In Candor Candy: Global Poems, Helene Pilibosian presents her love for art, music, nature, and travel in poems with an international flavor. Her travels take her readers all over the world, and then across America, stopping at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to admire a khatchkar, an Armenian cross-stone. Her Armenian roots are also evident in poems like “For That Iris”:
I grew up with the minor key,
sharagans in church
the essence of Armenian history
condensed into a few notes,
But she acknowledges being a child of the West in “Midnight Performs”:
I will say
that I am from the East,
my features proof of this.
But often I speak more like
a person of the West
an independent gal
who cultivates her niche.
She eventually returns to her native Boston, only to observe the chaos of the Boston Marathon bombing in “Clam Chowder Manners”:
But I forgot clam chowder manners
on Boylston street that day
when the marathon exploded.
My memory has dulled
around the edges of the names.
This collection of 59 poems by Helene Pilibosian has been published posthumously by Ohan Press, along with Planet Tome Reborn, bringing her total number of books of poetry to six.
In Planet Tome Reborn, Helene Pilibosian continues her sci-fi poetry tale from her previous book, A New Orchid Myth, in which the Everydream family, Amethyst, Granite, and daughter Taralee, come to Earth from the planet Tome to start a new life in New York City. In this sequel, the Everydreams are in Boston, a grown Taralee meets Ted, whom she later marries, and Granite advises people on Tome to prepare to start a business that grinds sunflower seeds into a powder for bread in anticipation of human immigration. The story is told in a highly metaphorical, surreal way, with an obvious love of art often expressed through clever rhymes, as in “After The Dinner Table”:
as I perceive red walls.
Black-slack for the servant’s blouse.
The chimes of color evolve
in Matisse’s Fauve.
Flat perspectives drive
my mind’s pith and rind.
Planet Tome Reborn, along with Candor Candy: Global Poems, have been published posthumously by Ohan Press, bringing her total number of books of poetry to six.
Ohan Press is grateful to Walter J. Karabian, attorney in Los Angeles,
for the $500 grant on behalf of the George Ignatius Foundation.
Helene Pilibosian's book of poems A New Orchid Myth, is a fantasy-reality tale that breaks with her usual ethnic subject matter. This series of poems explores the possibility of a different kind of civilization on another planet from which Mr. and Mrs. Everydream descend to Earth. They have much to do to get used to ways of life in New York City , where they have settled. However, extensive travel within the states gives them and the reader a broader landscape.
Sunflowers and orchids play an important part in this narrative. The sunflower seeds provide great nourishment here and in their home planet. Orchids also exist there but are wilted and becoming sterile as are the people. What is needed there is optimism, and the red on orchids seems to symbolize it.
The worry is that people from the home planet will kidnap their daughter Taralee to try to revitalize their own system. Eventually the Everydreams develop a plan to send orchids to the planet, thus saving it and themselves. Then forgiveness rules.
Poems describe the best attributes of many of the states, which they visit; these make the book truly American for subject and international for love of poetry. For comic relief, the characters Plastic and Polyester appear occasionally and either comment or run around New York City. Manhattan and California win for description of American places. And there are a few Armenian characters in the background – Mr. and Mrs. Garmirian and Maral Laramian among them.
The happy ending of optimism given and restored boosts the morale of the people in the book and the people who read the book. It may sound like Hollywood, but really it is not. The work has the most appeal to parents, grandparents, adolescents, art lovers and residents of the many states described. It indirectly sends the messages of coexistence and understanding.
Pilibosian begins the story with a highly detailed account of the lives of her Armenian immigrant parents and her life in Watertown, Massachusetts. This includes an ethnography of the village in historic Armenia her parents came from after the Armenian Genocide. She continues with her study of humanities in Harvard's Division of Continuing Education, including the study of literature with Howard Mumford Jones and Paul Engle. Accounts of life in Cambridge as well as Watertown in the 1950s offer an unusual glimpse of the past. Her work as the first woman editor of The Armenian Mirror-Spectator gives her the writing practice and knowledge she needs.
After depression, treatment and cardiac arrest, she marries Hagop Sarkissian and travels through Europe to the Middle East. Later she reads the theories of Carl Gustave Jung, who turned Freud's theories positive with the addition of a few of his own, and becomes a follower. In a complicated way, the memory of her surgery and these theories lead her to a mystical experience, which in turn fires her literary inspiration. The Bibliography and Index alone are worthy of attention.
