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Aaron Poochigian - Winner, Able Muse Book Award, 2016

Aaron Poochigian
Aaron Poochigian


2016 Able Muse Book Award
for her poetry manuscript
The Manhattanite

Selected by final judge, A.E. Stallings

Coming soon from Able Muse Press - Spring/Summer 2017

(the contest finalists and honorable mentions are listed here)


Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota in 2006 and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University in 2016. His first book of original poetry, The Cosmic Purr, was a finalist in the 2011 Able Muse Book Award (Able Muse Press, 2012). Penguin Classics published two books of his translations: Sappho, Stung With Love, in 2009; and Apollonius of Rhodes, Jason and the Argonauts, in 2014. Johns Hopkins University Press also published two books of his translations: Aratus’ astronomical poem, The Phaenomena, in 2010; and Aeschylus, Persians, Seven against Thebes, and Suppliants, in 2011. For his work in translation he was awarded a 2010-2011 Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. Several of the poems in it collectively won the New England Poetry Club’s Daniel Varoujan Prize. His work has appeared in such journals as Arion, The Dark Horse, Smartish Pace, The Guardian, Poems Out Loud, and Poetry. He was a visiting professor of Classics at the University of Utah and D.L. Jordon Fellow at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. He now lives and writes in New York City.


Sample poems from Aaron Poochigian's The Manhattanite



The sweatered walk with coffee cups in hand.
A baby stirs beneath synthetic layers.
Calmly the cop stamps, calmly speed-chess players
blow on their hands and move. A hotdog stand,
because it breathes, is steaming up the air.
We all make cloud in concert, even me,
a denim near-invisibility,
puffing a slantwise course across the square.

I love you, Fall, you human interim
between the brutish heatwaves and the dim
term when we keep inside and curse the weather;

I love you for the way you slow things down
and for the way you make me love this town
so much that random people seem together.


The Chromatist

Large on the bench, the lord of torque
fillips the wooden music stand
with his resplendent witching fork,
smiles at the vibe and wrings the A’s
till their aberrant throbbings find,
after intensest strain, release.

Yes, what this old piano wants
is harmony of hertz and guts,
and the arbiter of consonance
gets what the wires are twanging toward—
a warmth of notes among the notes,
a colorscape more felt than heard.

Soon as his gentle wrench and pliers
tease out the complete solfège,
triumph as grand as many choirs
emanates without cringe or damper
from a hunk of wood and a man on stage
with an empty hall for an echo chamber.


Song: Defiantly of Love

Meet her at Grand Central Station
and walk her down under the bridge
where the wild kids play in the street all day
and your neighbor, a passionate Haitian,
sings ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically of love.

Feed her potatoes au gratin,
meatloaf and corn on the cob
when the couple upstairs quarrels and swears,
and all the rats in Manhattan
sing discordantly, discordantly, discordantly of love.

Worship her like a religion,
like Mary the Mother of God,
while he-dogs compete for a she-dog in heat
and a lonesome grizzled pigeon
sings obsessively, obsessively, obsessively of love.

Promise to love her forever
and always, come what may,
while the basso bum with his bottle of rum
and the post-industrial river
sing defiantly, defiantly, defiantly of love.



You, passing stranger, as you walk this walk,
around you see bodegas, vendors, kiosks,
stairwells to trains arriving every minute,
a cityscape a long time fully grown
with, sad at last, a poster-boarded diner,
a place of failure, soon to be reborn
as something flashy. Thirty years it served
PB&J, pork roast and mashed potatoes,
that kind of thing. The loss of it is marked
by playbills and a rental agent’s number.

And what of those that worked there? Well, the owner
sold off the salamanders, griddle, frier,
even the booths, and bought a Starbuck’s franchise;
the grizzled waitress moved in with a son;
one sous-chef went on to prepare new specials
at Burger King. As for the rest, who knows?

Keep walking, stranger. Change is often tragic,
and who can grieve for every good thing gone?
This passing notice is already done.

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