For this reader she is most effective in her longer, rapturously beautiful poem 'Letter to Nazeli', an exchange of thoughts and feelings between one who stayed in the homeland and one whose presence is here.
Although certain facets of Pilibosian's work differ from Marianne Moore's in terms of aesthetic sensibility, the collection and much of Pilibosian's work is very much concerned with helping us endure the complexities that inevitably come with exploration of identity and history, place and time. Marianne Moore is a good starting place for entering Pilibosian's work. Their writings share the same natural kind of prosaic structure, attention to sibilance and syntax, and transformative quality. The first time I read her work, Pilibosian was, for me, Marianne Moore with a genocidal past. While the inventive feminist of early 20th-century modernism mined catalogs of exotic animals with scholarly precision, Pilibosian is interested in how digging the mountain of the past can help shape the present. Pilibosian belongs to that unique category of "in between" Armenians, a generation that, as a result of being children of Diaspora parents, is neither entirely American nor entirely Armenian. On the one hand we have survivor stories. On the other we have the grandchildren of genocide survivors, who often are too young and too far away from the trauma to feel its effects. Pilibosian falls in the middle of these two fields, and the tensions that accompany this specific territory become the material for her poetry. Pilibosian, now at a different point in her life, places herself as a successor of modernist ideals and attentiveness to image. --Forgotten Bread: First Generation Armenian American Writers
Beyond her sharp focus on identity and language, Armenia, before and after independence, is a novel and recurrent theme as well as a physical presence in this collection of poems. The series of Nazeli verses speak of that relationship which began with the earthquake of 1988. "Earthquake Monument" is an unusual poems in the form of a monument, in which she makes an uncommon turn to prose that physically resembles the base or pedestal of the monument, a base that spiritually rises above the initial shock and personal involvement in the relief work of the survivors, to launch a future of renewal and repair. Then comes independence: "Statues of idealogues were crushed/and mixed with soil of United Nations/the homeland knot a newer fruit". But the new developments puzzle her. Do they have the tools to play the game they are playing? She contemplates a physical contact with Armenia free of the shackles of Stalin, Khrushchev's "reform," and "Gorbachev's new wording/melting the iron with new demands"â€¦ Helene Pilibosian's poetry falls under the category known today as ethnic American literature. The field is new and since it is not possible or plausible yet to define an ethnic literary canon, it is not with any canonicity that her poetry should be judged. Its classification within that field, however, can be based on the predominance of ethnic identity, a significant element in ethnic writing, as hyphenated American in general and Armenian-American in particular, historically grounded in Western Armenia and regionally inflected in the birth village of her parents. Remarkably, multiculturalism is a new phenomenon in America, less than 40 years old compared to almost 2 centuries of white male American literature. Pilibosian, a first generation Armenian-American, has secured her unique place in the new realmâ€¦ With her poems, Pilibosian builds a monument of memory, a symbol of remembrance of the Armenian past, yet, as a product of the culture, the education and civilization, and the lifestyle of America, she adroitly sails in the most sophisticated bumps and turns of the language and poetic art. Rubina Peroomian, UCLA --Journal of the Society of Armenian Studies
Pilibosian's artful verse is technically sound and her detailed factual information included throughout the book of poems leaves it evident that the research was conducted by someone with journalistic skills. There is a lot of knowledge, myth, legend, art and culture, history, and many praiseworthy attributes, including some decent word play, but what is lacking is passion. Some of the poems read like textbooks. Though it is interesting reading, I'd say the biggest weakness of History's Twists: The Armenians is its lack of form. While I am not one to say that form is a necessity, in the case of the poems in this book I can't help but think that many of them would be improved if placed within the confines of traditional metrical patterns. Instead, Pilibosian delivers every single poem in Postmodern free verse as if that is what is expected. The subject matter, on the other hand, seems to demand something else. That's not to say the poems aren't good. Far from it. Technically, some of them are very good. So good, in fact, that they've been published in the leading journals. And Pilibosian illustrates a mastery of craft that would make proud the instructors at today's leading poetry workshops. That, I'd say, is their downfall. In the poems in this book, Pilibosian touches on the Armenian alphabet, art, American Armenians lending assistance to those back home, famous Armenians, history, and other topics for the culturally minded. In this, she has created a unique product and one worth at least one reading. Allen Taylor --Poetry Book Review (online)
This book, which won an honorable mention from Writers Digest, contains many poems about Armenian life in the homeland, in Lebanon or in America. These are based upon experiences and some research. The poem "I Chose the Poetic" describes the new independence of Armenia from the Soviet Union in 1991 and was chosen finalist in a New Letters competition. A number of poems at the end of the book are about Armenian artists and their works with also poems about Georgia O'Keefe and Monet. I very much enjoyed writing it and felt that the poems emanated from deep within my mentality. The book is also available in Kindle.
Instead of History's Twists: The Armenians, try these alternate titles for excitement:
Locale Is Not Everything
The Bicultural Bent
Metaphors for My Ethnicity
My Double Voice
I Am Diaspora
Metaphors from An Armenian-American
Discoveries Speak History in Poems