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Poetry with a Dramatic Flair

December 20, 2018

Portrait of Aaron Poochigian

Portrait of Aaron Poochigian
Photo by Sumner Hatch

Aaron Poochigian earned his PhD in classics in 2006. Since then, he has built a successful career through his poetry and translations of ancient works.

Living for the Classics

Like many undergraduate students, Poochigian explored the plethora of majors to choose from. Only when he read the beginning of Virgil’s Aeneid in Latin did he realize he was meant to study classics. “It became very clear to me that I was supposed to learn Latin and ancient Greek and that I was supposed to be a poet,” he explains.

Throughout Poochigian’s undergraduate career he focused on expanding his repertoire of classic literature, which involved “memorizing thousands of lines of verse and learning ancient Greek and Latin.” It was a commitment that paid off. “I feel, given my background and classics, that I am better able to understand the world in which I am,” he explains. “I think that classical literature offers that to everyone.” Poochigian believes there are many lessons to be learned from the classics, "classic literature teaches frankness, honesty, and candor in matters of the heart.”

Poochigian’s drive to deepen his understanding of the classics didn’t end with graduation. In 1997, he entered graduate school at the University of Minnesota, where he made himself right at home in the Classical and Near Eastern Studies (CNES) department. It was the perfect place to pursue his interests in literature and the classical world.

He appreciated the department’s flexibility in allowing him to explore various interests and creative endeavors. For instance, one of his fondest memories is directing a first-year Greek class in a production of Euripides’ Alcestis, which they performed in Uptown. For his master's thesis and dissertation, he translated three plays by Aeschylus, which were later published in a book by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Life as a Poet & Translator

Early in his career, Poochigian discovered through translating that he had a knack for taking ancient works and giving them a modern voice. “I guess you can say I have a dramatic flair,” he quips. 

Today, Poochigian leads a successful career as a poet and a translator. He explains that his translation work has helped him become a better poet: “It allows me to focus exclusively on the craft of poetry while not having to worry about the content.” Likewise, his expansive knowledge of classic poetry allows him to borrow techniques from ancient poets when constructing his own work.

Although he has had a number of published works, one of Poochigian’s proudest accomplishments is his 2017 novel Mr. Either/Or. As a thriller in verse, his novel combines his love for epic poetry and action movies into a contemporary poem. The dust jacket reads: “Imagine Byron’s Don Juan on a high-stakes romp through a Raymond Chandler novel. Think Hamlet in Manhattan with a license to kill.”

Poochigian fondly looks upon his time with CNES and its high-impact faculty. He particularly enjoyed working in classes with Professors Nita Krevans, Christopher Nappa, and André Lardinois. “Those were definitely some of my happiest years—in graduate school at the University of Minnesota.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student content creator in CLAgency. Meet the team.