Utican (drawn in 2009) represents the outlandish world that lies within the past of an extraordinary person. We don’t typically see this interior; we’re not privy to it; we can’t even imagine it. Heretofore, we’ve just seen what’s on the outside.

One cannot conceive what has occurred which has no record. If you can accept that idea, you are on your way to keying in on the oh-so-rare view that is the Utican drawing.

The top-performers among us can’t translate their experiences to our eye, value system, or range of play. Their wildness eludes us because it’s neither visible nor comprehendible. Certain fantastic instances can only be experienced by an uncommon creature, life’s proverbial “tropical bird”—that exotic personality who’s lived in the stratified air of yesterday’s stardom.

The Utican drawing depicts this concept in a vivid, momentary cross-section.

Real-life examples exist in older Broadway or Hollywood productions. The average moviegoer may be in awe of The Wizard of Oz’s dreamlike quality, but imagine how surreal it must have been for the supporting actors on that expansive, color-saturated set. To have lived their vantage point personifies Utican. The action took place in the past; the actors’ points of view were unique and not recorded; and the movie has become the pinnacle of legend.

Can we even begin to fathom those 1939-era players’ perspectives? Can we comprehend their sightlines on scenery never filmed, fellow characters not documented, the wondrous volumes of fascinating ad-libs, or the spectacle of real-time bombast? The movie’s mystique is essential to the flavor.

An outrageous slice-of-life can be an unimaginable experience, if we allow the possibility that some greatness will always be beyond us. Utican submits this reasoning is true.

Utican provides a glimpse of a royal bird, unveiling a reality outside the bounds of the layman’s comprehension. We can look at its representative drawing, but no knife is sharp enough to cross-section an icon’s glorious, undocumented past.

Ara Hagopian’s latest book: http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com


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The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine

The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine (drawing made in 2009). The drawing’s concept is exemplified by the Harry Morgan character in To Have and Have Not, the novel by Ernest Hemmingway.

It’s conceivable that no-nonsense Harry would say a hard working trawler fisherman who’s lost a thousand pounds of livelihood due to a broken rig would be pretty angry that night and many nights after. But talk to that same man many years after the costly incident, and he might recall the story with a smile. Time is the great leveler, but we have to wait it out.

In The Wheels of Time Grind Slowly But Fine drawing, major traumatic events in our lives are depicted by blue dots with white trim. The largest dot—at the top right—is created at the moment of trauma; it represents a heartbreak, or the death of a loved one, or in Harry’s case, the proverbial broken rig leading to the loss of a fortune. As the Wheels of Time engage, the event is systematically crushed, broken, and worn down to the tiniest of dots, as shown at the lower right.

In the beginning of this progression, the first six dots—ever so large—are the hard days, months, and years when the pain is strongest. The second set of six dots represents pain in transition—acting as their own mobility, and still quite sizeable, the trauma-dots become part of the greater mechanism itself.

The last set of six dots occurs during the span of time where the Wheels’ crushing is replaced by a progressively-smoother serration, leading us to the very last dot, which is nearly microscopic. Unable to be ground further, but quite manageable at this point, that tiny dot represents the kernel of memory we hold in our heart—the hurting is less, but we will never forget. The Wheels of Time have completed their work. The bit that’s left is what we have to live with. We’ve tucked it into our lives.

In 1984, the year my father died, someone wrote me a letter. Among her words was the title to this piece. I didn’t know what to do with such a phrase. I wanted to feel better, now. But I always kept it in my head.

Today, thirty-three years after those hard months of mourning, I’m on the other side of the equation. I understand the globe of pain I felt then, and the speck I hold now. As it sits, the pain is as crushed as it can possibly be; it’s a part of me; that smallest of dots near the tail of the drawing.

But it does still hurt. And yet, it’s not the wild, frightening stranger it once was.

I don’t have a choice to draw. I don’t have a choice to feel. I have chosen to share, and articulate graphically and with words, exactly how a bad circumstance got better.  The wheels of time grind slowly but fine.


