Poetic Thoughts of Passion

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All Poems. Social Media. Born in February in Dsegh, a village in Lori province, in the north of what is today Armenia, the young Hovhannes had to leave this primordial Eden — first to study in Stepanavan, about forty kilometres from his village, and then in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.

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He would spend most of his life in this great cultural centre for all Transcaucasia made up of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. But, stifled by the restrictive atmosphere there, he left the post.


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He then worked at odd jobs, struggling to support his growing family — because in the meanwhile, the young man had married and fathered ten children. An enlightened self-taught man, this avid reader plunged into both Armenian and foreign culture. He absorbed both Western and Eastern folklore.

At the Tumanyan House-Museum in Yerevan, the Armenian capital — where his library and some of his manuscripts are preserved today — we can measure the extent of his reading, and consult some of the documentation that the poet considered essential for the composition of his poems and prose narratives. Apart from this indirect influence, foreign literature appears very little in his own texts. Subsequently, all his collections would have the same generic title, with the exception of Harmonies, published in Tbilisi in Each volume included a number of previously published poems, to which new ones were added.

Following this lyrical interlude of the years to , a completely new tone can be heard in his narrative poems — that cannot easily be classified into any established literary genre. A narrative that is versified, rhymed and structured in episodes — this is the common denominator of his new literary pieces, in which the author revisits famous Armenian or Caucasian fables, legends and tales, reworking them with a clearly allegorical aim.

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When Tumanyan writes The Dog and the Cat, The Unlucky Merchants, The Convent of the Dove — or other tales that every Armenian has known by heart since childhood — his inventiveness lies less in the material used than in the way the action is staged. This action corresponds perfectly to an underlying idea, unveiled only at the end of the story.

The narrative involves animals or humans in an ongoing plot with cleverly orchestrated twists culminating in a climax. The central message is expressed at the end, in one or two succinct phrases. This literary technique, unique to Tumanyan, makes him an outstanding storyteller, who masterfully commands verse and word.

It is the result of hard work, traces of which can be found in a multitude of drafts and successive versions of the texts.

The poet often rewrites even texts that have already been published, transforming them in depth with the obvious aim of achieving as simple and effective an expression possible. In contrast to many of his colleagues who favoured being more prolific, Tumanyan used understatement, allusion, the right word, and in the literal sense, a true poetic method.

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It was at the very beginning of the twentieth century that Tumanyan achieved perfect mastery of the poetic narrative in verse, notably in Anoush and The Siege of Tmouk Castle. A pastoral epic set in idyllic Lori, Anoush is composed of six songs, beginning with a prelude. This story of thwarted love, with all the ingredients of a tragedy in verse, inspired Armen Tigranyan to write his eponymous opera, which is still performed around the world today. The Siege of Tmouk Castle recounts an episode in eighteenth-century Armenian history, in which Princess Almast, enticed by the false promises of the Persian king, Nadir Shah, betrays her husband, Prince Tatul, and delivers the fortress to the enemy.

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After destroying everything, the conqueror turns against the traitor and has her beheaded. The political significance of this poem is much more explicit than that of Anoush. It inspired Almast , the opera by Alexander Spendiaryan Today, bronze statues of the poet and the composer stand in the foreground of the Yerevan Opera, a highly symbolic site in the Armenian capital.

They remind us that the stories immortalized by them are still relevant today. Around the same time, Tumanyan began writing the folk epic David of Sassoon , of which he would publish only a fragment.