Book Review: Evolution is My Revolution (Seeroon Yeretzian)
Reviewed by MaryAnne L. Miller
Evolution is My Revolution comes with a warning from the author that it is "not an ordinary book." The reader might beware of Seeroon Yeretzian's extraordinary sensuality and unstinting openheartedness. Evolution is My Revolution documents a life lived and a life ending. We are called upon as readers to remember the vibrancy of this life and to experience the profound grief and continuing loss of that vibrancy from an artist turned writer who, from age 60 has been struggling with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease. Yeretzian is a member of the Armenian diaspora, and so brings to bear the political, literary, and artistic history of her culture. She quotes the Armenian poet Vahan Tekeyan: "Where is the life I have lost in living?" She was forced because of the lightening bolt of ALS to learn a new life. Her prolific life as a painter was changed but she could write with the aid of a DynaVox EyeMax. She describes the process that tracks eye movements as she looks at the letters on her keyboard. Knowing about this painstaking process makes Yeretzian's accomplishment in writing this life review all the more impressive.
The writing is integrated with Yeretzian's figurative paintings. She has placed the images next to her text as embellishment and explanation. They resemble illuminations, and indeed when I looked into her background I found another book titled Seeroon Darer: Armenian Ornate Initials from the same publisher, Abril Publisher of Glendale, California. During the middle ages illuminated manuscripts were a highly prized art form and Yeretzian has incorporated this luminous tradition into her work. Of interest is the fact that "abril" means "to live" in Armenian. The publisher's appellation becomes commentary on the theme of Evolution is My Revolution.
Yeretzian faces her terrible disease with anger, cynicism, resignation, and a philosophical hope. In the piece "Who? What? Why?" Yeretzian poses the question, "Has anyone received a telegraph, phone call, fax, email, text, Tweet, or a Skype or Facebook message from Jesus Christ or God?" She wants to hear from the Supreme Being and she's not alone in this wish. CBS has recently begun airing a feel-good Good Samaritan series called "God Friended Me." However, Yeretzian is laying out a cosmic existential context into which she is trying to fit herself. She is searching for meaning in this quest and sends out a primal call to the eternal parent. She wonders about an answer and won't settle for superficiality. The capsules of thought she roams through as she heads for that final question determine the format of her verses. Many of the poems in Evolution is My Revolution are most important for their content and wildly imaginative visuals. Form is a function of the writer's passion and need to integrate her paintings with her newer art made of words instead of paint.
In "Bird or God's eye view" Yeretzian creates a prose poem that might be viewed from "celestial heights."
Since I can't paint anymore, I now paint in my dreams.
Profound loss and a sense of abandonment permeate this poem. The poet tries to find a safe place within her betrayed body.
In her piece "Seeroon" she recounts how she misses herself "now that your body has turned into a chunk of useless garbage, with a brain full of wasted knowledge." The near rhyme of garbage/knowledge is wrenching. "Seeroon" is a concrete poem shaped like a broad brushstroke fitted next to a small self-portrait. Another very moving concrete poem is laid out around a striking profile of Yeretzian's husband who passed away from a fall while terminally ill with cancer. He fell in their home, struck his head, and died in her arms. The poem is titled "Wastebasket" and likens his coffin to the "last wastebasket of his life." It is a listing of his traits and interests, his attitudes and emotions. She has lost the use of her body, and now, her best friend and lover.
Yeretzian describes their love and sex life in graphic detail and memorializes her sensuality. I sense the frustration of trying to hold onto the most intimate parts of her physicality. Yeretzian is a woman who has enjoyed her body and has overcome the shyness of many women in her Armenian culture. She is left with her intellect and the remarkable persistence of her life force.
The poem "Condemned building" has a hopeful finality and needs to be quoted in its entirety.
I am on the sands of Laguna Beach.
The painting of gulls is composed within a profile of the artist's head at the seashore. The structure of her body is deteriorating like an eroded building, yet the poet tells herself and the reader to focus on the present. Evolution is My Revolution is an exercise in courage,for Yeretzian and her readers.
Title: Evolution is My Revolution