Sunday, April 26, 2015

X.J. Kennedy and Diana Der-Hovanessian: “A Uniqueness That Hasn’t Been” (A Recent Reading at Endicott College)

X. J. Kennedy
Dianna Der-Hovanessian

X.J. Kennedy and Diana Der-Hovanessian:
“A Uniqueness That Hasn’t Been”

By Emily Pineau

“Words are not lifeless. They live in houses,” read poet and translator Diana Der-Hovanessian at Endicott College, as part of the Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College Visiting Author Series.  Der-Hovanessian has been building houses for words ever since one of her editors asked her to translate Armenian poetry. Not knowing Armenian well enough to comfortably do translations, Diana studied Armenian at Harvard and Boston University, and sought help from friends and poets. She is now the author of 25 books of poetry and translations. Der-Hovanessian is an inspiration for poets, writers, and anyone learning a new language. She has “brought a new soul” to both Armenian and English with her translations, and has touched the souls of her readers.

Following Diana’s reading, X.J. Kennedy, children’s author, poet, and translator, took the stage. He said, “When you are writing a poem you have to pretend you are Jesus Christ and can do no wrong.” It was evident right away that he has just the right mix of humor and sensitivity in his personality to create a timeless voice in his work.  From his poem, “You Touch Me,” he read, “You touch me and each cell of my body, one at a time, a hearth comes on.” Deep, concrete images and feelings are revealed quickly in his poems, and they have the power to stay you.

“Poems have to be concise whether they are long or short,” Kennedy explains. It is clear that he follows this philosophy in his own work, because each line of his has the ability to speak volumes alone. In a poem Kennedy wrote about he and his wife going to The Guinness World Records, my favorite line is when he says, “A uniqueness that hasn't been.” Even in just this short phrase, there seems to be a whole story written here. This quality is especially important in children’s poetry because children are engaged by vivid images and strong emotions created in a short space of time. Kennedy’s poems also have a musical quality to them, because of the smooth sounding words in each line. In fact, Kennedy sang after he read his poems. “I have to sing my songs, because if I didn't, who would?” he explained. Though, the truth is that Kennedy’s words of wisdom, his poems (both children’s and otherwise), and his spirit, move the soul to want to do just that—sing.


--- Emily Pineau will be graduating from Endicott College this May ( 2015). She is the author of No Need to Speak ( Ibbetson Street Press/Endicott College Visiting Author Series) and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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