Since 1999, Andrew Maxwell, Joseph Mosconi and Ara Shirinyan have curated various reading series, journals and publications in Los Angeles, often under the banner of the Poetic Research Bureau. For the last few years, the PRB has shared an artist-run storefront with the Public School at 951 Chung King Rd. in Chinatown. Self-styled “Directors,” like canvas-backed Hal Roach rascals in an industry shantytown, they plant a flag in the Northeast of the city, and think back to the precedents.
Eric Rettberg told me a few months ago about his interest in Ara Shirinyan, and I asked him if he would write briefly about it for this commentary. He agreed, and here is what he has to say. Eric is currently Edgar F. Shannon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Virginia.
The procedure Ara Shirinyan used to write Your Country is Great (2008), in which he went through an alphabetical list of countries, Googled “[country] is great,” and wrote poems from the results, ensures that the book repeats relentlessly. Seemingly empty declarations of greatness abound, from “aaww lol belgium is great =)” (29) to “Finland is great because / Finland is great” (103), and so too do reports of the great recreational activities available in the countries of the world. “The beaches are the bomb” in Costa Rica (70), just as Bulgaria is great “if you want young drunk fun in the sun” and “Cyprus is great for sun and beaches” (49, 78).