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No Sign

New poetry collection from Peter Balakian, author of Ozone Journal, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
 

In these poems, Peter Balakian wrestles with national and global cultural and political realities, including challenges for the human species amid planetary transmutation and the impact of mass violence on the self and culture. At the collection’s heart is “No Sign,” another in Balakian’s series of long-form poems, following “A-Train/Ziggurat/Elegy” and “Ozone Journal,” which appeared in his previous two collections. In this dialogical multi-sectioned poem, an estranged couple encounters each other, after years, on the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades. The dialogue that ensues reveals the evolution of a kaleidoscopic memory spanning decades, reflecting on the geological history of Earth and the climate crisis, the film Hiroshima Mon Amour, the Vietnam War, a visionary encounter with the George Washington Bridge, and the enduring power of love..
 
Whether meditating on the sensuality of fruits and vegetables, the COVID-19 pandemic, the trauma and memory of the Armenian genocide, James Baldwin in France, or Arshile Gorky in New York City, Balakian’s layered, elliptical language, wired phrases, and shifting tempos engage both life’s harshness and beauty and define his inventive and distinctive style.
 

80 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2022

Phoenix Poets

Poetry

Reviews

"Armenians sometimes wonder if their voice is audible in the world, especially during times of crisis. In the realm of literature, and poetry in particular, there is no doubt that it is, with Pulitzer Prize winning poets like Peter Balakian. Balakian’s work places the Armenian experience on a level of universal significance, not leaving it isolated in the realm of ethnic or folk life, nor buried dead in history. At the age of seventy, he continues to produce prolifically. His newest volume of poetry, No Sign, just published, is another masterful collection weaving together all sorts of elements of contemporary life, with an Armenian perspective and memory prominent."

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

"No Sign masterfully juxtaposes the magnificence of human achievement, as exemplified in music and architecture, with the inescapable fact of human malfeasance that results in war, persecution and estrangement."

Consequence Forum

"A poetry of montage, fluctuating rhythm, and inner tension where motion is skillfully embedded with emotion that never becomes transgressively extreme. Balakian’s refined intelligence keeps control throughout as he reveals his larger historical sense."

World Literature Today

“Balakian understands the bewildered music of our times, and No Sign, more than any other contemporary book of poetry, teaches us about the properties of time; we are inside the speech that is addressing time and opposing it, witnessing it, and walking two steps ahead. This 'time-sense' is explored with depth in the brilliant title poem. Balakian is able to praise the world though he knows its ‘bitter history.’ And praise he does! The lyricism here is of utter beauty. No Sign is a splendid, necessary book."

Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic

“Balakian has been writing intellectually challenging poems of ‘bright unbearable reality’ that are part of an ongoing conversation in American poetry for some time. They have the horizontal continuum of history, like Walcott and Heaney, but they also have verticality which arrests time and connects with the demonic and divine. He masterfully does the thing nobody else does which is to derange history into poetry, to make poetry painting, to make painting culture, to make culture living, and with a historical depth that finds the right experience in language.”

Bruce Smith, author of Spill

“In No Sign, Balakian embraces the claims of immediacy as well as the encompassing historical perspective. His images and sharp syncopations locate the pulse of our times and give it a prophetic reverberation. Here is a voice of witness which also makes room for an irrepressible sensory imagination.”

Sven Birkerts, author of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

ONE
History, Bitterness
Tung Lai Shun
Ode to the Douduk
Waiting for a Number
Summer Ode
Yellow Lilies
Outside Arshile Gorky’s Studio
Revenant Love
Watching the Tulips Die
Purple Irises
Shadow Grid
Grasses of Unknowing
How Much I Love You

TWO
Eggplant
Quince
Bulgur
Pomegranate
Matza
Fig
Walnut
Apricot
Grape Leaves
Tomatoes
Okra
Zucchini

THREE
No Sign

FOUR
Stalled in Traffic
Head of Anahit/British Museum
Coming to Istanbul
Leaving the Big City
Walking the Ruined City
Notes

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