By Khatchig Mouradian
The Armenian Weekly
February 24, 2007
It was first and foremost a loss for poetry when Zahrad passed away on Feb. 21.
Zahrad (Zareh Yaldizciyan) was born in Istanbul in 1924. His father, Movses, was a jurist, advisor and translator in the Ottoman Foreign Ministry. His mother, Ankine Vartanian, was born in Samatia.
Zahrad received his intermediate and secondary school education at the Pangalti Mekhitariste School in Istanbul, graduating in 1942. He briefly attended medical school before he discontinued his university education to work. He married Anayis Antreasian in November 1963.
From Zareh to Zahrad
“I was 18 when I started writing,” Zahrad told journalist Talin Suciyan in the last interview he gave before his death (Nokta, Jan. 25-31, 2007). “If I had signed my name under my submissions to the newspapers, my family would have nagged me to death, saying ‘You are dealing with such meaningless stuff.’ To rescue myself from such words I made up the name ‘Zahrad.’ Time passed, my real name was forgotten, and ‘Zahrad’ became well-known.”
His first book, Medz Kaghak (big city), came out in 1960 in Istanbul. Kounavor Sahmanner (colored borders, Istanbul, 1968); Gananch Hogh (green soil, Paris, 1976); Pari Yergink (kind sky, Istanbul, 1971); Meg karov yergou karoun (two springs with one stone, Istanbul, 1989); Magh me chour (a sieve of water, Istanbul, 1995); Dzayre Dzayrin (a tight fit, 2001 Istanbul); and Choure baden Ver (water up the wall, Istanbul, 2004) followed.
His poems are translated into 22 languages. Collections of his poems have been published in English (“Gigo Poems by Zahrad,” 1969, translated by Agop Hacikyan; “Zahrad, Selected Poems,” 1974, translated by Ralph Setian); in Turkish (“Zahrad: Yag Damlasi” published by Iyi Seyler, 1993, reprinted in 2000); “Yapracigi goren balik” (published by Belge, 2002); “Isigini Sondurme Sakin” published by Adam, 2004); in Georgian (1997); and a number of other languages.
Enormous Oak Tree
“I prefer individuality in poetry. However, it does not make sense to go against the esthetic understanding of the era. My first 10-15 poems were written in classical style, in which I was a master. Later, I discontinued writing in that style, not because I was unsuccessful, but in order to follow the fashion of the time. I am not talking about the fashion of the mini-skirt, long hair, parting hair from the side or from the middle…I am talking about an esthetic point of view,” he told Suciyan during the interview for Nokta.
According to Levon Ananian, the president of Armenia’s Writers’ Union, Zahrad was the “enormous oak tree” of Diasporan poetry, and his literary legacy has left a deep and lasting effect on modern Armenian poetry, both in the Diaspora and Armenia.
“Zahrad creates a world where even the darkest shadows are illuminated with compassion and humor, albeit couched in an observer’s aloofness that acts as a shield for a very sensitive soul,” said Tatul Sonentz, whose translations of Zahrad are featured on page 9.
“Let me owe you a sieve of water,” Zahrad says in one of his poems. Yet, we owe him a river of fresh, joyful water, because that’s what he was for the sweet but melancholic pond of Armenian poetry.