From Publishers Weekly
Some poets find a voice, others seem born into one. From the latter group, Balakian writes out of an intriguing heritage. His family hails from Armenia, a country which suffered genocide (1.5 million Armenians executed in what is now Turkey in 1915) and whose storehouse of imagery includes cypress trees and oriental rugs. He has the skill to bounce this rich legacy off a childhood spent in New Jersey and a coming-of-age that is squarely in sync with the American dream of family and home. He writes of napping as an eight-year-old on the Kashan in the living room: "I slept on the rug/ curled and uncovered//and the sea of ivory/ between the flowers/ undulated as if the back/ of heavy sheep were breathing/ in my mouth." Hence, a sense of location is created that is at once contemporary and olden, and the sorrows of his ancestors inform the hopes he has for his children. Balakian also shows a firm control of form, sometimes using a last line or stanza to scoot off in a new, plausible direction, thereby giving a poignant weight to the penultimate.
Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
At the center of this harmonious collection, Balakian (Sad Days of Light, Carnegie-Mellon Univ., 1993) places "The Oriental Rug," a grand, five-part testament to art and beauty, an ars poetica uniting the "warp and weft" of past and present, imagination and memory that define the poet's life. Most of the memories center on his Armenian heritage and the genocide of 1915, in which the Turks killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, as recalled by his doctor-grandfather in "Physicians." Past and present are constantly overlapping in Balakian's poems?the world of his grandparents and his own landscape of Fisher-Price toys, Checker cabs, Chevies, Buster Brown shoes, and Ross Perot. Dyer's Thistle sparkles with metaphors: the "Tic Tac Toe of windows," the "ch ch of sprinklers," the sky turned into "the iridescent eye/ of an open peacock." In this work, the poet is vividly aware of the present moment while breathing the heady "incense of memory." Recommended for all poetry collections.?Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.