Compassionate Poetry Projects courtesy of The Grass Roots Poetry Group, White Rat Press, and Silva Merjanian


Not only do some poets use their work to raise the general consciousness but they often donate their work to help fund worthy efforts. Here are three collections that have been featured here before in greater depth. I believe you’ll appreciate  should you decide to read them.

A bit of research reveals there are many other such published collections or anthologies in process. As just two examples, I found one for asthma awareness and another to help support a local ambulance service.

If there’s a cause you’d like to support through poetry, rummage around the Internet or consider producing a collection or anthology yourself.  Not easy work, I know, but you might enjoy it and it would surely be rewarding.


John Anstie whose poem was featured yesterday is a member of The Grass Roots Poetry Group, a collaboration that created and published Petrichor Rising. The proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to UNICEF. The backstory is Petrichor Rising  and how the Twitterverse birthed friendships that in turn birthed a poetry collection. You’ll find links in that feature to purchase the book. John is also one of the earliest members of The BeZine team.


One day some time ago a few books arrived in my mailbox from Anne Stewart of  poetry p f and  Second Light Network of Women Poets Founder, Dilys Wood. Among the books was an anthology that deserved special attention: Hands & Wings, Poems for Freedom from Torture (White Rat Press, 2015).  For information to purchase contact: dorothy.yamamoto@whiteratpress.co.uk. Dorothy Yamamoto is a poet and the editor of this collection. The poems in it are freely shared by A-list poets. The proceeds from the sale of the collection go to help with the rehabilitation and support of torture victims seeking protection in the U.K.


When last I chatted with Silva Zanoyan Merjanian, she’d raised $682.70 for Mer Doon Inc. from the proceeds of Rumor (Cold Water Press, 2015). Mer Doon is an organization that houses orphaned eighteen-year-old girls aging out of care. This support gives the girls a chance to become financially independent and safe from human traffickers. So far the sales of Rumor have  generated over $5,000 for charities. Quite remarkable. If you buy the book directly from Silva’s site (as opposed to Amazon), all proceeds go to these charities. Rumor won the 2015 Best Book Award in the poetry category from the NABE. Three poems from the book were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  It is Silva’s second published collection.


ABOUT THE POET BY DAY

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (19): Silva Zanoyan Merjanian, Borrowed Sugar Borrowed Time – from war-torn Lebanon to peace in California

Armenian/Lebanese American poet, Silva Zanoyan Merjanian

Silva Zanoyan Merjanian

Silva Zanoyan Merjanian is an Armenian ethnic who was born in Lebanon. She escaped the civil war there and lived for a time in Geneva, ultimately settling to build a family life in California. Silva has two published collections. Most recently Rumor (Cold Water Press, 2015), which received the Best Book Award from NABE in the 2015. Three poems from Rumor were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Silva’s first collection is Uncoil a Night (CreateSpace, 2013).

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Falling

In rind of wishes sticky on lips
and sermons’ echo on facepsalms slipping
in envies squirted on spruce and cedar
whims twirling, spiraled, speckled
gossamer visions of friendships withered
in crevices of an upbeat mien
Your name hidden in prayer embers
I mend among buds of poems
flying on a trapeze
with no one at the other end

Rumor is a stunning tour de force of passionate, life-affirming poetry. Silva Merjanian evokes time and place with both grace and authority. Poetry is obviously a tool for her own healing and in that she brings us face to face with the human condition in all its complexity, beautiful and loving and devastating cruel, and she does so totally without pretension.

Mornings arriving
Me alone
Poems half written and done
Poems between toes and toast
‘Round Midnight and Monk
Nostalgia
Right reasons
Brave decisions
Thoughts that glow in the light
Just love
Always, in absence of rats and such
fresh sheets and I
between over and under

from Between the Sheets

She writes with immediacy of war:

bounce of gold crosses between breasts
colorful hijabs ’round others’ bare face
friendships seeded in borrowed sugar, borrowed time
she, unaware of borrowed wailers on their way
makes plans on a sunny balcony as she hangs
her blue jeans on a clothesline
moments before war drums ripple through crisp calm

from Borrowed Sugar Borrowed Time

INTERVIEW

JAMIE:  Silva, Rumor is a remarkable collection with many poems that stay with one. It’s also quite generous of you to donate proceeds to the Syrian-Amenian Relief Fund (SARF). How are sales going and how is the fundraising?

SILVA: Thank you Jamie. I did not have an event or a formal fundraising with Rumor. The sales were a result of readings, speeches, word of mouth and some ads in newspapers and on Facebook. In July there will be an ad for it in Poets & Writers and it will also be included in five book fairs this summer.

My publisher, Dave Boles of Cold River Press, will release the e-book version soon. He is kind enough to donate all proceeds from the e-book also to the SARF. So with all these developments I expect a boost in sales.

JAMIE: When did you fall in love with poetry? When did you realize you are a poet?

SILVA: I am a late bloomer. I started writing in 2011 and my first book was released in 2013. Even though we grew up with the poetry of Shakespeare, Keats, etc.. and many Armenian poets, the thought of writing poetry hadn’t occurred to me. My education is in Business Administration not Fine Art. It was almost like catching the bug of poetry, very unexpected, once I started writing I couldn’t stop. I didn’t write to be published at first, it was just for the pleasure of it, later when I saw friends publishing books, the idea came to me to publish and make it count for something by donating the proceeds.

