Gregory Djanikian's So I Will Till the Ground, his fifth collection of poetry, confronts the horrors of the Armenian genocide of 1915, and the diaspora that ensued, sending survivors to all parts of the world. By turns sorrowful and redemptive, the poems go on to record the author's boyhood in Egypt, and his eventual emigration to the United States and into a wholly different dulture, and a life, however new, lived always under the haunting shadow of the 1915 cataclysm. "These are poems," Peter Balakian has written, that "chart . . . nothing less than a modern epic trajectory" whose narratives "move from the elegiac to the philosophical and to the heartfelt comedy of human love."
About the Author
GREGORY DJANIKIAN was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of Armenian parentage and came to the United States when he was 8 years old. His four previous collections are The Man in the Middle, Falling Deeply into America, About Distance, and most recently, Years Later. He directs the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Table of Contents
The Aestheticians of Genocide
Kharpert, Turkey 1915
Armenian Pastoral, 1915
The Armenian Question, 1915
For the Sake of Argument
How My Grandfather Escaped
When I Was Very Young
When I Saw My Grandfather Taking a Bath
In the City of Languages
In My Dream I Tell My Grandfather About the Voices
At American Customs
First Supper in the New Country
In the New Church
The Electrolux Salesman Visits Our Apartment
Whenever I Had American Friends Over
The Bad Boys of Junior High
How We Practiced Being American
My Name Brings Me to a Notion of Splendor
July 20, 1969
Out in Left Field Before the Citizenship Test
The Day My Grandfather Died
A Brief History of Border Crossings
I Ask My Grandmother If We Can Make Lahmajoun
Buying a Rug
What I Can Tell You
Mystery Farm Road
So I Will Till the Ground
What People are Saying About This
"In the marvelous title poem that concludes his book, Gregory Djanikian establishes himself as a gardener of the human spirit. He will work to replenish what was nearly entirely lostArmenian culture and language, Armenian life itselfby first making use of the horrific as a kind of necessary mulch, then using the domestic as water and sun. And indeed his poems do go on to replenish, delineating his and his family's gradual assimilation into America, which leads to a wonderful variety of tones, including even the humorous. But, finally, this is Djanikian's book of history and of memory, no holds barred, his most urgent to date."
"Here is reclamation, collective and personal, of an Armenian history in poems of remembrance, affection, tenderness, replenishment. In this moving collection, Gregory Djanikian does what Joseph Brodsky said the poet should do: begins in elegy and ends in praise."
"Gregory Djanikian's new poems chart a poetic topography that takes us from the killing fields of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, then to Egypt and then to the United Statesnothing less than a modern epic trajectory. These are poems that move from the elegiac to the philosophical and to the heartfelt comedy of human love."