his poems have won the Daniel Varoujan award from New England Poetry Club, the Petra Kenney award, a Paumanok poetry award and many other prizes.  His nineteen-page translation of Hanoch Levin’s “Lives of the Dead” filled a third of Poetry magazine in 2009.

    5. Jonas Zdanys has published four new books in 2017:

  • Preliudai po lietaus / Preludes After Rain. (Macau, China and Markwell, Australia: Flying Island Books, ASM, and Cerberus Press 2017. Pocket Poets Series).
Selected poems in English and Lithuanian. I write and publish poetry in two languages and this book illustrates that bilingual work. Some of the poems in this volume were originally written in English and some were originally written in Lithuanian, with versions of those poems in both languages appearing on facing pages.  
  • St. Brigid’s Well. (Chicago: Purple Flag Press 2017). 
A lyrical-narrative poem, in sections. The poem’s focus on the Dingle Peninsula, past and present, the vistas along the Ring of Kerry, and the literal as well as metaphorical pilgrimage eastward to St. Brigid’s Well in Kildare is linked to the figure of Brigid, who serves as a touchstone in that exploration both as Christian saint and as pagan goddess.
  • Two Voices/Du Balsai.  Jonas Zdanys and Kornelijus Platelis.  Poems and translations.  (Chicago: Purple Flag Press 2017).
Two Voices/Du Balsai is a literary celebration of a thirty year friendship between poets and translators Jonas Zdanys and Kornelijus Platelis. In this bilingual volume, published in English and Lithuanian, Zdanys and Platelis engage with one another as poets and as translators. Each presents himself as well as the other, through original poems and through their respective translations on the facing pages in the other language. The poems include the most recent published texts by each poet as well as some yet unpublished work, and the respective translations are new and made especially for these pages.
  • Three White Horses.  Poems by Jonas Zdanys, Paintings by Sou Vai Keng.  (Beaumont: Lamar University Literary Press 2017).
Three White Horses is a collection of 70 poems that constitute a lyrical-narrative sequence. In many ways, this book is a natural outgrowth of my last two books: in it, I combine the impulse toward the epiphanic moments of Red Stones and the explorations of internal and external geographies of St. Brigid’s Well. The poems tell a story while relying on the various techniques and commitments of lyric poetry. The Chinese painter Sou Vai Keng has made 26 inkbrush paintings for the book. Her paintings do not illustrate the poems but instead are parallel explorations of some of the ideas considered in the poems. Vai Keng uses brushstrokes and lines of ink to capture the impulses and implications of the kinds of lyrical moments and insights the texts present.

The Role of Poetry in Contemporary America: Dean Rader and Steph Burt in Conversation

Please join us on October 18th for an event hosted by the New England Poetry Club and the Grolier Poetry Book Shop!

The Role of Poetry in Contemporary America: Dean Rader and Steph Burt in Conversation, moderated by Ifeanyi Menkiti

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
7:00 pm, free & open to the public

Cambridge Public Library
Community Room (basement)
449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA

Dean Rader is a professor of English at the University of San Francisco. His newest collection, Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, was published in January 2017 by Copper Canyon Press. Works & Days, his debut collection, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize and the Writer’s League of Texas Book Award. Landscape Portrait Figure Form (Omnidawn, 2014) was named one of the best books of poetry of the year by the Barnes & Noble review. He writes frequently about literature, culture, and politics for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post.

Stephen Burt (who also goes by Steph and Stephanie) is Professor of English at Harvard and the author of several previous books of poetry and literary criticism, among them Belmont and Close Calls with Nonsense, both from Graywolf Press, as well as The Poem Is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Harvard University Press). Her new collection, Advice from the Lights (Graywolf Press), goes on sale October 3.

Oct. 3, 2017: AWARD WINNERS’ READING, Part One 7:00 Yenching Library

Oct. 3, 2017: AWARD WINNERS’ READING, Part One

7:00 Yenching Library (open to the public



Anna Rabinowitz, Sheila Margaret Motton Book Award

Lynn Pedersen, honorable mention, Sheila Margaret Motton Book Award

Krysten Hill, Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize

Vivian Shipley, honorable mention, Barbara Bradley Award

D.G. Geis, Firman Houghton Award

Hilde Weisert, Gretchen Warren Award


Unlocking the Word, an Anthology of Found Poetry edited by Jonas Zdanys

Lamar University Literary Press is pleased to announce Unlocking the Word, the first major anthology of found poetry, and invites all poets who are currently exploring the form or who may be interested in doing so to submit their work for consideration.

“Found poetry” is a literary form that uses words not meant to be a poem (as they originally appeared) and turning those words into a poem. A found poem works because the poet who discovers it is able to find poetry in ordinary language and discover or understand the aesthetic possibilities of all words no matter where they originally appear. Found poetry therefore involves an appreciative sense of the innate aesthetic possibilities of all language. The goal is to use poetic sensibilities to find the right text and to ensure its thematic and narrative integrity even while restructuring its form through spacing and line breaks. The original words therefore should not be changed, and the original text should not be edited or revised.

