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2016 Recipient of Pulitzer Prize in Poetry to Visit Ramapo College

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)September 16, 2016

MAHWAH, N.J. – Peter Balakian, the recipient of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, will present a lecture and a reading on Thursday, October 6 in the Trustees Pavilion at Ramapo College of New Jersey.  The events are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.

The Gross Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Readings Program of the Salameno School of Humanities and Global Studies are co-sponsoring Balakian’s visit, his third to Ramapo College. In addition to his poetry that concerns a wide variety of topics, he will discuss his prose work that chiefly deals with the Armenian Genocide.

Peter Balakian is the author of several collections of poetry, including Ozone Journal (2015), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Ziggurat (2010), which wrestles with the aftermath and reverberations of 9/11; and June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000. His poems have been widely anthologized, including in the 1985 Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, and have been translated into several languages. He has published essays on poetry, culture, and art in numerous journals, and is the author of Theodore Roethke’s Far Fields (1989). He earned a B.A. from Bucknell University, a master’s from New York University, and a Ph.D. in American civilization from Brown University.

The son of Armenia parents, Balakian grew up in Tenafly, New Jersey. As a child he heard scraps of his grandmother Nafina’s past—Balakian credits his love of writing to her storytelling and imagery—but he didn’t discover the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century until he read Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, the memoir of the U.S. ambassador to Turkey during that period. Balakian’s memoir of his quest to learn more about his family’s connection to the genocide and diaspora, Black Dog of Fate, won the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Memoir and was a New York Times Notable Book. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response received the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize. He translated, with Nevart Yaghlian, the Armenian poet Siamanto’s Bloody News from My Friend, a cycle of poems inspired by letters that Balakian’s grandfather, a doctor, wrote to his parents while he tended survivors in the wake of a 1909 massacre. Balakian also edited the Armenian Genocide section of the Norton anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness.

Influenced by poets as diverse as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda and the 10th-century Armenian poet Gregory of Nareg, Balakian uses poetry to explore, in his own words, “the parameters of consciousness in our particular time.” Acknowledging the challenge in writing poetry steeped in the political, Balakian notes that “it is always necessary to keep aesthetic issues free from polemics and simple politics. Poetry should never be editorial. Poetry must be faithful to the richness of language, poetic form, and the complexity of experience. But the political sphere should deepen a writer and make his or her work larger, richer, and morally resonant.”

Reviewing Sad Days of Light, James Dickey observed, “At last, poetry about genocide that is truly, in every thrust, pause and detail, real poetry. Mr. Balakian’s bloodlines from Armenia are blazing here; the language is incandescent with rage, grief, helplessness and love. This is an extraordinary book, and Mr. Balakian’s an extraordinary talent.” The 2016 Pulitzer Prize citation remarked that Ozone Journal includes “poems that bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty.”

Balakian has won the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Award and an award from the Academy of American Poets, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He cofounded and coedited The Graham House Review with Bruce Smith from 1976 to 1996 and was awarded an editing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per

Ramapo College provides its students with individualized attention, mentorship, and supports; hands-on learning; and a range of opportunities for service and leadership development. Its graduation and retention rates exceed national averages and it places approximately 1,000 students per year in internships in New York City. The College is ranked #1 among New Jersey public institutions by College Choice; is recognized as the state’s top college on the list of Best Disability Schools by Great Value Colleges; is designated a “Military Friendly College” in Victoria Media’s Guide to Military Friendly Schools; and is recognized as a top college by U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Princeton Review and Money magazine, among others.  

Ramapo College’s over 40,000 alumni are the confident, intellectually curious, self-aware, and humble people who are highly sought after and who make a positive impact at local, national, and global levels.  Ramapo College is distinguished as a Career Development College of Distinction by Every student at Ramapo is enrolled in its unique and award winning Pathways Program which equips and empowers students, across the continuum of their academic career, to secure internships, pursue graduate/professional school, and/or enter the job market. 

Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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