Three Poems by Archie Minasian

bg 01Forever Saroyan, LLC, is not merely dedicated to the recognition of William Saroyan, but to the entire Saroyan-Minasian family. The family is one of the most talented families of writers in American history with more than a dozen members of the clan published in reputable journals and magazines over the last hundred years. These writers include journalists, novelists, playwrights, and poets. Foremost among the poets of the family is Saroyan's first cousin and closest friend, Khatchik "Archie" Minasian. 

Born in 1913 in Fresno, Archie Minasian would become best known for his poetry, publishing pieces in magazines, and eventually in collections including A World of Questions and Things and The Simple Songs of Khatchik Minasian. Both of these volumes are extremely scarce today. His other writing saw publication in magazines including The Armenian Review and Ararat. His poetry ranges from haiku to longer lyrical works, often employing a simplicity of language that echoes his use of natural imagery. 

Archie also worked in watercolor, and occasionally in oils and acrylics. His work is abstract, vibrant, and full of dense color often in undulating forms, expressionistic in a similar way to his poetry.  While Saroyan's artistic work focused almost exclusively on line, Minasian was far more interested in form and color, and worked in representational art at times. Saroyan's works often felt more constructed, while Minasian's were more organic. The cousins were complimentary while working on opposing ends of the same spectrum. 

In the coming year, Forever Saroyan, LLC, will be publishing an anthology of Saroyan-Minasian family literary works. This will include poetry, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and theatrical writing from across five generations of this remarkable lineage. Some of the pieces will be appearing for the first time, while others will be re-printed from journals and literary magazines across nine decades.

We are pleased to present three Minasian poems, all of which appeared under the mononym 'Khatchik' in the Autumn 1952 issue of The Armenian Review, along with three of his watercolors from the 1970s.


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Can you hear the autumn rustle in the bare woods?

can you hear the sparrow’s disconsolate note?

I have listened and have heard the breath of the seasons

breathe their comings and farewells

I hear the inaudible complaints from the woods

when autumns’ there

From trees when leaves hang sick and dead,

from birds surveying naked boughs

and a host of other grievances unexplainable

mumbling in the hazy atmosphere

of the dying year.

I know a strange awakening

of the dying year;

what a fevor of delight –

hastening through the yellow woods

with a madness in my blood unequalled of other seasons.

I know the evening wind in the hedges

preparing the pathway of my exit to the fields

where smoke streaks from the piles lean horizontally still;

I know the moon of the late months

and the dim stars;

I know the naked trees against the days dying,

the breath of the damp herbage

rotting in the roadway ruts where leaves gather;

I know the shout of the house wife

from the house yard in the field,

the call of bird at dusk from the lemon trees;

I know the flutter of wings

when the quail soars aloft of the vines

in the dusk’s broad avenue of silence,

the sparrow’s soft stir in the hedges;

I know the smell of the after harvest

that rests above the stripped fields,

suspended like the smoke from the leaf piles,

I know the grape and the melon,

I know the peach and the huge family

of nectareous edibles

blistered in the sun’s heat and suspended

in the heaviness of the year.

I know of autumn’s presence

for I have been eager with expectance

with the recollections of autumns past.

I feel autumn

like the fingers of women on fabric during purchase

invisible to my touch

yet as tangible as the breath of my being.

I lean for autumn before the summer’s gone

eager for its arrival,

and I lean on it through every hour of its glorious stay.

I know autumn like the mother her child

from perception of manhood to age,

the days of watchful delight

to mischievous grieving.

My soul is the meter of this season

Registering is coming and going.

I feel its dampness

when I trounce the hay piles on my rounds at dawn,

on the sleek plum boughs beside the house;

I feel it in my clothes

when I prepare my dress on awakening,

chilled with its presence and ever grateful for the familiarity.

What a fevor of delight

to know, to feel, to breathe, to touch

this quiet season,

the restful season of sadness,

moody season

that I see suspended over me,

leaning across the roof tops to the bare woods

and beyond and beyond,

so gloriously commingled in the atmosphere

of the dying year.



Ocean Episode II 20x15 LowRes


Leave the dead where the red roots are,

shame to lift the bone etching itself

to the contours of the claiming rock,

decay’s inexorable sweet-tooth,

            lock the door! lock the door!

Leave the dead where the spirit hovers,

the breath and the red pattern locked eternally

in the semblance of the inanimate crust,

still form perfect.

            lock the door! lock the door!

Leave the dead to the green grass spears

after the maggot nausea and the stink,

sucked out of vision, diminishing pattern

quietly returning, returning.

            lock the door! lock the door!

Leave the dead where the red roots are.


Dreams and Desires 20x15 LowRes


I counted on the elemental roadway, ran aground

and since dragged keel against a world of barbs-

grown weary, water-logged and scarred

with dislocated vertebrae and knotted head

that syllables a reason why I'm good as dead.

