Socialist and feminist poetry trailblazer Shushanik Kurghinian

Born in 1876 to a family of artisans in present-day Gyumri, Kurghinian’s talent for the written form was apparent at a young age.

Viewing the role of poetry as “profoundly political,” many of Kurghinian’s pieces openly challenged preconceived cultural standards of the time.

Through poems like “I Want to Live,” her words lent power to women and the poor, two groups who were often voiceless and marginalized in literature and society at large.   

Today, Kurghinian is considered a pioneer in the field of Armenian feminist and proletarian literature, paving the way for other female writers to follow, such as Zabel Yessayan and Silva Kaputikyan. As the graffiti line in the poster says,

“Do not love me as if I were a flower; I want to live a worthy life!” To mark the occasion, we present you an English translation of her 1907 poem «Երգել ուզեցի՝ ասին չգիտես…» (“I wanted to sing, they said, ‘You don’t know how…’). 

I wanted to sing, they said, ‘You don’t know how…’

I wanted to sing, they said, “You don’t know how…”
I penned songs—“Shut up! You’re a girl!”
But when in this miserable life
I became a song of pain
I found a place
In everyone’s bosom.
I sang a lot
And they said, “She will soon tire!”
I sang aloud
“It will stop at once!”
I sang to no end
And they flattered me.

1907

Translated by h-pem editor, Rupen Janbazian By h-pem

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