AUA School of Public Health Seminar Series: Healing Words

On June 26, 2013, the AUA School of Public Health (SPH) organized a bilingual poetry reading dedicated to the healing power of words. As SPH Associate Dean Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan noted in her opening remarks, “Dana Walrath’s presence in our program has made the Public Health Seminar Series more creative and interdisciplinary, and I am happy for this opportunity to bridge public health and literature.”

Dana Walrath, a medical anthropologist, writer, and artist, is a Fulbright Scholar in the AUA School of Public Health working on a project that builds on her award winning Aliceheimer’s graphic memoir series about life with her mother, Alice, before and during Alzheimer’s disease. She read a series of poems in English from her forthcoming verse novel, Like Water on Stone, (Random House/Delacorte 2014) set during the Armenian genocide, guiding the audience through the intersections of traumatic memory, survival, and the language of poetry. In her introduction, Dr. Walrath explained, “Healing is all about creating shared social meaning. This lets us move on. As the proverb goes, ‘Where the needle passes, the thread passes also.’ I believe that words create those threads.”

The second half of the reading was led by Marine Petrossian, a prolific contemporary Armenian poet known for her outspoken literary work and recognized for her accomplishments in Yerevan. She read from her last book, Salat Krakotsnerov (Salad with Shots, Actual Arvest 2011), and also a selection of new poems, which dealt with themes of urban life, travel, cancer, and recovery. “What matters in the end is our ability to change the quality of life through poetry. If my poems can do that, then I have succeeded,” Ms. Petrossian said in her closing remarks.

The two poets will continue their collaboration in the coming months and plan to stage another reading in October 2013 involving the students from AUA’s Certificate in Translation Program (CTR). “We have been talking with the Provost about establishing a series of regular cultural events in the Akian Gallery, which will serve the University’s mission to discover and disseminate knowledge, produce creative work, and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the AUA community,” said CTR faculty member Shushan Avagyan who helped organize the reading, which took place in the beautifully arranged Akian Gallery featuring the paintings by Ashot Harutyunyan.

The event was recorded and can be viewed at>.

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