Ara Hagopian’s most recent book is http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com

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A Poetry Reading in the Corporate Workplace

It wasn’t going to be a quiet morning. The corporation I work for has an active cafeteria where employees are encouraged to utilize the common-area space at their leisure, and the cafe can get noisy. But it’s good noise, because everyone in the room is there to take a breather from their work routine. Management named the space the Chill Zone, because it was to be a place for more than simply sitting and eating. Workers were encouraged to meet there, and party there, too.

I had a fifteen-minute plan. I’d reserved the Chill Zone’s small alcove for a private poetry reading, and while the world doesn’t stop for poets, poets can and do stop the world.

I’m happy to say I recited my work to a small but enthusiastic group. This event was my first and it went off perfectly.

I wrote and self-published a poetry book last fall. It’s a few hundred pages and spans 1979-2016. With very modest sales and no outlets (hey, it’s poetry and hey, no one knows me) I’ve sold to readers in eleven States and three countries OUS. I believe in the book’s every word and yet, I’d never spoken those words.

Last week, I decided to change that. Why not hold a break-time reading, right here at work? I formulated a few goals and did some preparation. Let me tell you how I planned the event.

The goals for the reading were simple:

  1. Conduct my first poetry recital.
  2. Feature five of my book’s poems, in a fifteen minute span.
  3. The audience would be a small number of hand-picked friends, unfamiliar with my work.

Groups are most effective when they are gathered for a united purpose. I didn’t need five bodies—the listeners had to be the supportive sort. I considered my working relationships, and opted not to involve my direct department, or sister departments. Reason: I didn’t want a “buzz” around me prior to, or after the event. I needed my work space to be normal.

The audience was to be composed of some long-term friends, and some newer ones. I wanted a mix of ages and not all one gender. A range of departments would round out the listener group.

I approached each friend personally—not by email—and I was clear on what was not going to take place. I would not be selling or promoting anything. Also, I explained that my work did not include religion or politics. Lastly, I assured each person that we’d stick to the limited timeframe to conform to a normal break period. I got my five yeses and to be safe invited a sixth person, in case of a no-show. She accepted but later cancelled due to a prior commitment. (She emailed after the reading to ask how it went.)

The readers came from the following departments: Human Resources, Finance, Marketing, Customer Service, and Purchasing.

With five days to prepare, I needed to make my poem selections. A few of the book’s works were available as PDFs online, and a few others appeared on the book’s Facebook page. Although the listeners had probably not been exposed to those writings, I confined three of my selections to unknown “deep cuts” from the book, and picked two that had appeared online. The poems ranged in word count, subject, and mood.

Here’s what I’d learned during preparation.

Rehearse, alone. A stopwatch and notebook were used to record each poem’s recital length. Five poems consistently got me twelve minutes’ read time. I was a new reader, and learned that the spoken word was not the same as simply slowed and clear conversational mode. I also mastered the art of gracefully turning pages. The recital would be a performance, and I was to entertain.

Don’t assume to know the line. I’ve read and edited these poems for years. During rehearsals, I had a tendency to skip words, or hesitate and thus break rhythm. I learned to actually Read-Each-Word. I couldn’t let my voice rush away from where my eyes were on the page. With poetry, words are specifically chosen, like precisely laid stones in a patio. Don’t ruin the mason’s careful work with a slipshod read.

Each line sounded best when I’d found its natural bounce. There was a flow to the speed (or a speed to the flow) of each line and, when practiced aloud, I learned where the tricky passages were hidden in each poem.

Find the story-serving method to deliver the rhyme points. Rhyming words don’t activate on their own, they need a tonal buildup where the speaker’s voice helps the listeners accept the phrasing. A buildup can best be managed when we choose the endpoint—the “boom” of a second rhyme. Rhyming words should come to a natural conclusion within the poem’s context. As odd as it may seem, this involves thinking like a chess player and being aware of what’s coming next, while maintaining concentration on the current point in time. This is why rehearsal is crucial.

Here are the poems I selected:

  1. Share
  2. I would choose to be with you
  3. Carry
  4. Stuck in Farving, Illinois
  5. In and out of sight

The recital morning arrived and I planned my wardrobe. Casual Friday would not apply to me that day, as I wore a suit coat over my newest work clothes. I wanted to look my best, with my appearance hopefully matching the quality of work I was to present.

