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Lola KoundakjianArmenian poetry for everyone

Azad-Hye Special

Website: http://armenian-poetry.blogspot.com

The Armenian Poetry Project (APP) is two years old now. It is time to celebrate, but the celebration is in the form of new additions and an invitation to send new entires to the already great online library. APP has been the most successful Armenian online poetry project in recent times. Additional to producing masterpieces of Armenian poetry in electronic form, it has also unveiled new talents and created a buzz about poetry. It has also hosted many poetry audio clips, some with the voice of the authors themselves, others with the voice of the curator and producer of the website / blog Lola Koundakjian.  

Below is an interview with Lola Koundakjian (via email)

There were some earlier attempts by others to create an Armenian online poetry collection; how can you differentiate your project from those earlier ones?
There are a few inactive and active websites currently available to Armenian readers. Unlike these, the Armenian Poetry Project (APP) is not a website in the traditional sense of the word; it is a blog, which contains Armenian text in Unicode format, and, provides daily RSS feeds of text and audio clips.

How did you manage to solve the font compatibility issues and is the Armenian font readable from any PC or web browser now?
In 1991, a not-for-profit organization called the Unicode Consortium, was established to research and design a standard character coding system to “support the worldwide interchange, processing, and display of the written texts of the diverse languages and technical disciplines of the modern world”. I wrote about Unicode in the early 90’s for AIM, the Armenian International Magazine; I was their humanities computing and technology journalist for a short time, while lecturing about this subject in Armenian studies conferences in the US and Europe. I continued to follow up on Unicode, but there was a lot of reluctance amongst Armenians as ArmScii was being used. We are luckily past the reluctance to join the world-wide standard of Unicode. The Matenadaran and other official sites in Armenia are using Unicode, and there are some translation tools to convert ArmScii and ArmStandard into Unicode.

The current operating systems (Macintosh and XP/Vista) are Unicode capable, but must be activated as most individuals do not have a use for this alphabet. I recommend using Sylfaen, which is a truetype (TTF) font. The Armenian Unicode website seems to be down at the moment, so please ask your readers to google “Armenian Unicode” for more information. When Armenian is activated on a Macintosh or XP/Vista, the user will be able to read and write in Armenian Unicode characters. Unicode has also allowed major projects such as the online nayiri.com dictionary. It allows sorting text in the correct Armenian order, search and replace, and other text commands, writing emails in Armenian and instant messaging (gmail and Skype seem to be best for these), naming file and folders with Armenian characters -- things we take for granted with the Latin alphabet.

What are the criteria in selecting an entry? A quick look will show that you are posting Armenian poetry in every form (even in foreign languages). Also it is noticeable that you are giving space for modern innovative poetry.
This project includes poems written by Armenians, as well as contemporary authors on Armenian subject matters. I post pieces that I like in the three languages that I know best: Armenian, English and French, as long as these are the original languages of the poems. If I find a good translation, I will add it too, with proper credits. The APP encompasses the modern literary era, ie the development of the modern Armenian vernacular, up to contemporary pieces and forms of poetry.

You had the chance to introduce to the public several new names. What are the elements that you look for when someone wants to be introduced through your project as a new poet?
It’s simple: I have to like the work. Sometimes I will help edit a piece, and sometimes I have turned down authors, but that doesn’t happen very often. Most of the contemporary authors I have found through my research and reading.

How do you solve the copyright issues? Do you assume that the author would agree for posting his/her work or you actively contact him/her to secure the copyright.
A lot of the older pieces are no longer protected by copyright, or have not been copyrighted at all. When an author is alive, I do my utmost to contact her/him. Since APP is a not-for-profit, section 107 of the Copyright Law of the USA stipulates that an educational, not-for-profit blog may include copyrighted material in accordance with the definition of "fair use". That is defined as “including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright”. 
 
What are the methods you depend on to find old and new poems? Do you go to libraries? Do you print yourself well known Armenian poems which do not have electronic versions?
It is amazing that many of our well known authors and their poems are not available online. Frankly, I don’t remember the last time I watched TV or went to the movies. I read books a lot -- many of which are from my personal library. I buy books whenever I travel and order some from friends. I also borrow from the extensive Humanities research section of New York Public Library and read Armenian newspapers. Although I check Armenian websites such as forums, I find that they contain lots of typos so I prefer not to use them. I type most of the poems myself. I have a few volunteers who have sat to record for me in the past, but in most cases I am doing the entries myself.

One of the most likable aspects in your project is the audio recordings of selective poems. Are you satisfied with the recording quality? Are you receiving any feedback from the listeners?
I use a Macintosh with an external microphone, not a professional studio, and in a few instances have received clips which I am unable to improve on. The feedback is few and far between, but it has been overall positive. Regarding the recordings, best thing is to go to the website and then select AUDIO CLIPS which will give about 95 audio segments to listen or to download to PC/Mac.

Do you think that Armenian poetry is something related to the future as much as it was part of our past?
Poetry is the present, as well as our past and future. We have a live language, with many speakers, and many contemporary authors. If I was dealing with past authors only, I’d leave aside the modern literature to deal exclusively with Classical Armenian (Krapar) literature which is after all extensive. I’d like to recommend that your literature loving readers purchase and read Armenian as well as world literature books, attend literary events wherever they may live. It is crucial to support the arts in all its forms.

We have noticed that you are posting many works of new generation Armenian poets in the Middle East? Do you happen to know some of them personally and what kind of relationship do you have with these poets in general?
I have been in contact with many authors in Syria and Lebanon and keep in touch with them via email on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we haven’t met in person, except for Toros Toranian who is also a family friend.

End of Interview

Armenian Poetry Project will be happy to receive new works, or donations of books, or any monetary donations. The website, although a not-for-profit, has some annual costs such as website/domain expenses and purchase of books. Since the audio clip downloads are available 24/7 and are free, it is used by educational institutions as well as lovers of poetry worldwide.

Website: http://armenian-poetry.blogspot.com

Photo: Lola Koundakjian during one of her travels (2007)


Poetry reading by Lola Koundakjian:

1- Vahan Tekeyan (1878 - 1948): Happiness.

2- Mateos Zarifian (1894 - 1924): Theft & Fall Evening.  


Posted on Friday, May 02, 2008 (6787 reads), comments: 0
 
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