JUNE-TREE: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000

Peter Balakian, Author JUNE-TREE: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000

It should come as no surprise that Balakian—best known for his 1997 memoir, Black Dog of Fate, which juxtaposed memories of a 1950's Jersey childhood with the Armenian genocide of 1915—has also born witness to the Armenian genocide in his poetry. Some of his best poems on the subject ("The History of Armenia"; "The Claim") appeared early on in his poetic career, and their reappearance after Black Dog should win them new readers. There are plenty of poems about Balakian's other obsession—his New Jersey youth—as well as poems about fishing, painters, flowers and families, all of which were well-documented in his four previous poetry collections. The new poems, which kick off this selection, map out familiar terrain, even as the poet acknowledges that he sees "no light.// Just yourself/ staring back at you/ in middle age,// as if the novocaine/ of the sea urchin/ froze your lids." Numbed by "baby-boom melodrama," Balakian's speaker sees himself as an itinerant academic "on sabbatical and looking for/ a place to write." Balakian rises above such poetic haze when writing about events like Woodstock ("And when the Shaman spread his yellow robe like the sun/ he was all teeth and amp"), but more often than not, middle-class boomer angst seems to have run off with the muse, and prosaic sentiment stands in for lyric urgency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Poetry
Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-06-203245-4
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