Come to the Zohrab Center on Thursday, December 2nd at 7:00pm ET for an in-person poetry reading and the book release of Los Angeles poet Shahé Mankerian’s debut collection History of Forgetfulness (Fly on the Wall Press, 2021). Joining Shahé will be NY area writers and scholars, who will read from the collection as well as their own work: Nancy Agabian, Christopher Atamian, Alina Gregorian, Alan Semerdjian, Alina Gharabegian, & Lola Koundakjian.
Book signing and reception to follow!
Shahé Mankerian releases his critically-acclaimed debut collection, taking readers back to 1975 Beirut, where an un-civil war is brewing. Mankerian asks, “Who said war didn’t love / the children?” setting the tone for a darkly humorous collection in which memories of love, religion and childhood are entangled amongst street snipers and the confusion of misguided bombings.
Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School and the director of mentorship at the International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA). This debut collection has been a finalist at the Bibby First Book Competition, the Crab Orchard Poetry Open Competition, the Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Award, and the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.
Distinguished California poet Shahé Mankerian reminds us in this powerful debut poetry collection that we forget painful memories deliberatively, yet his gut-punching poems relive for himself as well as for us the horrific shredding of humanity that war, especially civil war, inflicts. A survivor of the Lebanese civil war in the late 20th century, Mankerian unspools in devastating simplicity and directness, in seemingly inconsequential scenes, the horrors and suffering of children, parents, neighbors, schoolmates, friends, lovers navigating daily bombardments, scavenging for food, dodging snipers’ bullets, and trying to find a modicum of normalcy among the ruins. One poem, “Continuum,” sums beautifully the people’s daily attempts to keep their fractured lives afloat: patching broken windows, cooking meals, clearing debris—in essence struggling to forget the chaos that surrounds them. In the process, Mankerian’s clear-eyed, honest poetry paints unforgettable pictures of human beings we relate to, ordinary heroes and victims that sadden us but uplift us with their resiliency and stoic determination to prevail.
–Thelma T. Reyna
Poet Laureate Emerita; Author of Dearest Papa: A Memoir in Poems
In the ironically titled The History of Forgetfulness – ironic because the poems in this book are riveting and indelible – Shahé Mankerian never leaves a reader un-engaged. In these accessible and irresistible poems, a character wonders if he should tell his mother the lentil soup needs salt, ponders the laws of war, and prescribes a generic brand Jesus. The great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wanted poetry to achieve “a heightened perception of what already existed.” That is precisely what Mankerian does in this eminently readable and memorable collection. Buy three copies: read one, give one to a friend, keep the third so you’ll have it handy when you wear the first one out.
–Ron Koertge, widely published for more than fifty years, has poems in two volumes of Best American Poetry and a recent Pushcart Prize. He is the author of “Negative Space,” short-listed for a 2018 Oscar in Animated Short Films.
As we proceed through these sharply etched memories of a childhood in wartime Lebanon, it seems increasing remarkable that the poet emerged alive, and even more remarkable that he was able to convey the violence and mayhem—both in and outside the home—in such spare but vivid, harrowing poems. They are not marred by the dreaded bugaboos, sentimentality, melodrama, or self-pity. Shahé Mankerian recounts, as we sometimes say, the sort of thing you wouldn’t know unless you’d been there, lived it. Imagine a spot on the globe where if children playing hide-and-seek come upon the rotting body of a woman, it’ll be up to them to bury her.
There are many such spots on the globe. However, few survivors emerge with the will, wherewithal, talent, and opportunity to tell their stories with such power. Their story and that of thousands like them. No, millions.
Author of Open 24 Hours – Winner of 2013 Blue Lynx Prize
During the Karantina Massacre,
Father wired the stereo directly
to the generator in the basement
so that he could block the bloodshed
with the Requiem. From our bedroom
window, the rise of the satanic smoke
swallowed the Palestinian shanty town.
Amadeus seemed demure next to
the screaming children. Father
pulled the abat-jours and demanded
we give Mozart our attention.
The timpani competed with the rat-
a-tat-tat of Kalashnikovs.
I felt lightheaded from the mazout
fumes of the generator. “Son, listen!”
Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison.
I preferred the sirens over the harrowing
howl of the angels concocted by Wolfgang.
Like Eliot’s Prufrock
Like a slab of meat etherized upon a table,
she felt obligated to clean her fiancé. A nurse
pulled the curtain and left her alone with a limp
rag in a bedpan full of warm, lathery water.
From the unfurnished apartment to the ambulance,
she used her unfitted wedding gown to wrap
his punctured belly with shrapnel shells.
The doctors cut the dress like a gauze. She dabbed
his foaming mouth with the veil. They didn’t have
a balcony anymore. Torn pages from his dissertation
covered a pool of blood. Soap residue stained
his torso, the floor tiles, his diaphragm.
Please note, as per the New York City Covid-19 Executive Order 225, proof of vaccination, as well as an I.D., will be required upon entry. Proof of vaccination may include a CDC Vaccination Card, an NYC Vaccination Record, NYC Covid Safe App, Excelsior Pass, or an official immunization record from outside NYC or the U.S., showing proof of receipt of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use or licensed for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization. Negative COVID 19 Tests are not accepted.