Peter Balakian

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Peter Balakian
Peter Balakian in 2017
Peter Balakian in 2017
Born (1951-06-13) June 13, 1951 (age 69)
Teaneck, New Jersey, U.S.
OccupationPoet, nonfiction writer
RelativesGrigoris Balakian (great-granduncle)
Anna Balakian (aunt)
Nona Balakian (aunt)


Peter Balakian (Armenian: Փիթըր Պալաքեան, born June 13, 1951) is an Armenian American poet, writer and academic, the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of Humanities at Colgate University. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2016.


Balakian was born in 1951 in Teaneck, New Jersey to an Armenian family. He is was the nephew of Anna Balakian and the great-grandnephew of Grigoris Balakian.[1] He was raised in Teaneck and Tenafly, New Jersey,[2][3] and after attending the Tenafly Public Schools, he graduated from Englewood School for Boys (which since merged with other area schools and is now known as Dwight-Englewood School).[4] He earned a B.A. from Bucknell University, an M.A. from New York University, and a PhD in American Civilization from Brown University.[5] He has taught at Colgate University since 1980. He is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English, and director of Colgate's creative writing program. He was the first director of Colgate's Center for Ethics and World Societies.[5]


Balakian is the author of seven books of poems, including, most recently,[when?] Ozone Journal (2015). His other books are Father Fisheye (1979), Sad Days of Light (1983), Reply From Wilderness Island (1988), Dyer's Thistle (1996), June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000 (2000), Ziggurat (2010), and several fine limited editions. His poems have appeared widely in American magazines and journals such as The Nation, The New Republic, Antaeus, Partisan Review, Poetry, AGNI, and The Kenyon Review; and in anthologies such as New Directions in Prose and Poetry, The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, Poetry's 75th Anniversary Issue (1987), The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry and others.

Balakian's memoir Black Dog of Fate (1997) reieved the PEN/Albrand Prize for memoir and a New York Times Notable Book. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2003) received the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and New York Times and national bestseller. Balakian is also the author of Theodore Roethke’s Far Fields (Louisiana State University Press, 1989).[5] His essays on poetry, culture, and art have appeared in many publications including Ararat, Art in America, American Poetry Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the American Quarterly, American Book Review, and Poetry.

Balakian was co-founder and co-editor (with Bruce Smith) of the poetry magazine Graham House Review, which was published from 1976 to 1996. He is the translator (with Nevart Yaghlian) of Bloody News From My Friend by the Armenian poet Siamanto (Wayne State University Press, 1996).

Balakian's prizes and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1999; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 2004; PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir, 1998; Raphael Lemkin Prize, 2005 (best book in English on the subject of human rights and genocide); New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Award, 1998; Daniel Varujan Prize, New England Poetry Club, 1986; Anahid Literary Prize, Columbia University Armenian Center, 1990, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in Poetry for Ozone Journal, 2016.[6] According to the Pulitzer board, Balakian's work "bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty."[7] He is also a recipient of the Khorenatsi medal. 2016 he was awarded Armenia's 2015 Presidential Award for significant contribution to the process of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.[8]

The Press of Appletree Alley (Lewisburg, PA) published four limited editions of Balakian's poems. Translations and editions of Balakian's books appear in Armenian, Bulgarian, Dutch, German, Greek, Russian, and Turkish. Balakian has lectured widely in the United States and abroad and has appeared often on national television and radio.[5]

In 2017, Balakian was prominently featured in the critically acclaimed Joe Berlinger documentary Intent To Destroy about the Armenian Genocide.[9]

In 2018, the New York Times published his piece, "My Armenia," which was his description of his return to his ancestral homeland.[10]


  • Father Fisheye (1979) ISBN 9780935296082, OCLC 6387100
  • Sad Days of Light (1983) ISBN 9780935296334, OCLC 8727659
  • Reply From Wilderness Island (1988)
  • Dyer's Thistle (1996) ISBN 9780887482328, OCLC 34552212
  • June-Tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974–2000 (2001)
  • Ziggurat (2010) ISBN 9780226035642, OCLC 490081846
  • Ozone Journal (2015)
  • Bloody News From My Friend, by Siamanto, translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian, introduction by Balakian (1996)
  • Armenian Golgotha, by Grigoris Balakian, translated by Peter Balakian and Aris Sevag (2009)
  • Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, preface by Robert Jay Lifton, introduction by Roger Smith, afterword by Henry Morgenthau III. (2003)
Limited Editions
  • Declaring Generations, linoleum engravings by Barnard Taylor ( 1981)
  • Invisible Estate, woodcuts by Rosalyn Richards (1985)
  • The Oriental Rug, linoleum engravings by Barnard Taylor (1986)
  • The Children's Museum at Yad Vashem, illustrated by Colleen Shannon (1996)

(all from The Press of Appletree Alley, Lewisburg, PA)

  • Poetry on Record, 1888–2006: 98 Poets Read their Work (Tennyson, Whitman, Yeats, through Modernism to present. Four-CD set. Balakian reading "The History of Armenia”


  1. ^ Peter Balakian, Black Dog of Fate (BasicBooks, 1997), family tree on two unnumbered pages (several pages before page 1)
  2. ^ Bendheim, Kim. "Adult Education a Writer Learns the Tragic Histories of His Family and His People", Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1997. Accessed August 26, 2013. "Balakian spent his early childhood wanting to be Jewish like his neighborhood friends in Teaneck. When he tells his mother he has no intention of moving with the family from their home in Teaneck to the nearby but WASPier, -upscale town of Tenafly because 'I'm Jewish, I belong here,' her warning-response strikes him as strange."
  3. ^ Smith, Dinitia. "A Poet Knits Together Memories of Armenian Horrors", The New York Times, August 19, 1997. Accessed November 8, 2007. "Growing up in Tenafly, N.J., during the strange sweetness of a privileged childhood, the poet Peter Balakian could feel beneath the membrane of suburban life the intimations of his family's ancient and exotic Armenian culture and a dark and terrifying past."
  4. ^ Biography Archived January 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Peter Balakian. Accessed December 26, 2012. "Balakian was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, and grew up there and in Tenafly, NJ. He attended Tenafly public schools and graduated from Englewood School for Boys (now Dwight-Englewood School) before earning his B.A. from Bucknell University, an M.A. from New York University, and a Ph.D. from Brown University in American Civilization."
  5. ^ a b c d "Bio, Bucknell University, 2009". Archived from the original on May 30, 2010. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Staff, Weekly (April 18, 2016). "Peter Balakian Wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry". The Armenian Weekly. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  7. ^ "404 Not Found". Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Staff, Weekly (May 26, 2016). "Balakian, Nasri and Zaki Receive Armenian Presidential Award". The Armenian Weekly. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  9. ^ Jaworowski, Ken (November 9, 2017). "Review: 'Intent to Destroy' Shows That the Armenian Past Is Not Over". Retrieved August 14, 2019 – via
  10. ^ Balakian, Peter (August 20, 2018). "My Armenia". Retrieved August 14, 2019 – via

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