The first stage of the PoLitPEN project was marked in Yerevan from June 8 to 11 by the Burning Poet initiative, organized by the joint efforts of three sister PEN centers – PEN America, PEN Georgia, and PEN Armenia. The pinnacle of proceedings took place on June 9, when the Special Events Auditorium of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts hosted the gala evening of poetry.
A major role in the success of the evening was played by the American University of Armenia (AUA), which was actively involved in the organizational work.
Besides PEN Armenia members, the evening’s participants consisted of many guests, including our friends and partners Naira Sultanyan from UN Armenia headquarters, Taguhi Ghazaryan, Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Diaspora, Youth and Sport at the National Assembly, Mamikon Hovsepyan, President of Human Rights House Yerevan, Haykak Arshamyan, Executive Director of the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund, as well as other familiar faces and fans of poetry.
The evening began with a warm reception, which was followed by poetry readings on stage, in two sections.
The first section was dedicated to readings from contemporary Armenian poetry, in three languages – the original Armenian, followed by translations in Georgian and English. This section was hosted by Armen Ohanyan (Armenian), Asya Darbinyan (Georgian), and Polina Sadovskaya (English), who presented the poets that were delivering their pieces and those that were reading the translations.
Armenian poetry round took place in the mentioned order –
After a coffee break, the same approach was used for the second section of the evening – this time featuring Georgian poetry. This was hosted by PEN Georgia President, renowned poet Paata Shamugia (Georgian), Asya Darbinyan (Armenian), and Polina Sadovskaya (English).
The following people took to the stage in the mentioned order –
At the end of the evening, PEN Armenia members Anna Davtyan-Gevorgyan and Lusine Kharatyan had a pleasant surprise in store for the guests. They read Burning Poet participant Eka Kevanishvili’s My Beautiful Life in Georgian and Armenian. Due to other commitments, Eka Kevanishvili had not been present at the evening and had instead visited Armenia earlier, on May 14-15.
The closing notes of the gala evening came from a reading on stage by Armen Ohanyan, accompanied by Asya Darbinyan, of Rati Amaghlobeli’s poem So it is called – Cain’s harvest, i.e. the death of logic.
The evening resounded with pieces that had been translated especially for the Burning Poet initiative. It is worth noting that the first stage of PoLitPEN project included the translation of selected works by 12 poets and 4 fiction writers from Armenia and 8 poets and 4 fiction writers from Georgia.
The translator from Georgian to English was Inga Zhghenti.
The main translator from Georgian to Armenian and vice versa was Asya Darbinyan. The main co-translator from Armenian to Georgian was Diana Anphimiadi. Several writers and literary editors contributed pro bono to the editing of the completed translations.
The works and biographies of all the Georgian writers participating in the program were published in advance on the websites of PEN Armenia partners Granish and Groghutsav. Similarly, the works of the Armenian writers and their biographies are available in Georgian on the websites of PEN Georgia partners Newsaunje.ge, Demo.ge and Arilimag.ge.
It is worth mentioning that PEN Armenia is a translation-centric organization, and language policy is one of its four main focus areas (see Annual Meeting 2022).
In this sense, our best partner and collaborator is the American University of Armenia, particularly the whole faculty at the translation program there, headed by program director Shoushan Avagyan, who is also the president of the PEN Armenia Translation Committee. AUA and PEN are also closely tied together through other members such as Davit Isajanyan and Rafik Santrosyan. We were greatly supported in the organizational work related to the event by Elitza Kotzeva, who also took to the stage during the event, as well as by Mica Hilson.
We express our gratitude to all our partners for making a resounding success of this celebration, which was unprecedented in its format and scope.