Aram Saroyan

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Aram Saroyan
Aram Saroyan.jpg
Aram Saroyan speaking at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Los Angeles.
Born (1943-09-25) September 25, 1943 (age 70)
New York City
Nationality American
Notable work(s) Lighght
Spouse(s) Gailyn Saroyan
Children Strawberry Saroyan
Cream Saroyan/Armenak Saroyan
Relative(s) William Saroyan (father)
Carol Grace (mother)
Lucy Saroyan (sister)
Walter Matthau (step-father)

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".

There has been a resurgence of interest in his work in the 21st century, evidenced by the publication in 2007 of several previous collections reissued together as Complete Minimal Poems.


Saroyan was born in New York City.[1] His parents were playwright and author William Saroyan and actress Carol Grace and his sister was actress Lucy Saroyan. He is the father of Strawberry and Cream Saroyan.[2] He is of Armenian descent.

Saroyan currently teaches in the University of Southern California's Master of Professional Writing Program.


Saroyan's poetry has been widely anthologized and appears in many textbooks. Among the collections of his poetry are Aram Saroyan, Pages, and Day & Night: Bolinas Poems, the latter published by Black Sparrow Press in 1998.[3] In 2007 several previous collections were reissued together as Complete Minimal Poems by Ugly Duckling Presse of Brooklyn. The Poetry Society of America awarded Complete Minimal Poems the 2008 William Carlos Williams Award.

Saroyan's prose books include Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch and the Beat Generation; Last Rites, a book about the death of his father, the playwright and short story writer William Saroyan.[4] In 1985 he wrote Trio: Oona Chaplin, Carol Matthau, Gloria Vanderbilt: Portrait of an Intimate Friendship, published by Linden Press/Simon & Schuster. In 1988, Saroyan wrote the teleplay for an episode of St. Elsewhere.[5]

The UbuWeb site (linked below) says:

The groundbreaking 1960s concrete poetry of Aram Saroyan [including] 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

Saroyan, Aram (2002). Rancho Mirage: an American tragedy of manners, madness, and murder. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books. pp. 366. ISBN 1569802343. LCCN 200202610


Saroyan's four-legged "m" has been cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's shortest poem.[6] 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.[6]

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 $500 cash award from the National Endowment for the Arts, then just five 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.” "[7] 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."[6]

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.[8]


  1. ^ The Brautigan Archives, "Aran Saroyan (b. 1943)", accesses June 13, 2007
  2. ^ Saroyan, Strawberry (May 30, 2004). "VIEW; Named for a Fruit? Make Juice". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  3. ^ Day & Night: Bolinas Poems (Santa Rosa) Black Sparrow Press, 1998 ISBN 1-57423-085-9
  4. ^ "Aram Saroyan, USA b. 1943". UBUWEB HISTORICAL. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  5. ^ ""Saint Elsewhere" Split Decision". Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  6. ^ a b c Kanwar Dinesh Singh, New Explorations In Indian English Poetry, Sarup & Sons, 2004, pp.92-4
  7. ^ Daly, Ian, "You Call That Poetry?!: How seven letters managed to freak out an entire nation",, 2007.
  8. ^ Richard Hell, "Lighght Verse" a review of "Complete Minimal Poems" of Aram Saroyan, in The New York Times Book Review, April 27, 2008, accessed May 3, 2008

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