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Helene Pilibosian (1933-2015) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. After graduating from Watertown High School, she attended Harvard University and graduated with a degree in humanities in 1960, then marrying Hagop Sarkissian. She was the first woman editor of the newspaper The Armenian Mirror-Spectator.
The 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was commemorated in 1965. The anniversary released a flood of articles on the subject to be published in the newspaper. On April 24, the day of commemoration, she put out a special issue about the Armenian Genocide and sent it to members of Congress, President Johnson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Her editorial called "Out of Smoldering Ashes" was subsequently published in the Congressional Record. She also wrote about Lord Byron’s study of the Armenian language at the Mekhitarist Monastery in Venice, about the history of Watertown, about the Armenian collection at the Watertown Public Library and about the federal grants for a bilingual program in the public schools. She reviewed many books by Armenian-Americans, finding her true calling in this sort of writing.
She traveled in Europe and Lebanon twice, then founded her Ohan Press 1983 with the publication of Carvings from an Heirloom: Oral History Poems. She then published At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems (first prize from Writer's Digest) and History’s Twists: The Armenians (honorable mention). Her poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies as well as won prizes. Her early poetry has been cited in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature.
They Called Me Mustafa: Memoir of an Immigrant, which she co-wrote with her father and published, was honored at a Massachusetts State House commemoration and was licensed by Alexander Street Press for an electronic database. She published My Literary Profile: A Memoir in 2010, which won an honorable mention from the New England Book Festival 2012, and A New Orchid Myth in 2014.
Two books of Helene's poems were published posthumously in 2016: Planet Tome Reborn (sequel to A New Orchid Myth), and Candor Candy: Global Poems.
STATEMENT OF INTENT
My niche audience is Armenian Americans and anyone who is interested in reading about them.
They can learn why Armenians came to America, discover the character of Armenians and also the character of Watertown, understand how the literary path develops, share some Harvard moments, learn to write literature, experience poetic inspiration, analyze writing and appreciate the journalism.
My second niche audience is poets and those interested in reading poetry or reading about poets in general or sci-fi mode.
In 2014, Helene Pilibosian gave a speech at Harvard Extension School's Innovation Symposium called Ohan Press and Self-Publishing:
OHAN PRESS RECEIVES
DONATIONS FOR POEMS
Ohan Press has received with gratitude two donations for the distribution of Helene Pilibosian’s third book of poetry called History’s Twists; The Armenians. The George Ignatius Foundation of Los Angeles, its trustees George Phillips, Esq., Michael Amerian, Esq. and Hon. Walter Karabian, Esq., has awarded it $500, and the Tekeyan Cultural Association has awarded it $300.
PILIBOSIAN POEMS IN HEYDAY ANTHOLOGY
Helene Pilibosian's poems were included in the anthology entitled Forgotten Bread: First Generation Armenian American Writers, edited by the well-known Armenian American poet David Kherdian and published by Heyday Books in autumn of 2007. She was represented in the volume by 16 poems culled from her first two books of poems. Its title Forgotten Bread is taken from a line in "With the Bait of Bread" from her first book, Carvings from an Heirloom: Oral History Poems, published in 1983 by Ohan Press.
Most of the poems were from At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems, her second published book, the first-prize winner of the Writer's Digest National Self-Published Book Awards of 1998. Three of its poems are prizewinners with another a finalist called "House of Toys," a line from which provided the title for the volume.
Charles Ghigna wrote of the book in Writer's Digest: "Pilibosian's poems are a study in human behavior with small scenes carefully delineated in well-crafted understatement. Each poem examines a particular moment, revealing the extraordinary in the ordinary."
Leonard Trawick of Cleveland State University Poetry Center found many of the poems memorable and wrote in the magazine Raft: "One of my favorite poems in the book is also one of the simplest. "A Plain Green" conveys a woman's delight in a dress that somehow brings out the best in her, suggesting mysterious depths beneath a cool exterior:
It was the
green dress that
made me look
thin as a mountain stream.
Her work has appeared in many literary anthologies and magazines such as North American Review, The Cape Rock, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review and The Hollins Critic. More recent poems have achieved finalist status in the NEW LETTERS competition and other contests.
Heyday Institute, which sponsors books, magazines and events, specializes in publications about the American West, the California legacy, Asian-American and Latino stories, the California Indian, poetry and books for children. Kherdian is originally a Westerner from Wisconsin and California, thus a choice for this publisher.
The young poet Alan Semerdjian, a New-York based singer-songwriter who is interested in his Armenian background, will provide analysis and commentary of Pilibosian's work. A total of 17 writers are represented in the anthology and 15 second-generation Armenian American writers will comment on their works.
SPECIAL ISSUE OF THE ARMENIAN MIRROR-SPECTATOR COMMEMORATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
Ohan Press has a copy of the April 24, 1965 issue of The Armenian Mirror-Spectator commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The issue was sent to members of Congress, to President Lyndon Johnson and to the United Nations by Helene (Pilibosian) Sarkissian, who was then editor. It was her brainstorm with postage paid by public donations. One of the articles in it is called "Mourning Is Not Enough" by the best-selling novelist and professor Leon Surmelian. Another article was about a reference to Armenians, a rebuttal to a Turkish accusation, by His Excellency S. Kyprianou of Cyprus. THE FIRST PAGE OF THIS ISSUE IS REPRODUCED HERE.
Two of the letters of thanks sent to the editor are also shown below, one from Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and the other from the secretary of Lyndon Johnson.