Helene Pilibosian on YouTube describing My Literary Profile: A Memoir.
Ohan Press acknowledges with gratitude the donation of $500 by The George Ignatius Foundation of Los Angeles, its trustees George Phillips, Esq., Michael Amerian, Esq. and Hon. Walter Karabian, Esq., and $100 from the Stephen Philibosian Foundation.
The author provides a remarkable historical journey through subject matter that can be important in many fields such as education, social studies, medicine and nutrition with many intriguing events out of her experience with excellent writing. I can recommend this read to anyone.
—BURTON RABINOWITZ, M.D., cardiologist, Mount Auburn Hospital
A moving story, superbly told, of personal growth, self awareness and fulfillment on many levels, tracing the author's fragile formative years in the postwar Armenian community of Watertown, Massachusetts, bravery and resilience in the face of numerous personal and cultural obstacles and immersion in the richness of Harvard's humanities. It tells of metamorphosis and self discovery together with an insightful analysis of the craft of writing, and the transformative and healing aspects of poetry.
—HARRY N. MAZADOORIAN, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Center for
Dispute Resolution, Quinnipiac University Law School
Helene Pilibosian's third book of poetry has just been released. Her first book, Carvings from an Heirloom, was published in 1983 her second, At Quarter Past Reality, in 1998, winning an award from Writers Digest.
In its 96 pages Pilibosian deals with highlights of Armenian history beginning with a comment on the red hair of the pagan god Vahakn and a few other comments on ancient history as well as a poem called "Grandparent Herbs" referring to the genocide of 1915. There are a number of poems about Armenian life in Beirut and the Middle East and one entitled "I Chose the Poetic," which achieved finalist status in the literary competition of NEW LETTERS. The poem details Armenian independence of 1991.
There are a number of poems written to or about the fictitious character
Nazeli of Armenia, with whom the author has an ongoing correspondence. These poems are filled in with personal exchanges and researched information about Armenia including its birds, its diamond industry and its forests as well as its political past. They are lengthy narrative poems, telling a story that can be read as if they were prose short stories.
Poems about thoughts on the Armenian alphabet, Armenian art, Armenians in America helping those in the homeland, Armenian women and artists such as Arshile Gorky, Mardiros Saryan and Mihran Manougian follow.
The name of the painting on the cover of the book is Sails of Nostalgia by Mihran Manougian, formerly of Armenia, and it was bought a few years ago at an exhibition of works by the artist hosted by the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston. The active and vibrant dance company's website is www.sayatnova.com. However, whereabouts of the artist could not be traced at this time.
A number of the poems have been published in Ararat, Literary Groong, Borderlands, Icon, Kansas Quarterly and other online or print magazines. One of the poems is pending in Art Times.
Helene Pilibosian on YouTube reading from History's Twists: The Armenians.
Excerpt from History's Twists: The Armenians
I CHOSE THE POETIC
Points of tact
straightened my words
into the twists of poems
after journalism had been my podium.
But there were facts. New ones.
Presidents came and went
like condiments of countries,
Armenians among them,
new for me and Washington D.C.
Translators protected mention
by mentioning the words again.
Flashbulbs chased the oblivion
of officials away like shadows.
Stamps made of decision
New laws were scrolled
to be gradually unrolled.
The old rules had crumbled
on thin and outdated paper.
Statues of idealogues were crushed
and mixed with soil of United Nations,
the homeland knot a newer fruit.
Armenians here, Armenians there,
spread thinly like jam
on the bread of many lands.
The new democracy was taking root
like a wild daisy in a field
recalling the heaven dimension
to be popular as a jazz tune.
THE COLLECTED ARTICLES OF H. H. SARKISSIAN, PRINTED IN THE ARMENIAN PRESS 1935-1961,(in Armenian),
2000, 522 pages, hardcover, ISBN 1-929966-05-9, $10.
Hovhannes H. Sarkissian, author of From Kessab to Watertown, was born in Kessab, Syria in 1890. In pursuit of higher education, he graduated from the School of Religion in Athens, then became an educator and also wrote articles for the Armenian press. They are compiled in this volume in Armenian. The Armenian title of this book is translated as "A Teacher's Mind." It was printed at Harvard University Publisher's Office.