So plunge me down in cold surrender to the sea,

out in the levels of the flora and the fin,

the rhythmic crashing silence of the heaving continent;

so plunge and let me glide and let me glide

and rub my body in this subterranean tide

where Babel’s tower-like, all dismal with the word,

apart there I as lime ooze bubble and the whale,

suck in an understanding of this drifting world

through senses peeping out against the skin,

swing on a moment of eternity, black-out and then begin.

The Place of Places: Chapter 65, The St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco, 1935

Welcome back to the Place of Places, a chapter-by-chapter analysis of William Saroyan’s 1972 memoir, Places Where I’ve Done Time. Today we are admitted into The St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco, 1935.

stjohns 19582In 1935, Saroyan went on a European tour, visiting many countries, including Soviet Armenia. In Tiflis, Georgia, which was also Soviet, his appendix became infected. He took sick there, thinking it was just from spoiled food, and continued on to London, New York, and then home to San Francisco. He figured his illness was just another small one that is easily gotten over during the course of life.

This is a summary of this chapter, but in Letters from 74 Rue Taitbout, he describes the story in greater detail. He tells us he was eating at the Intourist Hotel and suddenly felt very ill. He yelled at the waiter that they were serving dirty food and then drank several bottles of water all night. He felt weak and pale in the morning, but better by evening, and able to take the train to Erivan.

Three months later his stomach was still hurting, and he was still drinking water, now back to writing in San Francisco. He had rented a small office near Kearney Street to see if he could write better in an office than at home. Running a slight fever, he wrote the story “The Man with the Heart in the Highlands” and continued to run a fever the next day. Remembering that his father had died from a burst appendix, he took a taxi to the St. Francis Hospital. The family doctor, Harold Fraser, was called in.

“I knew at three o’clock that I was in trouble – far-out trouble, that is. I got up and shaved, hoping the trouble would go away, but it didn’t. For my father it did –that is to say, the infected appendix burst, and he imagined his relief was the consequence of an improvement in his condition, rather than a killing accident. In short, he was tricked, and rested in a false sense of well-being, at last” (Places Where I’ve Done Time).

famHe goes on: “A burst appendix brought on the peritonitis that killed my father in San Jose, California, in July of the year 1911, when he was thirty-six years old. My father got over his illnesses as a rule, as all of us do. But this time he didn’t. And by the time he knew he was dying, it was too late –the game was over.”

Saroyan’s biographies claim that Armenak pleaded for water as he lay dying. And that although Takoohi knew this could mean certain death, she acquiesced, gave him the water, and his appendix burst. His son, Aram, posited in the biography William Saroyan that Armenak was supremely unhappy with his life in America, failing in his religious calling and disappointed with attempts at farming. Aram suggests that maybe Takoohi knew Armenak wanted to die and allowed him that deliverance. Apparently, his last words to her were, “Takoohi, don’t beat the children.”

When Armenak died, William was only three, and he had never known his father like his older siblings did. In Sons Come and Go, Mothers Hang in Forever, he writes, “And so I could love and admire my father and did love and admire him, and at the same time refused to believe in his death, and permitted myself to believe that he would come back, somehow come back to me –the hell with the others, the rest of the kith and kin, my father would come back to me, for I had never known him at all, and they had, and I loved and admired him most, for to me he was a perfect man and had no cock and balls and didn’t fart or anything else gross and stupid and real and shitty like that, and all.”

Ph5 SaroyanBeardFresnoWe have discussed this trauma of losing his father in many other chapters, as William realized that it greatly shaped who he was. The family would often refer to Armenak as being too good for this world. The way in which Armenak lived and died featured in William’s thoughts regularly. In subconsciously seeking out surrogate fathers, he would make the connection that Sherwood Anderson also died of peritonitis, like Armenak. Finding similarities in his heroes helped him make sense of his loss.

For William, becoming a writer and surviving appendicitis were symbolic of accomplishing what his father didn’t. Beyond that, Aram also became a writer, as did his own daughter, further solidifying the family trade down the paternal line. At the hospital, the doctor told Saroyan that if he had waited another 10 minutes, his appendix would have burst, and it was likely he could have died. Saroyan rejected the idea that he might not do better than his father in this way. Saroyan’s daughter, Lucy, would also have an appendix illness that needed surgery when she was a child. The repetition and cycles in this family are nothing short of poetic. It’s no surprise that Saroyan was so fascinated by the concepts of the egg and the circle throughout his life.

After the emergency surgery, Saroyan explains,

“At eleven or so, when I came out of the ether, it was all over. I had traveled far and wide and deep in the ether sleep, so that when I finally reached the destination I was trying for all the time, wakefulness, I had the sense of having been in the land of Death, so to put it, among the long, long dead, where I might have traveled forever. Hence, my being back in the world, in the land of life, affected me in a way that nothing before or since has affected me. I felt that I was experiencing the event of birth, excepting that it was into a fully grown body and into a life of much personal reality, many events, much failure and much achievement” (Places Where I’ve Done Time).

