American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Balakian, who has Armenian roots, is the 13th Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters at Bucknell University, the university said on its website.
Balakian is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English and director of creative writing at Colgate University. He will accept the award during a ceremony on April 5, in Bucknell Hall. After the presentation, Balakian will read from his poetry and memoir, and then engage in a moderated discussion with Bucknell Professor of English Harold Schweizer. A book-signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public.
The author of seven books of poems, Balakian won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his most recent collection, "Ozone Journal" (2016, University of Chicago Press). In the announcement, the Pulitzer committee said the poems in the collection "bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty."
For more than four decades Balakian's poems have engaged a wide range of social, cultural and political realities including genocide, war, terrorism, climate change, the AIDS epidemic and historical trauma. His poems also probe the personal and meditative realities of love, death, art and culture, and the intersections between epic traumatic events and the private self.
"I began my life as a poet as an undergraduate at Bucknell during my sophomore and junior years in 1971-72," Balakian said. "I studied with my mentor and then great friend Professor Jack Wheatcroft, an inspirational and brilliant teacher and an amazingly versatile writer. It's been an interesting journey, and Lewisburg and Bucknell are dear to it."
Balakian is currently compiling a collection of memorial tribute essays in honor of Wheatcroft, a member of the Class of 1949, who passed away last March. The poet and author was a popular English professor at Bucknell from 1952 to 1996.
Balakian's four books of prose include "The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response" (2004), which won the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and a New York Times best seller. His memoir, "Black Dog of Fate", won the 1998 PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for the Art of the Memoir, and was a best book of the year for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Publisher's Weekly, and was recently issued in a 10th-anniversary edition. He is co-translator of Girgoris Balakian's "Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1918" (Knopf, 2009), which was a Washington Post book of the year.
He is also the author of a book on the American poet Theodore Roethke and the co-translator of the Armenian poet Siamanto's "Bloody News From My Friend". Between 1976 and 1996 he edited with Bruce Smith the poetry journal Graham House Review.