At 10:30 everyone was present in the alcove. I noticed the reservation board listed an 11:00 event as a Cinco de Mayo celebration. I told you this wasn’t going to be a quiet morning!

The listeners gathered on a comfortable couch. I pulled up a chair for myself. I wanted to take a few moments and smooth the atmosphere, so I told them if this had been an art exhibition, I’d have some food and light music arranged for them. They laughed and settled in. They knew the group was complete, and what was coming. It was time for me to break the ice.

I opened my book to the first selection and began reading. I delivered the first two poems, which went smoothly and quickly.

The listeners were deathly quiet. Their silence insulated me, protected me, and provided an incredible sense of validation. Two or three seemed to be moved by the words. I’d hoped to break the ice but perhaps I’d torn up their lawn. They seemed okay with that—despite the teary eyes. They nodded for me to continue with poem three.

I took them back several decades to the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers MA, and related the bittersweet sight I’d seen one day. There was a lesson in that poem and we all learned it, them for the first time and me all over again. With the third poem completed, we were set for the recital’s centerpiece, which took place in the late Twentieth-Century Midwest. We were into 6-page, 4-minutes long territory, the recital’s epic piece, and I brought the listeners to a motel parking lot just out of Illinois.

Everyone was as quiet as they’d been at the start. It seemed to me they damn well cared what happened in that parking lot. This is why I said poets can stop the world. We were all stopped at the protagonist’s dramatic pivot. What was he going to do?

The poem had a tricky ending, with two voices, but it went perfectly.

The reading concluded with a selection that didn’t rhyme but had a deep commitment to family, friends, and love. This poem had proven popular since its writing, and it delivered five smiles at the reading—just as I’d hoped.

The recital was over. We had a moment to chat as a group, and my friends understood what I meant about desiring time to discuss what specific pieces meant to each of us. I received some warm feedback as we spilled into the hallway, and via some nice emails afterwards, too.

I feel much closer to these friends now. I enjoyed every aspect of the recital and am beyond happy I had such a good group to count on for help. Poems take on a bigger dimension when they come alive in spoken voice, and it was a privilege to have an opportunity to present the work this way.



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What a Deaf Cat Can Teach Us


My cat sat looking out our bedroom window, calm and entrenched in his favorite bed. I walked into the room and called to him, as I’d done for sixteen years. He remained undistracted, and I spoke louder. He gave no reaction. Not a flinch of twisted ear, not a fraction of a head movement. Sixteen was the new eighty; Petey, our Puerto Rican Siamese-cow cat mix, had gone deaf.

That discovery happened nearly two years ago. Today, as he approaches the advanced age of eighteen, I’ve had some time to think about Petey, his place in the world, and what I’ve learned from him.

In the immediate days when we discovered Petey had lost his hearing, I spent a lot of time watching him rest. His head was level, his eyes were away from mine, and I studied the face of a buddy I’d known since 1999. He wasn’t jittery or vocal, in fact he was relaxed. This allowed me to get a good read on him.

I learned that a creature can be simultaneously calm, and poised in expectation. He was the mellow guy at the party, not speaking up about not quite getting the joke. He was the simple man at the deli line, waiting, wordlessly, for his number to be called.

Petey was alone in his comfortable bed of quietness. Today, eighteen months in, he’s still the sole occupier of the silent world.

He waits for sounds which shall never come. He can’t hear how loud his normal calls have evolved. He’s seemed to settle on the opinion that the world has changed—it’s stopped creating noise—and he’s found no fault with himself. He doesn’t shake his head, or paw at his ears, or look around in a freak-out. We’re the problem, not he: We are absent of emitting. He’s not deficient in receiving.

He relies on the patience and aid of the people in his trust. He counts on his family, and that is just fine for us.

He does not appear anxious or concerned about the lack of sound. He expects noises and is prepared to act on them.

If a sense must be lost, may hearing be the one. Cats rely on their ears to defend themselves—to react to warnings, and to feed—to track prey. Since Petey lives his life as an indoor cat, those needs are taken care of. A kitchen light is the visual cue that tells him we’re home. Petey has long enjoyed sitting on heating grates and in the past would react to the basement blower and duct noise. Now, the faint whiff of dust tips him off to go find a grate. He’s adapted.

