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IALA x h-pem | I see you in the jacarandas

May 19, 2021 - September 23, 2021

Creative writing

By Sofia Demirdjian-Lara


IALA x h-pem | I see you in the jacarandas

The power and lift of this moving poem built off of a meditation on a Jacaranda Tree, as noted in its title, seem to come from the writer’s ability to risk sentimentality without being sentimental while simultaneously pushing abstraction without alienating the reader. We’re told the examination of the lost loved one in the poem, as brought on by the proximity of the tree, transports the speaker into “the closet of a dream” where “I am a bird / In another life / By your side.” Like William Carlos Williams’ lengthier “Asphodel” and H.D. 's more economical “Pear Tree,” the work is deftly sewn together both imagistically and musically and spins the initial conceit to welcome in a multitude of concerns. It has much to say about the nature of longing and loss, two notions that feel, acutely, Armenian and also indicative of the human condition. This is a terrifically-crafted achievement of the imagination.

Commentary provided by YAPA judging director Alan Semerdjian.

I look at the Jacaranda tree 
In front of my apartment 
I hear your whispers 
In the wind, 
I feel your goosebumps 
In the cracks of your skin, 
And within them 
I walk into the closet of a dream. 
I can feel you smiling at me 
Through the veins of the leaves 

I see myself pondering 
In the nest above your head 
Feeding my children. 
I am a bird 
In another life 
By your side. 
I am one with the wind 
Blowing kisses 
In your direction 
So that you can feel them 
On your cheeks 
So you can blush with the rosy pink 
That used to hide 
Within the dark forests 
Of your makeup drawer 

Isn’t it lovely, 
How I can see my life 
Now that you stand 
Right before my eyes. 

Isn’t it lovely, 
How I can see myself 
Now that you are gone.

Sofia Demirdjian-Lara Heritage School Glendale, CA 17 years old sofiademirdjian4@gmail.comSofia Demirdjian-Lara 
Heritage School
Glendale, CA
17 years old




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IALA x h-pem | Introducing...the 2021 Young Armenian Poets Awards
Collaboration IALA x h-pem | Introducing...the 2021 Young Armenian Poets Awards

At h-pem we are thrilled to finally share the results of IALA’s (International Armenian Literary Alliance) Young Armenian Poets Awards!

Huge congratulations to the following poets (Listed in alphabetical order), whose works have been selected by IALA’s exceptional judges, as the winners and honorable mention for the 2021 poetry contest.

  • Sarkis Anthony Antonyan: “I Meet the Gravedigger Burying a Soldier from Artsakh”
  • Sofia Demirdjian-Lara: “I See You in the Jacarandas”
  • Lucine Ekizian: “Go Light on the Sweetness”
  • Natalie Abadjian: “o white” (Honorable mention)

We are proud to host the special publication of your work on our website!

Thanks to IALA’s vision, you can now add a new feather to your creative accomplishments and develop your potential for lasting fulfillment. Through your originality and creativity, you have each made a significant contribution to raising awareness about the undercurrents and connections that join us as Armenians.

“If poetry can reveal the heart of a people, then poetry written by some of the youngest amongst us can present that heart in the most honest and unadulterated way,” writes IALA Advisory Board Member Alan Semerdjian.

Enjoy Semerdjian’s unique window into the world seen through the eyes of IALA’s young contestants, then check out their winning entries by following the links at the bottom.

We hope our IALA x h-pem collaboration inspires readers to appreciate and care for fledgling poets — they invite us all to reconnect with the parameters of identity and belonging that sustain and surround us, each in their own personal and thoughtful approach.

IALA x h-pem | Go light on the sweetness
Collaboration IALA x h-pem | Go light on the sweetness

“Go Light on the Sweetness” shines in its subtlety. Rendered with vivid imagery, the flower — “Encompassing millions of / Beginnings, endings, / And middles” — becomes a vibrant symbol of memory, of the struggle between history and amnesia, of the compelling juxtaposition between the absence of remembering and the presence of not forgetting. Characteristic of the Armenian experience, that juxtaposition is universally human. By asking, “Does the honey cause a paucity of flavor?” the writer summons a flower’s sweet nectar to toggle between presence and absence; in this case, the presence of honey subtracts flavor. What does it mean, then, when expectations collapse, when the natural order evaporates like the steam rising from hot water? To that tension, the writer responds, “My moral compass spins as / I pour in the sweetness,” evoking a disorientation all too familiar throughout the past year-and-a-half of death, destruction, and deception. All that remains is the in-between. We’re caught in a nebulous space, an origin point between polarities that force us to find footing on the continuum of an uncertain world. And maybe that’s where we must take root — acculturating “in both worlds.” It is this noteworthy sense of subtlety and soul that makes “Go Light on the Sweetness” a disquieting and imaginative interrogation of the in-between.

Commentary provided by YAPA contest judge Raffi Wartanian

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