With a pair of new books out in 2015 — one a collection of his essays; the other, new poems — poet and English professor Peter Balakian unpacks, among other things, how language can, in his words, “ingest” the violence of history. The author of the New York Times–bestselling The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response and the prizewinning memoir Black Dog of Fate, Balakian has been called “the American conscience of the Armenian Genocide.” Last spring, he was invited to read and lecture at more than a dozen universities and made various media appearances including CNN and NPR’s All Things Considered in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the 1915 slaughter of Armenians by the Turkish government. He received the 2012 Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance.
Excerpts from Vise and Shadow: Essays on the Lyric Imagination, Poetry, Art, and Culture trace his writerly sensibilities — first, their roots, and second, on the notion of poetry itself. Two poems from Ozone Journal, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, embody that expression.