Peter Balakian Receives Pulitzer Prize for Poetry at Centennial Ceremony


NEW YORK — On October 13 Peter Balakian picked up the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for poetry at the 100th anniversary ceremony of the Pulitzer Prizes held at Columbia University. Balakian was one of seven recipients in the fields of Letters, Drama, and Music.

The winners had been announced in April.

Among the others were Viet Thanh Nguyen in fiction for his novel, The Sympathizer, Lin-Manuel Miranda in drama for the musical “Hamilton” and jazz composer Henry Threadgill for “In For a Penny In for a Pound.” Among the 14 prizes in journalism were Kathryn Schultz for feature writing at the New Yorker, Alyssa J. Rubin for international reporting at the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times staff for breaking news reporting.

Prof. Daniele Allen, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center For Ethics at Harvard University, was the keynote speaker. The awards were presented by Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University.

The Pulitzer committee cited Balakian’s Ozone Journal for “poems that bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty.” Writing about Ozone Journal in Consequence Magazine, Keith Jones wrote : “Balakian is a master of—the drifting, split-second mirage, the cinematic dissolve and cross-cut as well as the sculptural, statuesque moment chiseled out of consonant blends and an imagistic, jazzman’s ear for vowels. . . beautiful, haunting, plaintive, urgent, in our dying world’s age, these poems legislate a vital comportment to the demands of our shared present, timely and untimely both.” And David Wojahn in Tikkun wrote: “Few American poets of the boomer generation have explored the interstices of public and personal history as deeply and urgently as has Balakian.” Balakian is the first Armenian American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize since William Saroyan in 1940.

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