Aram SaroyanTuesday, February 5, 2019
Aram Saroyan (born September 25, 1943) is an American poet, novelist, biographer, memoirist and playwright, who is especially known for his minimalist poetry, famous examples of which include the one-word poem "lighght"and a one-letter poem comprising a four-legged version of the letter "m".
Aram Saroyan has had careers as a poet, novelist, biographer, essayist, playwright, educator, editor, and publisher. According to the UbuWeb site, which reprints some of his early publications, Saroyan first established his reputation as a poet working in the genre of concrete poetry in a style that is described as "minimalist":
The groundbreaking 1960s concrete poetry of Aram Saroyan [includes] The Street, a film based on Saroyan's life during that period. Other works include three full-length books of classic concrete poetry: Pages (Random House, 1969), Aram Saroyan(Random House, 1968), and Cloth: An Electric Novel (Big Table, 1971). Saroyan chronicles his making of these poems in his essay Flower Power and his historical position is noted in Mary Ellen Solt's 1968 Concrete Poetry: A World View: United States
Minimalism and concrete poetry
Saroyan's four-legged "m" has been cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's shortest poem. Admirer Bob Grumman has written that the poem plays on formation of an alphabet, as if 'm' and 'n' are in the process of separating. It can also be understood as a pun on "I am", implying the formation of consciousness itself.
One of Saroyan's most famous poems was simply the unconventionally spelled word "lighght" in the center of a blank page. This poem was selected by George Plimpton to be featured in The American Literary Anthology and, like all poems in the volume, received a $750 cash award from the National Endowment for the Arts, then just 20 years old.The NEA was created in the same year the poem was written, 1965. Many conservatives, such as Representative William Scherle and Senator Jesse Helms, objected at the per-word amount of the award, complaining that the word was not a real poem and was not even spelled correctly. This was the NEA's first major controversy; 25 years after it was written "Ronald Reagan was still making pejorative allusions to 'lighght.' "Grumman says the poem is "neither trivial nor obscure", but plays with the glimmering quality of light, leaving us with "intimations of his single syllable of light's expanding, silently and weightlessly, 'gh' by 'gh', into...Final Illumination."
His 1968 book, Aram Saroyan, was almost a full-size representation of its contents as they could be presented in typescript or mimeograph, in Courier typeface, printed on one side of each leaf in what looked like unevenly inked print, with a total of only 30 poems. Edwin Newman, a reporter for NBC News, read the entire book aloud on the NBC Evening News.
- (with Jenni Caldwell and Richard Kolmar) Poems, Acadia (New York, NY), 1963.
- In, Bear Press (LaGrande, OR), 1965.
- Top, Lines (New York, NY), 1965.
- Works, Lines (New York, NY), 1966.
- Sled Hill Voices, Goliard Press (London, England), 1966.
- Aram Saroyan, Lines (Cambridge, MA), 1967.
- Coffee Coffee, 0 to 9 (New York, NY), 1967, reprinted, Primary Information (New York, NY), 2007.
- @1968, Kulchur (New York, NY), 1968.
- Aram Saroyan, Random House (New York, NY), 1968.
- Pages, Random House (New York, NY), 1969.
- Words and Photographs, Big Table Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1970.
- The Beatles, Barn Dream Press (Cambridge, MA), 1970, published as A Christmas Greeting for Friends of the Publisher and the Poet, Granary Press, 2000.
- Cloth: An Electric Novel, Big Table (Chicago, IL), 1971.
- The Rest, Telegraph Books (New York, NY), 1971, reprinted, Blackberry Books (Bolinas, CA),
- (With Victor Bockris) Six Little Poems, Unicorn Books, (Brighton, England), 1972.
- (With Victor Bockris) By Air Mail, Strange Faeces (London, England), 1972.
- (With Andrei Codrescu) San Francisco,privately printed, 1972.
- The Bolinas Books, Other (Lancaster, MA), 1974.
- O My Generation, and Other Poems, Blackberry Books (Bolinas, CA), 1976.
- Open Field Suite, Backwoods Broadslides (Ellsworth, ME), 1998.
- Day and Night: Bolinas Poems, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Rosa, CA), 1998.
- Complete Minimal Poems (includes Aram Saroyan, Pages, and The Rest), Ugly Duckling Presse (Brooklyn, NY), 2007.