LEWISBURG, Penn. — Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Peter Balakian, Bucknell Class of 1973, has been named the 13th Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters at Bucknell University, becoming the first Bucknell graduate to receive the honor.
Balakian is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English and director of creative writing at Colgate University. He will accept the award during a ceremony on Thursday, April 5, at 7 p.m. in Bucknell Hall. After the presentation, Balakian will read from his poetry and memoir, and then engage in a moderated discussion with Bucknell Professor of English Harold Schweizer. A book-signing will follow. The event is free and open to the public.
The author of seven books of poems, Balakian won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his most recent collection, Ozone Journal (2016, University of Chicago Press). In the announcement, the Pulitzer committee said the poems in the collection “bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty.”
Balakian’s Ozone Journal explores, among other topics, the poet’s memory of excavating. “In the dynamic, sensual language of these poems, we are reminded that the history of atrocity, trauma and forgetting is both global and ancient,” the prize committee said. “But we are reminded, too, of the beauty and richness of culture, and the resilience of love.”
For more than four decades Balakian’s poems have engaged a wide range of social, cultural and political realities including genocide, war, terrorism, climate change, the AIDS epidemic and historical trauma. His poems also probe the personal and meditative realities of love, death, art and culture, and the intersections between epic traumatic events and the private self.
“I began my life as a poet as an undergraduate at Bucknell during my sophomore and junior years in 1971-72,” Balakian said. “I studied with my mentor and then great friend Professor Jack Wheatcroft, an inspirational and brilliant teacher and an amazingly versatile writer. It’s been an interesting journey, and Lewisburg and Bucknell are dear to it.”