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Poetry Book Review:

History's Twists: The Armenians

By Helene Pilibosian

history's twists: the armeniansHelene Pilibosian presents an ambitious book of poems titled History's Twists: The Armenians.

While I'd like to say I loved reading the book, that would be overstating. But I did like reading it. History's Twists: The Armenians is a walk through the history of the Armenian people through a Postmodern poetic that is, well, nearly outdated. Pilibosian's artful verse is technically sound and her detailed factual information included throughout the book of poems leaves it evident that the research was conducted by someone with journalistic skills. There is a lot of knowledge, myth, legend, art and culture, history, and many praiseworthy attributes, including some decent word play, but what is lacking is passion.

Some of the poems read like textbooks. Though it is interesting reading, I'd say the biggest weakness of History's Twists: The Armenians is its lack of form. While I am not one to say that form is a necessity, in the case of the poems in this book I can't help but think that many of them would be improved if placed within the confines of traditional metrical patterns. Instead, Pilibosian delivers every single poem in Postmodern free verse as if that is what is expected. The subject matter, on the other hand, seems to demand something else.

That's not to say the poems aren't good. Far from it. Technically, some of them are very good. So good, in fact, that they've been published in the leading journals. And Pilibosian illustrates a mastery of craft that would make proud the instructors at today's leading poetry workshops. That, I'd say, is their downfall.

In the poems in this book, Pilibosian touches on the Armenian alphabet, art, American Armenians lending assistance to those back home, famous Armenians, history, and other topics for the culturally minded. In this, she has created a unique product and one worth at least one reading.

The cover of History's Twists: The Armenians is a painting by Armenia artist Mihran Manougian. Some of the poems in the book are written to or about the fictitious character Nazeli of Armenia, with whom Helene Pilibosian says that she has had "an ongoing correspondence." History's Twists: The Armenians is Pilibosian's third book of poems.

If you like the Postmodern verse that has been churned out of academic journals and small presses for the last 25 years then you'll enjoy History's Twists: The Armenians. If, on the other hand, you prefer experimental poetry then you likely will not like it much. As for me, I found it well crafted and better than most of the poetry coming from the small presses, but I wouldn't say it's at the level of a Pushcart.

Order your copy of

History's Twists: The Armenians
By Helene Pilibosian


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