Gohar Ghazaryan’s 13-year-old students are preparing for 2018’s National Poetry Recitation Contest, reading and analyzing poems by AE Housman, Langston Hughes and Jack Prelutsky. Two of poems are copied below, so you can see just how accomplished these five students are. I’ve also added a video of Viola Davis reciting Hughes’ Mother to Son, which is followed by the poet himself reading his own work. It’s a thrill to hear the voices of the great actress and the legendary poet, but, to me, nothing was better than hearing Ruzan and Sveta do their readings today. Life in a village in Syunik marz ain’t no crystal stair, but these girls are a-climbin’ on, just as the mother in the poem says they should. I have no doubt they will get to the very top.
Mikael is a natural comedian and got a big laugh on the last line of the Prelutsky poem. Grigor didn’t seem quite world-weary enough for Housman. Norvard did a nice job too–but she didn’t want her picture taken– a perfectly reasonable position when you are 13.
I first met these remarkable students when my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer Allen invited me to talk to them about the BBC, where I worked for years and years. Then, we did our session via skype but the connection wasn’t good enough and so it wasn’t much fun for anyone. To try to make up, I got hold of Susan Rae, the honey-toned BBC newsreader much loved by listeners all over the world. Would she send me some World Service journalism tools—good, old-fashioned notebooks and pens? Between bulletins, Susan parceled up some promotional items and popped them in the post to Armenia. I delivered the pens in person today and sat in on performances so polished that they led me to believe Susan’s job could be in jeopardy. When it comes to enunciation, pronunciation, emphasis and attention to meaning, Susan has few rivals–but these 8th form students, speaking in their second–no–wait–third–language are beginning to run her close. By the time they perform in March they’ll be word perfect.
At the end of the lesson the students gave me a New Year card in which they had all written thanks and good wishes for 2018. I send the thanks right back to them. Today was one of the best days I have had in Armenia. I would also say good luck for 2018, but they don’t need it. Helped by the excellent teaching of Gohar and Allen they are making their own luck. 8th Formers of Armenia Beware: National Poetry Recitation Contest competition will be very tough this year.
Yonder See the Morning
Yonder see the morning blink:
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink
And look at things and talk and think
And work, and God knows why.
Oh often have I washed and dressed
And what’s to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest:
Ten thousand times I’ve done my best
And all’s to do again.
My Brother’s Bug
My brother’s bug was green and plump,
It did not run, it could not jump,
It had no fur for it to shed,
It slept all night beneath his bed.
My brother’s bug had dainty feet,
It did not need a lot to eat,
It did not need a lot to drink,
It did not scream, it did not stink.
It always tried to be polite,
It did not scratch, it did not bite,
The only time it soiled the rug
Was when I squashed my brother’s bug.