Investing in literacy
Poet and teacher Arto Vaun studied literature and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and for the past three years the Watertown native has been living in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, where he’s been launching the Center for Creative Writing at the American University of Armenia.
Vaun says his primary goal is to help reinvigorate the cultural potency of the struggling former Soviet republic. “We need to champion public intellectuals,” he said. “We need to be reinvesting in and re-emphasizing the high level of literary discourse, intellectual discourse, and public discourse” in a country that, because of its size, economic woes, and isolation, has been stagnating.
In the process of developing the new program, Vaun discovered there wasn’t a high-quality English literary journal in that part of the world, so he started one. The first issue of the recently launched Locomotive (which will be available locally at Harvard Book Store) showcases work by writers from Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, the UK, as well as by a few local poets including Stephen Burt and Gail Mazur.
The journal’s mission is clear: “to showcase innovative writing from established and emerging global voices and eventually connect those voices with the vibrant but isolated literary community of Armenia.” It dovetails nicely with Vaun’s views “that art can change the world. Literature can change the world. Because it does that all the time.”
Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.