New York writer known for her popular Armenian Poetry Project to attend 30th International Poetry Festival
BY PAUL CHADERJIAN
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Quebec—Among the one hundred international, renowned poets attending the 30th International Poetry Festival at Trois-Rivières in Quebec, starting October 3rd, is New York poet Lola Koundakjian.
The 10-day festival features hundreds of events and attracts more than 35,000 participants and spectators from all seven continents, as well as national and international media.
“Lola is the first Armenian poet coming to Trois-Rivières,” says festival president and founder Gaston Bellemare. “I am very happy to welcome her to our city for our 30th Festival International de la Poésie.”
Koundakjian’s poems have appeared in print and online and have been translated into French, Spanish and Ukrainian.
“I met Lola at a poetry festival two years ago in Lima, Peru,” says Bellemare. “I listened to her readings, read her poems over again, and I immediately put her name on my future list of guests. I was and still am sure people will strongly love her.”
Koundakjian has been a relentless, driving force in bringing Armenian poetry to non-Armenians, international audiences and younger generations of Armenians.
For more than two decades, she has organized the Dead Armenian Poets’ Society gatherings, where people recite the poetry of deceased Armenian poets in Armenian or in translation and share biographical notes about the authors.
She is also the creator and curator of the online Armenian Poetry Project, which launched in 2006 and features extremely popular podcasts.
“It’s humbling to share the stage with notable and award-winning poets from around the world,” says Koundakjian. “Yeah, it’s a bit unnerving but a great opportunity to share my words and our culture with fellow poets and international audiences.”
Koundakjian is appearing a dozen times during the festival, and she will be reading her work in Armenian, English and French.
“What makes the Trois-Rivières Festival so fascinating is its broad reach to multiple audiences,” says Koundakjian. “It has activities geared for university students as well as school children. I’m personally looking forward to a unique event called Poetry Promenade. People will read poems posted on city walls and mail them from postal box at the center of town.”
Koundakjian has spent decades writing and reporting in Armenian media. She reads her poetry regularly in the Big Apple, its tri-state area and both coasts of the United States. She has also appeared at international poetry festivals including ones in Medallín, Colombia, and Ramallah, West Bank.
By day, the poet is an internet technologies professional for one of the largest international media conglomerates. She used her IT know-how and skills to bring Armenian poetry into the 21st century and information age through multiple internet platforms. Hundreds of thousands of readers and listeners from more than a hundred countries access the content of her sites regularly.
“I started the Armenian Poetry Project in 2006 as a free community service and made it available on RSS, Twitter, SoundCloud and iTunes,” explains Koundakjian. “Currently it has more than 2,100 poems by Armenian poets. It also features non-Armenian poets writing in various languages about Armenian subjects.”
The Armenian Poetry Project also contains works from more than a hundred poets from Armenian communities around the globe. The poetry chronicled ranges from the 19th century to contemporary poets. The site also includes some classical and medieval Armenian poetry.
Post-Genocide era Armenian poetry was the subject of an article Koundakjian co-edited in 2012 with Catherine Fletcher for the Rattapallax literary journal and database.
Koundakjian’s translations of modern Istanbul poets have been included in Dora Sakayan’s newest edition of the Western Armenian language teaching manual.
Koundakjian’s first collection of poetry, The Accidental Observer, was published in 2011. Her second manuscript, Advice to a Poet, was a finalist in Armenia’s Orange Book Prize in 2012. It is due to be published later this year.