In Petey’s world, he has lost nothing. I used to fear his ailment was the start of a decline. It is not. Hearing loss is another point in the aging process, a bold point perhaps, from where there is a progression forward, not an obvious end. He’s not dying. He still explores, still crushes upright paper bags and taps tin foil balls. He still eats uncooked spaghetti off the floor in the two-paw method of hold, lift and snap. He begs for a bit of American cheese when he catches me standing in the kitchen and he must stick his head inside the curious refrigerator thing each time its door is opened.

Dying? My foot. I mourn the loss that is mine alone.

My boy will never hear my voice again. In those first days of his hearing loss, I pitied his big, magnificent ears. Over many months I’ve learned those ears are not useless. They are a part of his head. They are part of his normal. He rests his head on them and cleans them and enjoys their fleshy parts stroked. We use his ears to apply his nightly transdermal medication—he is, after all, an old man.

His precious ears have many functions, well beyond the Family Feud rank list.

It doesn’t matter that he can’t hear my voice. He can still see that I’m talking to him, just as before. He counts on me to be the owner he’s known since adoption. He rests in the crook in my arm, every day, and turns his head and looks me in the eye. Not a stare down, but a connection. A thank you for a normal life. He places his head on my arm and goes to sleep. He’s at ease, and I am happy.

What does the deaf cat teach us? We can say relaxation encourages an honest assessment. Not for self-evaluation—remember, Petey was not in a position to appraise himself. His deafness brought him to a neutral, undistracted mood and as a result, I was able to get a better read on his body language, and his perception of the world. If a manager wants to get a good read on her employees, she could start by fostering a reasonable office environment. Relaxation is a clean chalkboard, ready for honest messages that will automatically come.

The deaf cat illustrates another point: Relaxation is a warm bath for the mind. You can’t just make it happen, and it doesn’t just befall you. You have to prepare for it and immerse in it. You must recognize your need.

For the cat, deafness brought relaxation, but for people, we can enact. We can manage ourselves to be put in the position to be calm. We almost always have the power but often lack the assertion to do so. The benefit of our calmness can carry over to those around us. By experience we know this to be true.

There is more to learn. In my managerial days I was once in the position to hire a deaf worker. I was at an employee fair run by the department of employment services. I was looking for a person to work in a clean room for medical devices, a good job for a dedicated, competent, and cooperative person.

The woman who was my liaison spoke to me about the job and offered the deaf candidate. He was coming in off the street but had a great attitude. She really wanted to place him and I’m ashamed to say I was skeptical that he was the best person for the job. I interviewed him and he couldn’t have done a better job presenting himself.

I regret that my decision was to go with someone else. I chose a person with direct work experience. I thought the state’s candidate would miss out on the verbal cues that were part of my team’s environment. As odd as it may sound, I was correct on that point. I was wrong is assuming the verbal cues would remain the invariable choice of the group.

The truth is, the team would have changed its composition the moment he joined, had he been hired. The team’s legacy method of calling out information would have naturally evolved as the group worked with its new dynamic. Visual cues, training, awareness of others’ activities, all of these factors would have replaced the simple sound-carrying-through-air method.

What’s more, the deaf worker would have fostered a quieter room. Certainly, he wouldn’t have contributed much gossip and meandering which tend to tear teams apart, especially teams enclosed in clean rooms.

Humans mimic simple creatures in the ways we react to change, whether it be the loss of hearing, or similar alterations in our lives. Through observation, we learn to adapt and thrive.


ARA HAGOPIAN’S NEW BOOK IS OUT NOW http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com

Petey Hagopian

Petey Hagopian

Posted in Cats, non-fiction | Leave a comment

Accomplishments 2016

ACCOMPLISHMENTS 2016. Hello readers! Here’s an update on what was completed this year.

I published my third book in October, THE LEAVES OF YOUTH, which included 100 original poems written from age 13-50.

This year also saw the completion of a dozen short works, including THIS MAN, GOODBYE TO A FRIEND, THE MUSE, I FOUGHT THE BULLY, FORK IN THE ROAD, GROWTH, and HER PAINTED ROOM.

I illustrated and wrote a three-part Memorial Day series.

