Spring Literary Series continues with poetry readings

With her published works appearing in Poetry International, Poet Lore and Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets, Lory Bedikian has proven to be an inspiration to aspiring poets and writers, especially to those from immigrant families. Bedikian, who writes a column called “Poetry Matters” for The Armenian Reporter, spoke at the third lecture in Santa Monica College’s Spring Literary Series on Thursday.

Born in San Francisco, Bedikian moved to Van Nuys, Calif. in the ‘70s to live with her family, sharing a room with her aunt and grandmother until the age of 16. She said that her Armenian background presented challenges for her as she was growing up.

“The Book of Lamenting,” the title of Bedikian’s award-winning book of poetry, is also a poem that she dedicated to her grandmother.

“[Bedikian] uses expressions that take us into a world where we can look into and out from,” English department chair Susan Sterr said at the lecture.

Sterr opened the lecture with Bedikian’s carefully crafted poem “At My Mother’s Dresser,” which painted a picture of each moment for the rapt listeners with similes and descriptive language.

Referring to the rhyme schemes of poetry, such as iambic pentameter, Bedikian drew comparisons between poetry and music.

“[Poetry] is just condensed music,” said Bedikian. “Music is a big part of poetry for me.”

Most of the poet’s work incorporates the theme of family, while other poems pertain to illness or death.

“I think what’s happening [in the world] should always affect a person’s writing,” she said. “I am affected by those things, and I think it’s a blessing and a curse to be affected by so many things.”

During the lecture, Bedikian read fourteen poems from her published works, including “Night in Lebanon,” “Prayer for My Immigrant Relatives,” “Driveways,” “What Floods the Hour,” “Breathing,” and “Harvard Square.”

Bedikian shared her personal stories behind each poem, as she was deeply inspired by her life experiences.

“Breathing” originated from Bedikian’s need to relax and take deep breaths in the midst of chaos. She was once advised to take yoga, which she tried, but later decided was not for her.

In “Breathing,” Bedikian’s mind runs with openness to “open the lips to suck in the sky, encouraging the lungs to nudge the ribs.”

Crediting her love of poetry to poet Marge Piercy, Bedikian said she still remembers the first time she read “Love Like a Ticking Bomb.”

“It was written very conversational,” said Bedikian. “I loved the metaphors and similes she used in it.”

Other poets who have inspired the poet include Yusef Komunyakaa, Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Levine.

When asked about her hopes in life by a member of the audience, she replied, “I’m hoping for a world where the ears open before the mouths do.”

To aspiring writers and poets, Bedikian emphasized the need to “not only read, not only become educated, but listen.”

“Protest, get angry, love, play with languages and ideas, but especially challenge yourself,” said Bedikian.