by Peter Balakian
In these poems, Peter Balakian wrestles with national and global cultural and political realities, including challenges for the human species amid planetary transmutation and the impact of mass violence on the self and culture. At the collection’s heart is “No Sign,” another in Balakian’s series of long-form poems, following "A-Train/Ziggurat/Elegy” and “Ozone Journal,” which appeared in his previous two collections. In this dialogical multi-sectioned poem, an estranged couple encounters each other, after years, on the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades. The dialogue that ensues reveals the evolution of a kaleidoscopic memory spanning decades, reflecting on the geological history of Earth and the climate crisis, the film Hiroshima Mon Amour, the Vietnam War, a visionary encounter with the George Washington Bridge, and the enduring power of love.
Whether meditating on the sensuality of fruits and vegetables, the COVID-19 pandemic, the trauma and memory of the Armenian Genocide, James Baldwin in France, or Arshile Gorky in New York City, Balakian’s layered, elliptical language, wired phrases, and shifting tempos engage both life’s harshness and beauty and define his inventive and distinctive style.
University of Chicago Press (2022)