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June-tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 Hardcover – February 20, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Justly famous for his poems about genocide in his native Armenia, Balakian offers the reader a selection of new poems as well as a generous sampling of slightly edited versions of poems from his earlier collections, including Father Fisheye and Dyer's Thistle. Always lush in imagery and rich in nuance, Balakian's verse often takes the form of unique syntheses in which a vividly realized place becomes the starting point for a series of deeply felt associations. In "Yorkshire Dales," he grounds the poem firmly in the "limestone rocks" of England while simultaneously recording the speech of his son and daughter. All of this takes place under a "dome-like" sky that covers the Regency dining room of the Bront sisters but also admits the Motown lyrics of Jackie Wilson, transporting the entire family "higher and higher." A gifted phrasemaker, Balakian leaves the reader with memorable images: Water "slides like a black eel/ through weir and hooks of grass"; the wind "blows the silk kimonos/ off the delphiniums." Accessible and graphic, June-tree ranks as one of the most significant poetry collections of 2001; it will also be of interest to readers of his memoir, Black Dog of Fate. Recommended for all poetry collections. Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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