His subjects include history of Crusaders, Arabic history, the Armenian Protestant community, outline of Islam, modern civilization, impediments to human progress, articles about prominent personalities such as Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon, Elizabeth I, Albert Einstein, prominent Armenians, introduction to Kessab, Greek culture, Jewish culture, Egypt, Cypress, Armenian intellectuals, need for a census in Armenian diaspora, need for a comprehensive study of the Armenian Genocide, women in history, "Have Armenians suffered for being Christian", and so on.
He died in Beirut in 1961. Members of his family emigrated to America.
"Exceptional printing... helpful book worthy of the author's intellect." -- Nor Or Weekly
Helene Pilibosian was educated in Watertown public schools and at Harvard University Extension, graduating in 1960.
She began writing poetry during her college years. After Nelson Antrim Crawford, editor of Author & Journalist,
accepted the poem "Sunless Sky" and stated that another of her poems reminded him of expressionist painting, she
was hooked on the literary form. She was an editor of The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, a weekly newspaper, also
writing poetry and recently studied briefly at Harvard University with the poet Gail Mazur, who appreciated her
"magical details" and her "always bringing the past into the present."
Helene now writes in the "comfort of my home when the exigencies of life have dwindled and left me time and
inspiration." She published her first book of poems, Carvings from an Heirloom, in 1983 and They Called Me
Mustafa: Memoir of an Immigrant, a book of prose she and her father wrote, in 1992. She edited and published
From Kessab to Watertown: A Modern Saga, a compilation by Hagop Sarkissian, in 1997. Her poems, some prizewinners,
have appeared in many American and Armenian-American publications.
Described as a confessional with a difference, this collection contains narrative poems about her childhood
in Watertown and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and five generations
of family, Armenian-American or general experiences and concludes with a poem based
on her life-saving surgery performed by the late Dwight E. Harken, M.D., one of the
pioneers of American medicine. Local sites described are downtown Boston, Huron Avenue,
Brattle Street, Mt. Auburn Cemetery and Mt. Auburn Hospital, all in Cambridge, MA, the
Charles River, and the East Side of Watertown.
Many of the poems in this book have been previously published and are acknowledged,
three of them prizewinners. The title is taken from the poem "House of Toys,"
which was finalist in a poetry competition.
The poems contain many facts about Watertown, Boston and Cambridge that can be said to be
part of the oral history of the region. Many of the poems are more general but contain that
element as in the poems "Earrings with Screws" and "Made in America."
Also in Part III there are descriptions and emotions in the poems that are inspired by
the Armenian parents in America, a kind of individuality and a bit of the history of that
generation of the early Armenians in Watertown. The poems about children, of which
there are many, represent the Armenian-American mother's interest in her offspring.
And the last poem was intended as nothing more or less than to recognize the work of a legendary surgeon.
Helene Pilibosian on YouTube reading from At Quarter Past Reality.
Excerpts from At Quarter Past Reality:
ROOTS AND LEAVES
The poet carried the story
in poetic phrases crawling
as if they were babies
on their knees to their
pilgrimage, knees padded
to minimize scratches and iodine.
(I saw the safety
of the indirect word.)
The poet clung to the earth
with her two hands
each becoming a root
for the final images
of leaves, stem, flower.
She became the plant-image
and reader in one,
two bodies with soft accents.
I picked a leaf
and traced its veins.
ASKING FOR A PROVERB
I am uncastled.
I am naive
as a proverb
and my knees
are ditty with the
mundane of streets
and small houses.
stares at my condition.
I have been thrown
out of infinity.
When I smile
I could be taken
for a lyric
of an oblique sort.
I ask for communication
for the lights
that grow like small
trees upon the streets.
They are lit with night
and with the clinging
I ask for a proverb
on the droplets
of the moon
and find myself
leaning upon time
as if it were
such a light-tree.
But my knees
are suddenly clean
and without water.
Clipping spearmint and grape leaves
of a conscious green,
soil dripping from my fingers
the pith of the ritual
of Armenian women
preserving the leaves
like old customs,
the frail stems
cast like the pattern
of puns in a letter,
washing my hands of green
and my mind of pollen,
for my conscience
sneezing at the trees
that try to sleep,
washing my eyes of summer
and wiping them
with a towel
but not apology,
pouring tea made
from such dried conversations.
