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Bloody News from My Friend: Poems by Siamanto Paperback – November 1, 1996
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Original Language: Armenian
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Balakian's efforts to situate Siamanto as an avant-garde artist is done judiciously. We are asked to see Siamanto's slim but important work as something which must have caused something of a scandle. His poetry was as novel and experimental as any Armenia had seen up until the Adana massacres of 1909; the subject matter and its delivery, moreover, was demanding and unforgiving, certainly a far cry from the romantic lyricism that had established itself in the Armenian cultural circles of the day (carbon copies of European Romanticism: Hugo, Shelley, Byron).
In "Bloody News From My Friend," readers are prompted to consider the imagination as a palimpsest upon which a violent history has left its imprint. The twelve poems here are sketches of individual voices lost in the wilderness.Read more ›
Even in translation, Siamanto's lines slam into the reader with the force of a MACK truck. He writes of man's inhumanity to man, of sadistic rage and extermination by fire, torture and the sword which has been, and continues to be the darkest side of mankind. His language is blunt, harsh, poetic, the reader unshielded from the horror of this prelude to the 1915 Armenian genocide to come.
In "The Dance" the poetic voice says "Don't be afraid. I must tell you what I saw,/so people will understand/the crimes men do to men./.../An animal of a man shouted, 'You must dance,/dance when our drum beats.'/With fury whips cracked/on the flesh of these women./.../Then someone brought a jug of kerosene./Human justice, I spit in your face..." Such lines could have been written about the genocides in Bosnia, Uganda - anywhere and in any time - and could reflect the anger of any eye-witness - or poet - to the indifference of the civilized world.
Peter Balakian, a poet in his own right, took the literal translations from Armenian and turned them into contemporary lines which, I am convinced, contain the truth, horror and beauty of the original poetry. Some things can be said in no other way than in poetry, and Siamanto's poems are among those. I cry every time I read these poems. You will too, if I'm not mistaken.