Deep Sleep 052663 40x30 LowRes FIn the previous chapter, we discussed Saroyan’s relationship to sleep. He didn’t get much of it, but when he did, he dreamed vividly and considered it a transition land between life and death. We also addressed how people who claim near-death experiences tend to have disrupted circadian rhythms and sleep cycles, like Saroyan did.

To leave this quote here would be optimistic, as Saroyan leaves this chapter as a changed man, reborn and mystically aware for the first time. But in Letters from 74 Rue Taitbout, he elaborates on waking from surgery, with a more ambivalent long-term outcome:

“At about eleven in the morning, an hour or two after the swollen appendix had been removed, I came to, feeling as if I had just been born into a grown man’s body, aged twenty-seven, and I felt the most profound respect for the mere fact of being alive that I have ever felt, vowing to cherish every instant of my time and to keep myself in good health, pushing aside all of the stuff that only gives the body a bad time –cigarettes, whiskey, anxiety, impatience, excessive work, and so on…But it didn’t work out that way. And I am still so caught up in the limitations of my character that I smoke and drink and eat the wrong kind of food and never do any exercise except a little walking, and so my health is shot –I’m fat, I’ve got ulcers, I’m impatient, I never sleep more than two hours at a time, wake up, read, sleep another hour or two, and so it goes all night except when I am so drunk I am anesthetized into four or five hours of sleep. That is how it is with me at the age of fifty-nine. I’m dying, most likely, but no more than I always have been, but what killed you at the age of forty-four, that’s what I’d like to know.”

This last part is in reference to Doctor Harold Fraser, the subject of the chapter and imaginary recipient of the letter from Rue Taitbout. In fact, he died at age 50 from heart disease. In this Places Where I’ve Done Time chapter, Saroyan reminds us that Dr. Fraser was also the personal physician of James Rolph, the former mayor of San Francisco and governor of California. This is perhaps to remark on the small-town quality of San Francisco in the 1930s and the ongoing way that chance meetings affected Saroyan throughout his life.

Cover392In his later memoirs, Saroyan didn’t shy away from the truth of his defects in character, his vices that made for nearly insurmountable financial problems. That he survived so long past his father perhaps made him feel confused or guilty about his own lifestyle compared against a man others considered unimpeachable. Here again we see the important theme of legacy and what we owe our ancestors. Aram would write a whole book about this in Last Rites, deconstructing his relationship with his own father as Saroyan had tried to do in fits and starts with Armenak.

Saroyan ends this chapter having woken up from surgery reborn, “If ever I felt that a calling out of glory hallelujah made sense, it was the first minute or two after my return to myself and to the world. My gratitude was so great, breathing felt like praying…Life, personal life, human life, my own life, was a miracle involving billions of years of failure and achievement.”

This chapter is about the survival of generations and even the way that our lives can improve upon our ancestors’ lives. As we near the end of this book, this chapter is a slight break from the big metaphysical concepts, but it remains in the realm of big picture analysis of his life. Gone are the small moments and memories that creep into the mind. Now those are fully replaced by life and death experiences and the legacy each generation leaves behind.

Echoes of Saroyan


William Saroyan - The Painted Word, Forever Saroyan's installation at the Saratoga Library in Saratoga, California, opened on August 1st, 2022. The exhibit, curated by Chris Garcia and Dori Myer, features 16 paintings and drawings by William Saroyan ranging from roughly 1930 through 1963. There were also materials relating to Saroyan's lyric work, and film and theatrical writing. The exhibition, the first of Saroyan's work this decade, is supplemented by printed biographical materials. 

On August 6th, 2022, Forever Saroyan, LLC, presented Echoes of Saroyan to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. The event featured a selection of works and materials related to Saroyan's life and output, as well as a video presentation, and two speakers - authors Mark Arax and Aris Janigian.

IMG 023094The displays focused on four major areas - The life and impact of William Saroyan, Saroyan's three most important works:The Human Comedy,  The Time of Your Life, and The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and other stories; Saroyan's international popularity; and Saroyan's musical output. These small, table-top displays were curated by Chris Garcia, and included materials that had never before been displayed, including the original lyrics for "Come On-a My House," the telegram Saroyan sent accepting the New York Drama Critics' Circle award for The Time of Your Life, and Saroyan's certificate recognizing his election to the National Institute of Arts & Letters. 

The video presentation focused on providing context to Saroyan's life with several pieces presented in his own voice, including excerpts of Saroyan on the Dick Cavett Show, reading the dedication of The Human Comedy, and delivering his most fiery of speeches - The Armenian and The Armenian

IMG 1227Finally, Mark Arax spoke of his view of Saroyan and having met the man himself, and related stories of Fresno, his family, and the influence of Saroyan on his work. He also read from both Saroyan and his own writing, and called up author Aris Janigian for a conversation about Saroyan, the craft of writing, and the Armenian experience. 

The exhibit will remain available through September 30th, 2022. Hours are Monday - Tuesday, 10am to 8pm, Wednesday - Sunday - 10am to 6pm. Admission is free.



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