I re-wrote the short fiction piece THE LEGACY and submitted it to the Writer’s Digest short story contest, as well as to the literary journal Glimmer Train, results for both to be announced in February 2017.

I produced about thirty artistic scale model photographs, which I post on a few history forums (and via email- write to me if you want to be on the list. Ara@AraHagopian.com).

Lastly, I shot principal photography for an upcoming 2017 Charleston South Carolina exhibit, which will be my third exhibit covering that historic Southern city.

2017 will focus on writing new material, and promoting THE LEAVES OF YOUTH. We will promote LOY in 2017 which will hopefully include a meet and greet, a book signing and readings. Keep watch! https://www.facebook.com/literateshow.


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Scale Model Photography from 2016

Below is a collection of my scale model photographs produced in 2016.





























ABOUT: Ara Hagopian’s third book was released in 2016: http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com



Posted in History, The Literate War, WWII | Leave a comment

This Man


He’s long gone. This man, dressed as best he could, is lost to us. The New York City street where he stood has been re-paved, many times. The street has been better treated than he.

Today, the scrappy tree behind him has fallen victim to the bulldozer. The city landscapers have taken ninety years to transform the crude dirt path into something beautiful and deliberate, finished with a design to guide baby strollers and joggers alike. And this man, dressed in tatters, steps aside to time. This man is gone.

I want to touch him, as he stands. I can’t and yet I’m somehow pulled closer, closer to his image, to his circumstance, his story. I want to be there, in that Depression-era year, and offer him water, some hot food, and a bath. While he’s bathing I’d set aside his outfit—not presuming to discard what he owns—and get him a set of basic clothes, suitable for his modesty. I’d best-guess his size until we could get to a shop and fit him properly. That, all of that, is one thing I would want to do. The first thing.

This man is very important to me. He’s not my color, my blood, my neighbor, nor my generation. But he is mine. He is my concern.

From this one photograph, it appears he struggled and failed to build a life for himself. He may have been twenty, may have been fifty. He had rights but not the means to exercise them. I don’t blame, but I do judge. I judge that no seemingly-forthright person should have to stand as he stood on this particular day. I judge that no one should withhold opportunities freely afforded others.

I judge that along with the focus on seeking our stewards, we must consider providing stewardship as well.

I’ve been to Fort Moultrie. I’ve touched a shackle that bound men who were not criminals. I’ve felt a chain that held women who were not dishonorable, and who did not have an advocate. I’ve seen the manifests, read the re-named names of slaves, and their critical statistics of age, skill and disposition—that is, their degree of agreeability. I’ve seen the plan of a boat, where it was illustrated how Africans were laid out to maximize space during their terrible kidnap voyages from their homes.

I’ve examined these artifacts very carefully, and have given them full time and attention. I’ve grown heavier as I study, thinner as I think.

This man in the photograph was born a free man. Yet without social acceptance, without the preparation of education, without mentoring and encouragement and comfort at home, he was doomed to the posture of a broken man.

This man is long gone, but he is right here. Not simply preserved in a photograph; he also lives with us, you and I, today. He’s here to remind us that good people should not stand in shame. His legacy—you see, he did leave one—was to ensure someone’s talents don’t lie unexplored. As we say, the man is gone, but this man lives. He wants you to be weighty; wants you to be thin.

In my thinking of him, I am bothered by the concept of generosity. Generosity is Man at his best, where one gives something of value to someone in need, without expecting compensation. This man may have been given a few things in his day, but did he know generosity? And this is what bothers me. Did he ever have the opportunity to give something to others, something that was needed? And appreciated?

Generosity has an upstream. The action flows one way but there’s a satisfaction that only comes with giving.

My guess is this man had very little in terms of possessions. Maybe he’d held onto a doll that he saved for just the right girl, at just the right time. Or maybe he’d been generous with his time by helping a stranger set his car right on the road, when he could have just looked away. My fear of fears is that the precious dispensation of generosity may have been lost to one whose focus was pure survival.

Many years ago, a man in great need stood in rags. We can imagine, but we don’t know his story. His image speaks, as we consider what he can teach us.


ABOUT: Ara Hagopian’s third book was published October 2016: http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com


Center photograph by John Albok. This composite by Ara Hagopian.


Posted in New York City, non-fiction | 2 Comments