Friday, July 1, 2011

Immigrant Picnic

Gregory Djanikian (b. 1949)
From Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing

Gregory Djanikian’s poetry explores topics as wide-ranging as his boyhood in Egypt, the Armenian genocide of 1915, and the intersection of family, history, and culture. In other poems, such as “I Ask My Grandmother If We Can Make Lahmajoun,” “In the Elementary School Choir,” and “How I Learned English,” he takes a lighthearted but perceptive look at the American immigrant experience and the joys and frustrations of “that great melting pot that is the English language.” These themes also come together in “Immigrant Picnic,” one of his most popular poems, about a Fourth of July family gathering during which mangled English results in exuberant hilarity. When he appeared last year on PBS Newshour, he remarked on how “for many of us who have come from different countries, our difficulties with American idioms often lead to unexpected syntactic constructions and surprising turns of phrase which enrich the language and by which we all are enriched.”

We present this week’s selection in two formats. Below the usual PDF format, at the bottom of the post, you’ll find the video from the Newshour broadcast for Independence Day last year, during which Djanikian read his poem. Read the text while watching the video, or print out a copy and take it along to enjoy at your own family picnic.

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