Jagadakeer: Apology to the Body


Jagadakeer: Apology to the Body

Lory Bedikian

The Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry Series

108 pages


September 2024


$17.95 Pre-order

About the Book

Winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry

Jagadakeer: Apology to the Body presents the voice of a daughter of immigrant parents, now gone, from Lebanon and Syria and of Armenian descent. In this four-part testimony Lory Bedikian reconstructs the father figure, mother figure, and the self and concludes with an epilogue. Using a sestina, syllabics, prose poems, and longer poetic sequences, Bedikian creates elegies for parents lost and self-elegiac lyrics and narratives for living with illness. Often interrupted with monologues and rants, the poems grapple with the disorder of loss and the body’s failures. Ultimately, Bedikian contemplates the concept of fate, destiny (jagadakeer), and the excavation of memory—whether to question familial inheritance or claim medical diagnoses.

Author Bio

Lory Bedikian is the author of The Book of Lamenting, winner of the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Her poems have been published in multiple journals, including Tin House, the Adroit Journal, the Los Angeles Review, and Gulf Coast. She teaches poetry workshops in Los Angeles.


Jagadakeer: Apology to the Body is a capacious lyric narrative, of emigration, of history, of interiority, polyglot, with a memory reaching as far as Aleppo and as near as today’s biopsy results.”—Marilyn Hacker, author of Calligraphies: Poems

“Lory Bedikian has created a monument of rage in facing the march of calamities against a life. That list of constant misfortune begins with her family displacement from a homeland, the multiple poverties of a refugee existence, through each parent’s loss. Each loss of an identity displaces the voice of the narrator, within time, between persons, even dismantling emotion. Is it the mother or daughter speaking; against each other, or in a rage of love for each other? Is it the caregiver or the patient who rages against the illness’s damage to love? This kind of shapeshifting allows varieties of poetic form, all engaged in this consistently coherent polemic of rage. How deeply and broadly this rage can inform a life. Jagadakeer’s world will be very disconcerting—yet rewarding—to readers of this exquisitely composed work.”—Ed Roberson, winner of the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and author of To See the Earth Before the End of the World

“Bedikian’s poems speak to what becomes ‘the ritual of tears,’ of the long trip to America, ‘the east coast’s cold,’ its ‘stifled air of small apartments.’ In this book she declares herself the daughter of a people who suffered and sang, worked and wept, speaking the language they remembered in. And so the daughter remembers for them, giving them a voice, and us a smudged window through which to see the burning world. A consummate craftsperson, Bedikian writes lushly, with power and force, creating images we cannot unsee. Open this book and read her poem ‘Before the Elegy, Speak to Her,’ and see what I mean.”—Dorianne Laux, author of Only As the Day Is Long

“Clear-eyed and beautiful, the poems in Lory Bedikian’s Jagadakeer: Apology to the Body navigate a generational inheritance of trauma and anger with unflinching awareness, tenderness, and sharp-edged humor. I encourage you to read this collection from front to back, as the opening sections lay the foundation for a tremendous exploration of the interior of a life. There is so much hard-earned wisdom throughout, with a speaker that tells us ‘laughter is not happiness// after all, but the machinery of the body undoing anger,’ and ‘Don’t love// what I say because you think you should. Love/ what you hear because it makes you// question everything.’ I love what this book has to say and ‘I want everyone to stand up to choir it out. Even the dead.’”—Brian Turner, author of Here, Bullet and The Goodbye World Poems
“The poems are necessary and compressed, often couplets. Nothing here is excessive, except life. The poet is fully mature and brilliantly accomplished. The tragedy of immigration, and its necessity, are defined with precision and passion. Diseases are diagnosed by needle biopsy. Conditions have names as sonorous as Armenian. The poems look forward and backward, always led by language. They transfer states of mind into space travel. They ponder similarities between a dead tooth and a dead parent. And always they speak what we must hear. ‘Self-pity can be poetry,’ Bedikian notes. ‘Show me one death that is a complete sentence.’ I need this book and think you will, too.”—Hilda Raz, author of Letter from a Place I’ve Never Been: New and Collected Poems, 1986–2020

Table of Contents

Ode to Their Leaving

Hiereeg [means father in Armenian]

Meditation on Fractured Vertebrae
Father dreams of Gibran
Theorizing Vahan’s Departure
Psychosomatic disorder
If only he had written his refugee song
The Tooth is Dead

Miereeg [means mother in Armenian]

Before the Elegy, Speak to Her
Fragments of Melancholy from Those Rooms, Those Rooms
The pharmaceutical that killed my mother
Syllabics for My Mother
Zevart, Ode to Joy
Sestina, as my mother cooks
Another word for bitterness is ache

Yehs [means I in Armenian]

Apology to the Body
Looking at the MRI Six Years Later
Beloved Denial
Ode to Illness: rant in the form of monologue
Needle Biopsy
Optic Neuritis
I make love to my lesions
Defining 50 Lesions
Partial Tubectomy Revisited
Harmonic Implications on Daylight Saving Time

In Lieu of an Epilogue

When Your Mother Dies During a Pandemic
Pandemic Tally: At Odds with May
Longevity: part pseudo-memoir, part commentary
Flare-Up: Week Eleven, Twelve
The Disease in Me May Be a Demigod After All
My Shaking Hand Will Not Determine My Fate
To have a backbone can also mean to have spunk

Jagadakeer: In Remission

1. History
2. Exam
3. Technique
4. Comparison
5. Findings
6. Impression: without contrast
7. Impression: with contrast


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