Sources can be any published text, including textbooks, newspaper and magazine articles, letters, emails, advertisements, speeches, and other “non-creative” publications. The anthology will not include found poems discovered in any literary text (poetry, fiction, or drama).

Unlocking the Word will focus on the joy of the discovery of the transformative aesthetic elements in everyday language and the poetry that resides all around us. Jonas Zdanys is an award-winning bilingual poet and literary translator.

How to Submit:

  • Submissions should be emailed, as a Word document attachment only, to Jonas Zdanys: 26marketstreet@comcast.net
  • Submit up to 5 found poems, on or before December 1, 2017. Include your name and email address on each poem. Previously published poems should be acknowledged.
  • For each found poem, indicate the exact source of the original text.
  • Include a short biography and a listing of books published, if any.
    Poets will be notified in early 2018 if their works have been selected for inclusion in Unlocking the Word.

Other anthologies from Lamar University Literary Press include:

  • The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology, Jerry Bradley and Ulf Kirchdorfer, editors
  • Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems, Jonas Zdanys, editor
  • A Shared Voice, Tom Mack and Andrew Geyer, editors
  • The Beatest State in The Union, Chris Carmona, Rob Johnson, and Chuck Taylor, editors
  • Texas Weather: An Anthology of Poetry, Short Fiction, and Nonfiction, Terry Dalrymple and Laurence
  • Musgrove, editors


HOWL, the series debut of Emmanuel Music’s Late Night at Emmanuel in Back Bay at Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury Street) on September 23 at 8 pm (and again at 10 pm).

We’d like to extend a 20% discount for NEPC MEMBERS! By simply entering code: SAVE20 while ordering tickets for either set at www.EmmanuelMusic.org, members will receive the discount.

Emmanuel Music’s Late Night at Emmanuel is a series of programs fully curated by members of its acclaimed ensemble and is complemented by fun nibbles, drinks and composer and artist talkbacks.

What is HOWL?

The evening will feature “HOWL,” a speaker and string quartet that sets the poetry of Allen Ginsberg to music by Lee Hyla, performed by baritone David Kravitz and the Arneis Quartet. In addition, there are twosettings of Ginsberg’s poem A Supermarket in California,” from Andy Vores and Elena Ruehr, both written for Kravitz and the Arneis Quartet. This poem describes an imaginary encounter between the poet and Walt Whitmen, whom Ginsberg greatly admired, as Whitman wanders around a supermarket, then out into the night, and finally to the Greek underworld.

The evening will also feature the world premiere of “Schwartzsongs” from Pulitzer-prize winning composer John Harbison. The threeSchwartzsongs were written between 2015 and 2017 and are the composer’s effort to reproduce the reciting and reading voice of renowned poet, educator and WBUR contributor, Lloyd Schwartz, who will narrate the program. Harbison’s composition “The Right to Pleasure,” for mezzo-soprano and string quintet, will receive its Boston premiere of the orchestrated version. It will be performed by mezzo-soprano Lynn Torgrove, the Arneis Quartet, and double bassist Randall Zigler.

Suffolk University Poetry Center: Autumn Reading Series 2017

Please join us for a poetry reading featuring Susan Donnelly, Wendy Drexler, and Holly Guran reading new and recent work!
Wednesday, October 4, 7 p.m.
Suffolk University Poetry Center/73 Tremont Street/Mildred F. Sawyer Library, 3rd floor
The Mildred F. Sawyer Library is located near the Park Street T stop and the Boston Common Parking Garage (library entrance around corner on Tremont Place).
The reading is free and open to the public.
Susan Donnelly’s newest publication is The Path of Thunder, a chapbook of poems about race in America (Červená Barva Press). The author of Morse Prize winner Eve Names the Animals, she has published two books with Iris Press, Transit and Capture the Flag, and four other chapbooks. Susan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Ireland Review and many other journals, as well as in anthologies, textbooks, and on websites. She teaches poetry in classes and individual consultations from her home in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Wendy Drexler’s third poetry collection, Before There Was Before, was published by Iris Press in March 2017. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Ibbetson Street, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, Solstice, The Mid-American Review, The Hudson Review, The Worcester Review, and the Valparaiso Poetry Review, among others. A three-time Pushcart-Prize nominee, she’s currently in training to be certified as a poet-in-residence in the Boston public schools.
Holly Guran, author of River of Bones and the chapbooks River Tracks and Mothers’ Trails, earned a Massachusetts Cultural Council award, and is a member of Jamaica Pond Poets. Her work has appeared in journals including Poet Lore, Poetry East, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Borderlands, Worcester Review, and Salamander. Holly resides in Boston with her husband, Phil, and their dog, Ginger.