The Regional Executive Board of Hamazkayin Canada recently published “Souls on Fire: Selected Poems” by Yeghishé Charents. The volume is a bilingual edition of some of the poet’s most famous poems, impeccably translated by Tatul Sonentz Papazian and edited by Viken Tufenkjian, Ph.D.
The 177-page English and Armenian book features Charents’s sweeping opus “The Incensed Masses” (1919), as well as his three poems titled “Vision of Death.” The most famous of the three is the 1933 “Vision,” the inspiration for which came to Charents via Dante Alighieri’s “La divina commedia” (130821). In this “Vision,” Charents visits the history of the Armenian national liberation movement and revives its most influential figures. The reader comes across many renowned poets, public figures, and political activists such as Alishan, Raffi, Rafayel Patkanian, Kristapor Mikayelian, Khrimian Hairik, Siamanto, Daniel Varuzhan, and others.
“Souls on Fire” also includes the two other “Vision of Death” poems, dating from 1920 and 1936, respectively. Charents wrote the former in the final days of the first independent Republic of Armenia, and the latter upon the death of the academician and architect Aleksandr Tamanian. The last poem in the volume is Charents’s famed “Testament,” in which the poet encrypted a message of unity to his nation: “Oh, Armenian people, your only salvation is in your collective strength.”
In addition to Charents’s works, three appendices offer the reader cultural contexts in which to appreciate the poems: an English translation of “Declaration of the Three,” the literary manifesto Charents wrote with fellow poets Azat Vshtuni and Gevorg Abov in 1922, sheds light on his artistic credo; “Yeghishé Charents and Vahan Terian” summarizes Charents’s shifting relationship with the senior poet; and in “Illustrating the First Edition of ‘Girk Janaparhi’ (1933),” the artist Hakob Gojoian recounts his collaboration with Charents. Finally, the editor’s comprehensive annotations, particularly those to “Vision of Death” (1933), are a significant addition to Charentsian scholarship.
The book is available to buy on Amazon for $16.