JAMIE: What are the reactions to your work that surprise you most?

SILVA: I didn’t expect the level of appreciation for my poetry that I received. Especially from those who themselves write and/or are well read in poetry. I have to thank the Irish first for this recognition. They have such talented poets and they recognized my potential first.

I also didn’t expect the difficulty to be accepted as a writer in the Armenian community. It was almost like they waited for me to be respected in the foreign circles before they’d acknowledge me, instead of reading my work and appreciating it themselves. I am disappointed in that respect.

JAMIE: Tell us something about your travels: How did your family arrive in Lebanon and why did they move from there. How did you end up in the U.S.?

SILVA:  My grandparents had to flee their homes twice, trying to survive the Armenian Genocide. If you are familiar with the book The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Austrian -Bohemian writer Franz Werfel, first published in German in 1933, it is the story of my grandparents. The French helped the population of seven villages escape and relocate as refugees in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. So my grandparents did live under refugee tents for a whole year. Now the area is a buzzing town with three churches and schools and commerce.

I left Lebanon after experiencing eight years of the civil war*. Geneva was the city I healed from the war scars. Later I settled in California to raise my sons with my husband.

JAMIE: What do you think most Westerners don’t understand about the Middle East? What do you know and understand that you would like everyone to know?

SILVA: What most don’t understand about Lebanon, and to a degree parts of the Middle East, is that the vast majority of the people are just the nicest fun loving, peace loving, hard working families. They want for their children everything an American family wants. The number of innocent people who are collateral damage to the events in that part of the world is just heartbreaking.

JAMIE: I understand that your brother is a novelist. Does your family have a history of poets and writers?

SILVA: My brother has two volumes of poetry in Armenian. He is writing his third novel. I am not aware of anyone else in my family who has published books, except a volume of translations by my father.

JAMIE:  You have two well-received collections completed. Where to now?

SILVA:  That’s a question I’ve been asking myself. I think I will keep writing and hope a third book will be in the future for me.

* Lebanese Civil War – 1975-1990

© 2016, portrait, poems, bookcover art and responses to questions, Silva Merjanian, All rights reserved

ON THE 101st ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE: Rape of Arevik by Silva Merjanian

 Armenians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Turkish soldiers. Kharpert, Armenia, Ottoman Empire - April, 1915. *From the collection of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives. Photographed by an anonymous German traveler.


Armenians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Turkish soldiers. Kharpert, Armenia, Ottoman Empire – April, 1915. From the collection of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives. Photographed by an anonymous German traveler.

There were moonlit nights and many moonless nights
sober and drunken in one grain of sand
in billions of grains there were filthy hands
mud and fingernails between sunburned thighs
this is not my skin with nerves inside out
not my breast squeezed into faint whimpers
like dying swallows caught in a dry mouth

soon I’ll be a memory in last verse of songs
someone meant to write on a summer night
flesh to sand and sand to a story to tell
they’ll mention tattoos* and how I was a slave
look look how many stars in one grain of sand
in a billion grains in a billion tears
screams tangled like strings through my broken ribs

you did not know me then
before much before they tore off my clothes
and the desert night shivered with their rage
you did not see how my hair flowed like silk
on soft pillows where teenage dreams were weaved
you did not know me dressed with flowers in my hair
and my fathers arm around my adolescent frame
you did not see the stars from our wide windows
above the vineyard and my feet bare on the fertile soil
in our apricot tree’s cool summer shade

I’m in the evening news – in a pile of bones
look at the skull at the very left
see the sparrow lodged between those clenched jaws
I’m in the evening news a hundred years late
in the grains of sand shifting restless with shame
in the billion stars in your sky tonight
in my mother’s voice singing kenatzir pallas*
in the moonlit nights and the moonless nights
on a dagger’s blade in the Deir ez-Zor sand

– Silva Merjanian

24 April 2016 is the 101th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, when thousands of women were dragged in the desert, raped and tortured before killed.

  • the reference to tattoos … they used to tattoo the women according to who owned them.
  • Kenatzir pallas is a lullaby very popular with Armenians and means “go to sleep my child”

“Silva’s poetry rewards the reader with the gift of exquisite lacework, adorned with choice words and skillfully wrought poetic imagery, which allow you to get a glimpse of both the intoxicating sensuality of survival and the scalpel scars on the tender skin of life. Many-layered, it excels alike in depicting the sphere of personal experience and of traumatic social issues.” – Dr. Aprilia Zank. Lecturer for Creative Writing and Translation Theory Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany in a review of Silva’s collection Rumor. Three poems rom this collection are Pushcart nominees. The net profits including the publisher’s go to The Armenian-Syrian Relief Fund. About $5,000 dollars have been raised to date.

© 2016, poem and book cover design, Silva Merjanian, All rights reserved; featured here with the permission of the poet; Silva’s website is HERE.; the header photograph is a public domian photograph courtesy of Project Save.