IALA X h-pem | The Children of Armenia by Sofia Viana Ogulluk
October 10, 2023
Sofia Ogulluk is a 14-year-old freshman at Manhasset High School on Long Island, New York. She is a passionate writer, who loves to write in all kinds of genres and styles. Some of her favorite styles of writing are poems, novels, and songs. In addition to writing, she loves to participate in Armenian Dance, Broadcast Journalism, Girl Scouts, and Theatre. In her free time, she likes to learn languages, hike, travel, and spend time with friends. A fun fact about her is that she also has attended AGBU Camp Nubar for the past four summers.
Sofia Ogulluk is one of the winners of the 2023 Young Armenian Poets Awards (YAPA). You can read her winning submission below.
Sofia Viana Ogulluk
Manhasset, NY USA
The Children of Armenia
I look at my Dede’s large, strong hands
And see the millions of women and men
Who have died for our people
Compared to the millions of people who have lied
Who say they’ve helped in many ways
But in reality
Reposted on Instagram and called it a day
I look at my Yaya’s soft and wrinkled hands
Meticulously making manti
And I see in them
Children in a home surrounded by fire
They reach out to us
Try to hold our hands
But we simply watch
Leave them stranded
They scream to us
“Say our name!”
And I say it back
A soloist in the choir
I turn around and a few more stand
But their silence is deafening
The voices of the children pleading
Ring in my head
They stand beside me
And we become one
And the chorus begins to run
We show and we share
But they don’t understand
We stomp and we scream
But they only stare
We wave our flag
And they say they care
But if they really did
Then they would be there
So I’ll paint myself purple
And stand in a pot
If that’s what it takes
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In a time of turbulence and uncertainty, the Young Armenian Poets Awards (YAPA) stands as a beacon of hope and expression. Founded and directed by Alan Semerdjian, YAPA of the International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA) collaborates with h-pem, which, in turn, seeks to provide an authentic audience for the annual awards. As our nation grapples with turmoil, YAPA invites young talents to explore profound existential questions. How can poetry become a bridge connecting Armenia and its vast diaspora? What dialogues are essential within the Armenian community and with the world? These questions are met with insightful responses, as young awardees delve deep into their souls, weaving symbolism, fantasy, and elegy into their work.
In 2023, the theme of "Visibility" resonates deeply as the Armenian people face challenging times, particularly in Artsakh. The lack of media coverage and international support is disheartening, leading many to feel as though they are disappearing before their own eyes. However, YAPA continues to shine a spotlight on these issues through the power of poetry. This year's winning and honorable mention poems offer poignant reflections on identity, remembrance, and resistance.
Gregory Djanikian, Armine Iknadossian, Alan Semerdjian, and Raffi Wartanian, distinguished individuals in the literary world, provide insightful commentary on the winning works. These poems encapsulate the essence of the Armenian spirit, addressing the struggles and resilience of a people whose stories deserve to be told. YAPA's mission to illuminate the dark corners of our universe through poetry remains steadfast, and it is through the voices of these young poets that we find a glimmer of light and hope during these somber times.
Read on to understand more of YAPA's 2023 edition through Alan Semerdjian's lenses.
Vladimir Mkrtchian is a sixteen-year-old student attending Wellington C. Mepham High School on Long Island. Mkrtchian writes in English, Armenian, and French and is pursuing a Seal of Biliteracy in the French language. He won several regional and district-wide writing contests, earning an honorable mention at the Walt Whitman Birthplace 2023 Student Poetry Contest, and publication of his works in his school’s literary magazine, Fragments. Currently, he is an assistant teacher at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Language School in Queens, New York—teaching the Armenian language to Nursery students while also writing monthly issues on behalf of the school in the church’s newsletter, Narrec. He continues to write today, sharing his Armenian-influenced works with his teachers, friends, and the district in hopes of spreading awareness and bridging the gap between American and Armenian communities.
Vladimir Mkrtchian's poem "Anahit's Legacy' is one of the winners of the 2023 Young Armenian Poets Awards. Read Vladimir's haunting poem below.
Alessandra Agopian is 16-year-old a junior at Horace Mann School in New York. She is a proud Armenian with a passion for poetry and creative writing, following in the footsteps of her great grandfather, famous poet and writer Sisag Varjabedian.
Alessandra's submission is the honorable mention of the 2023 Young Armenian Poets Award. Continue to read her submission.
Isabel Nargizian is a 17-year-old proud Armenian born and raised in LA. Currently a freshman at UCLA, Isabel is studying psychobiology and pursuing her passion of composing music on the side. Classically trained in piano, she began branching out in the last two years, forming her musical identity as a singer/songwriter. While she always perceived herself a musician before a writer, her aptitude to express herself through lyrics inspires her to also write poems. To Isabel, poems are lyrics with a unique melody, one each reader silently creates in their head based on the tempo and rhythm words are interpreted. Isabel's fervor to continually support the Armenian community enables her to vocalize people’s needs and opinions in her work.
Isabel Nargizian is one of the winners of the 2023 Young Armenian Poets Awards. Continue scrolling to read her winning submission.
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