Author Spotlight: Meghri Sarkissian

Meghri is a 26-year-old writer and psychotherapist of Armenian descent, with one published novel. Her piece of flash fiction, ‘The Sound of a Duduk’, won first prize in our recent 250-word flash fiction competition.

‘The fire that builds within me when I listen to their stories, the sorrow I feel when they open their hearts to me, and the intense care I feel for their lives are all inserted into my writing naturally’

Many thanks for finding the time to do the spotlight, Meghri. Could you tell us a little bit about you, your writing background, and your current projects?

I would be happy to! I was born on the island of Cyprus to an Armenian family. From a young age, I found comfort in stories—especially when my family and I moved to Los Angeles and felt displaced from our own familiar surroundings. I began pursuing psychology and eventually moved to Colorado to study for my Master’s in Forensic Psychology. While in the program, I self-published my first novel, Lake of Sighs. Currently, I am working as a therapist in a detention facility, fashioning a poetry book that documents the five stages of grief, and writing a fictional novel that weaves together my professional experiences with law enforcement and mental health.

What influences your style? Which poets do you admire?

I tend to embed my poetry and stories with intense emotion, as I believe that suppressing raw emotion can be detrimental to healing and growth. My father is a painter and his works influence my writings quite a bit, as he uses various conflicting colours to display astonishing passion and feeling within his artwork. In fact, I used one of his paintings as the cover of my self-published novel. Therefore, I do really appreciate poets and writers who have a similar passion to their art: Lord Byron, John Keats, Sayat Nova, Hovhannes Toumanyan, Jane Austen (who has a crisper method of writing, but I’m drawn to it regardless), and John Steinbeck.

‘good writing straddles the intellectual and the sensual: not dry, not merely a feast for the limbic system’

Congratulations on winning first prize in our 250-word flash fiction competition! The anecdote behind the piece is fascinating. Could you tell us more?

Thank you! The story is based loosely on my mother’s experience when she was young. Being a descendent of the relocated Armenians from the Genocide of 1915, my mother was born in Iran. At the time, she was participating in a camping trip with her peers on the border of Iran and Armenia. She had never actually been to Armenia, so being so close to the border instilled a sense of nostalgia within her. Around the camp were several Kurdish settlements—a culture that did not mesh comfortably with Armenians, causing some discomfort with the young Armenian children. One early dawn, the camp organized a hike in order to see Mt. Ararat in the distance, a very prominent mountain in western Armenia (present-day Turkey) that has become a symbol for Armenian pride and resiliency. On the way up to the spot to see the mountain, they heard someone play an Armenian melody with a duduk—a traditional Armenian wind instrument. Hearing that sound increased their nostalgia and sense of pride for their home, as it felt as though Armenia was reaching out across the border to soothe the displaced Armenians. This was so impactful to my mom that she named me Meghri (literally meaning “of honey”) after the name of the bordering town in Armenia.

Mt. Ararat, Turkey

What are your aims as a writer and a poet? Do you have any specific artistic concerns that you seek to address through your work?

My aims are to continue exploring my writing style, as it has come a long way since when I first started experimenting. My current goals are to publish my poetry book and my novel. Through my writing, I would like to address all the internal struggles that artists tend to experience. Not necessarily to normalize them, but to appreciate them as being catalysts for growth.

‘I felt that I had to adjust my poetry in order to fit those demands. A few weeks ago, I switched back to my own style, and though my feedback has diminished, I am happier being authentic’

Your Armenian heritage seems to feature prominently in your work – what do you think are the defining traits of the Armenian literary tradition? How do you take these forward?

Oh, what a beautiful question. The Armenian culture is art within itself. Essentially the first day of the Armenian Genocide—April 24, 1915—saw the massacre of Armenian poets, artists, professionals, and intellectuals. This caused an abrupt stop to our beautiful creations. Our most prominent artists were killed or imprisoned — including my ancestor, who was a bard and poet himself. None of his work survived. The deep-rooted sorrow from the loss of our culture has caused transgenerational trauma for Armenians in subsequent generations. From that sorrow, we have recovered amazingly within the past five years, seen a regrowth with our artistic movement, with so many young Armenian artists rising up. The theme of the art is essentially regrowth. Embracing our culture. Spreading education about our history. I hope to be one of the voices that speaks loud enough so that the Armenian culture can be seen and heard.

Renowned Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents

How does your career as a psychotherapist impact your writing, if at all?

Being a psychotherapist and seeing its impact in my writing has been quite fascinating. What has made all the more impact is that I studied forensic psychology and the population I work with is specifically adult offenders. Due to the nature of the population and their experiences, I now tend to be surrounded by a lot of struggle and emotional turmoil. Poetry is a useful way for me to process all the incoming stimuli. The fire that builds within me when I listen to their stories, the sorrow I feel when they open their hearts to me, and the intense care I feel for their lives are all inserted into my writing naturally. Vice versa, my passion for writing inserts itself into my therapeutic style. When I give my clients a chance to write, the art that spills from their fingertips is truly inspiring.

As a journal we’re quite interested in exploring the phenomenon of ‘Insta Poetry’. What has been your experience on the platform? Have you found yourself altering your style or content to fit the demands of social media in order to build an audience?

It has been really interesting to navigate through insta poetry. I initially posted my own poetry, unaltered, but did not receive much feedback. So for a brief period of time, I felt that I had to adjust my poetry in order to fit those demands. A few weeks ago, I switched back to my own style, and though my feedback has diminished, I am happier being authentic. I also found myself veering away from writer’s engagement groups—which are groups designed for insta-artists to support one another by commenting and liking each other’s posts. I found that to be great from the perspective of providing support, but…inauthentic…as it felt forced. Thus, I have steered clear from those types of groups and just have been focusing on developing my own style without feeling pressured by social media.

If you could impart some advice on any new or emerging writers, what would it be?

If I had any advice, it would be to remain authentic to one’s own writing style. There are many prominent authors and poets who have a distinct style, and it’s much more impactful to keep adding new styles to the mix rather than copies of what already exists. I would also say that one’s following on social media is not indicative of one’s talent.

3 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: Meghri Sarkissian

  1. Fabulous advice at the end. I know I went through a rough period ten years ago which forced me to stop writing but I have been slowly reconnecting with my pen since a few years ago. Staying authentic and yourself is very important.

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