A darkness separates
a tiger from its stripes.
A forest of buildings,
of countries, separates
me from Yerevan.
Its envies mellow
my night, as dark
swallows me here
while I hide from light.
I tell the city
as if it were a pet.
I pat its head,
muzzle its snarl.
I muffle police sirens
here for its benefit.
I rail at threatening
sticks. I try not
to be so shy.
Yet Yerevan calls.
We both have ambition
as the tiger has instinct.
It doesn't call
by phone, nor by letter.
It simply is,
a word that defines me
again and again.
And I exist, simply,
Armenian . . .
A newer poem from North American Review (2000):
took Taralee to the drawing board
pretending to be desk.
She abstracted shapes
from theorems of geometry,
held the compass point firm
and turned it like a pirouette,
its trance of triangle
touching at a sharp point
then bouncing toward a rectangle
leaning upon the balance
of a diagonal. Add thirst of line.
Then coloring in was less a fuss,
the third dimension,
the light effects of life,
the ginger stain,
the strawberry rain,
the privilege of trees,
transgressions of berries,
blood of dandelion stems,
legendary encyclopedia of plants,
red ants transporting crumbs,
Armenian blue beads or gabouyd hloun
for luck of color or lack of chance,
circumstances allowing for birds
with prancing feathers--
parrots, peacocks, love birds--
the soft eyes of deer,
mathematical monkeys jumping at trees,
fish exchanging gills like a hobby,
exotic flowers bowing to girls,
magnanimous tomatoes juiced,
oranges diced with skin,
even the slithering of snakes
through the yellowed grass,
the romance of cherry blossoms in spring,
a fling of ripened cherries
along with apples, pears, apricots
and the science of brochures
adding or subtracting every feature.
She framed the drawing with self-expression
and hung it in her room.
For other recent poems see Literary Groong online, Branches Quarterly online October 2002 issue, and Armenian Poetry Network on iTunes.
They Called Me Mustafa: Memoir of an Immigrant by Khachadoor (Archie) Pilibosian,
edited and coathored with additional information by Helene Pilibosian, is the dramatic
story of Khachadoor, who
as a boy is caught in the Armenian Genocide of 1915, kidnapped by a Kurd and managing to
escape after years
of slavery to emigrate to America. Details describe his birthplace in the province of
Kharpert in Turkish Armenia
and also early Armenian immigrant life in Watertown, Massachusetts, including the first
Star Market store in
Watertown Square, where he worked for a while, and his own store, Huron Spa in Cambridge.
about the artist Arshile Gorky in Watertown and his friendship with Yenovk Der Hagopian,
singer of Armenian
troubadour songs, are recorded. Nostalgic pictures are included. Added for a second edition,
Part II includes
English translations of his poems and stories, many previously published in Armenian
for their authenticity of fact and emotion. They were translated into English by
Hagop Sarkissian and Helene
Pilibosian, who also wrote extensive notes on Part II, analyzing the need to write so
much about genocide.
Also includes comments by Edmond Y. Azadian, writer. 187 pages, paper.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE REPRESENTATIVE Warren Tolman read the Author's Preface at the April 24,
1992 (first edition), Commemoration at the State House in Boston. He added, "It is a very, very powerful
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY FORMER SENIOR LECTURER Charles T. Ajamian wrote in
The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, "It is a compelling story. It affords new and
corroborating insights into the
Cited in Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature
Based in part on interviews with parents
about the town of Ichmeh
in the province of Kharpert
in historic Armenia
which is now Turkey.
There are 64 pages of poems in this book on Armenian and Armenian-American subjects.
The author is a noted poet, writer and editor.
A poem from the collection: "With the Bait of Bread":
Child, you were and
you learned to be.
For a while, Armenian was
a wish you could not fathom.
It is still a sea
and we fish in it for food
with the bait of forgotten bread.
The moon will be less specific
with the sun and the tides
if you wish it, Child.
You are yeast scattered upon
the ground and the rising dough
will grow into tomorrow.
You are the yeast of
your friends in one language
If not already, Armenian will
ring in one of your ears someday.