BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
Carolyn C. Holland with Dmitri Beljan
DMITRI BELJAN expresses himself artistically in his drawings and improvisations on the keyboard. He likes and has tried the Shakespearian sonnet form, but presently is not writing. He is drawn to the Beanery Writers Group to be with other artists, those whose art is their use of language.
I spoke with Dmitri, 62, on my patio, under trees in my park —Laurel Mountain Boro, to be specific. (to view photos on his Flickr site, click on http://flickr.com/photos/dmitri1946) Like the Boro, with its independent bent that resulted in its secession from Ligonier Township in 1982, Dmitri is not comfortable being confined to arbitrary borders.
His piano and keyboard playing symbolizes his life: he didn’t learn the structure taught in formal lessons. He “follows where my fingers lead. I play the piano as thou I was petting a cat—when you pet a cat, it responds in a particular way. When I touch the keys, they might say ‘Do this again.’ I think of caressing the keys, rather than striking them.”
Dmitri worries less about his music being “musical” than he does about it being soothing, mellow, and sometimes even dissonant. I have heard that Beetevan said that music takes you into the mental state of the artist: when you listen, you have no choice.” He hopes his music draws listeners into the meditative, and perhaps, at times, agitated, or sometimes harmonious or dissonant mental state that he experiences at the keyboard.
His drawing follows the same pattern. “When I start drawing, I don’t know how it will end,” he said. “If I make a mistake in the drawing, I use it as a random input to direct my lines in a way which perhaps I hadn’t imagined.”
He doesn’t do much writing, but enjoys being with the members of the Beanery Writers Group, being among people “thinking I might be able to write again.” He used to write poetry, in his thirties. “I don’t know why I stopped,” he said.
As a teenager, he took pre-college classes at Carnegie Mellon Museum. The class was designed for talented children, and his teacher, Mr. Fitzpatrick, had previously had Andy Warhol as a student. Two years later, he was among the few of the students who were honored to take classes at the Carnegie Mellon campus. His instructor said he was exceptionally talented and imaginative, and showed qualities of leadership.
“But I never blossomed. OCD* hindered my life. Ten years ago I went on meds to treat the condition.”
Dmitri hated high school, dropping out in his senior year after flunking everything. He didn’t like the memorization they required, and he wasn’t a “cool guy, i.e., he was outside the social realm by not being tuned in to sports, and lacking the stylish outfits so important to insecure teenagers.
After not getting a diploma from Perry High School (Pittsburgh) he obtained his GED. In 1969 he attended Robert Morris College for two years, where he made the dean’s list twice. He then attended Penn State University, Capital campus.
During the Viet Nam era, Dmitri was drafted into the Army. “I wasn’t happy there either, but I was in long enough to qualify for Veterans benefits.”
Dmitri never knew his father, but was told he was “just like him,” not a positive image. His non-identical twin brother, Al, was completely different. He died October 6, 1995, at the age of 49. Their mother died on November 24, just a few weeks later.
“That was the turning point in life—it was too much for me.” Three days later he went to the Pittsburgh Vet Center for counseling.
“When the counselor had done as much as he could by talking, he encouraged me to see a psychiatrist who could prescribe medication if needed.”
In July, 1999, he began a Prozac regimen that he’s been on ever since.
“Sometimes people need it to correct brain chemistry,” Dmitri noted. “I’ve been thinking recently that I’ve been happier than ever—I have friends, artistic expression, access to library and information.”
He impressed with the fact that information “goes around world in fraction of a second—I’m glad I’m alive with this new technology. I’m looking forward to what will come in the next ten years.” However, he recognizes the unfortunate aspect of this technology: “It can be used for good or for bad.”
Dmitri likes to live on the edge. He once used to autocross his own car—“In order to win you have to push the car right to the edge but not too far. You race against the clock, one car at a time.” He took the car to the limit, knowing that by going over the limit he could “spin out.”
Dmitri doesn’t view himself as having accomplished much in life. “I think I could have done a whole lot more. There is much unrealized potential. I thought my art would be showing at the Carnegie Museum. I imagined being recognized in the area of science and technology.”
He is proud of one accomplishment—he was published in a peer review journal, AES, the Journal of the Audio-Engineering Society. He wrote a letter commenting on a paper discussing impedence modeling (a way to mathematically model a loudspeaker’s impedence). Due to his OCD, when he wrote the letter he had to be extremely careful to line things up properly.
His taste in music is eclectic, flowing from classical (Beethoven Mozart and Chopin) to blues (Janis Joplin, Rod Stewart, B. B. King and others), DooWops including the Platters. His favorite books are by Einstein; movie is Tomb Raider; television program is Frasier. He’s interested in science, technology, art and music, but is not big on team sports.
His current writing is an informal journal.
To read a poem Dmitri wrote, click on: Her Gift