Cover image for June-tree : new and selected poems, 1974-2000
June-tree : new and selected poems, 1974-2000
Balakian, Peter, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2001]

Physical Description:
178 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3552.A443 J8 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



For three decades, Peter Balakian's poetry has been praised widely in the United States and abroad. Writing in the Boston Globe, Marcie Hershman called Sad Days of Light "a piercingly elegant volume," and John Naughton in World Literature Today praised Dyer's Thistle as "a remarkable and profoundly visionary work." Now the poet whom James Dickey called "an extraordinary talent" gives us June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000, a discriminating selection from his first four books, with a group of startling new poems.

In book after book, Balakian has created a unique voice in American poetry -- one that is both personal and cosmopolitan. In sensuous, elliptical language, Balakian offers a textured poetry that is beautiful and haunting as it envelops an American grain, the reverberations of the Armenian Genocide, and the wired, discordant realities of contemporary life.

In his explorations of history, Balakian often deals with the transmission of trauma across generations in ways that bring daily American life into play with the dark frequencies of the past. The evolution of Balakian's form from volume to volume encompasses an expansive imagination, one always able to engage reality in its starkness, difficulty, and moments of revelation. June-tree is a stunning body of work by an original poet.

Author Notes

Peter Balakian was born in Teaneck, New Jersey on June 13, 1951. He received a B.A. from Bucknell University, a M.A. from New York University, and a Ph.D. in American civilization from Brown University. He has been an English professor at Colgate University since 1980. His collections of poetry including Father Fisheye, Sad Days of Light, Reply from Wilderness Island, Dyer's Thistle, June-Tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000, Ziggurat, and Ozone Journal, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He has also written works of nonfiction including Theodore Roethke's Far Fields and The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. His memoir, Black Dog of Fate, won the PEN/Albrand Prize for memoir.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Balakian's streamlined poems carry the past forward as they gather new experiences without becoming burdened by their ever-swelling cargo of memory, knowledge, and insight. His Armenian heritage is always on call: the relief and guilt of having escaped genocide, the careful spinning and weaving of family memories. In a poem dedicated to his daughter, Balakian dream-travels to the old world while sleeping on an oriental rug in which each tightly knotted flower opens to reveal the heart of parents and grandparents. The visible world speaks urgently to Balakian, who writes of artists such as his fellow Armenian in America, Arshile Gorky, and, in a strikingly vehement poem, Camile Claudel. His own young New Jersey self whispers in his ear--reminding him of cold war "duck and cover" drills, rock 'n' roll, and the war in Vietnam--while, attentive and tender, he continues to consult the oracles of plants and birds, earth and sky. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

It should come as no surprise that Balakian best known for his 1997 memoir, Black Dog of Fate, which juxtaposed memories of a 1950's Jersey childhood with the Armenian genocide of 1915 has also born witness to the Armenian genocide in his poetry. Some of his best poems on the subject ("The History of Armenia"; "The Claim") appeared early on in his poetic career, and their reappearance after Black Dog should win them new readers. There are plenty of poems about Balakian's other obsession his New Jersey youth as well as poems about fishing, painters, flowers and families, all of which were well-documented in his four previous poetry collections. The new poems, which kick off this selection, map out familiar terrain, even as the poet acknowledges that he sees "no light.// Just yourself/ staring back at you/ in middle age,// as if the novocaine/ of the sea urchin/ froze your lids." Numbed by "baby-boom melodrama," Balakian's speaker sees himself as an itinerant academic "on sabbatical and looking for/ a place to write." Balakian rises above such poetic haze when writing about events like Woodstock ("And when the Shaman spread his yellow robe like the sun/ he was all teeth and amp"), but more often than not, middle-class boomer angst seems to have run off with the muse, and prosaic sentiment stands in for lyric urgency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Justly famous for his poems about genocide in his native Armenia, Balakian offers the reader a selection of new poems as well as a generous sampling of slightly edited versions of poems from his earlier collections, including Father Fisheye and Dyer's Thistle. Always lush in imagery and rich in nuance, Balakian's verse often takes the form of unique syntheses in which a vividly realized place becomes the starting point for a series of deeply felt associations. In "Yorkshire Dales," he grounds the poem firmly in the "limestone rocks" of England while simultaneously recording the speech of his son and daughter. All of this takes place under a "dome-like" sky that covers the Regency dining room of the Bront sisters but also admits the Motown lyrics of Jackie Wilson, transporting the entire family "higher and higher." A gifted phrasemaker, Balakian leaves the reader with memorable images: Water "slides like a black eel/ through weir and hooks of grass"; the wind "blows the silk kimonos/ off the delphiniums." Accessible and graphic, June-tree ranks as one of the most significant poetry collections of 2001; it will also be of interest to readers of his memoir, Black Dog of Fate. Recommended for all poetry collections. Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



June-tree New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 Photosynthesis The slips of the day- lilies come off. The wind blows in from Vermont, blows the silk kimonos off the delphiniums, blows the satin cowls off the jack-in-the-pulpits. Let it blow the detonated-pollen green, acid-rubbed, plumed and rotting day-- blow into the leaves their silver undersides wet you at night. Slide your tongue into the green dark so you can see the ultra- violet scars on the goldfields where the bees come in the day. The night air rises like steam from a mud-pot, and you see nothing. Hear no voice. See no light. just yourself staring back at you in middle age, as if the novocain of the sea urchin froze your lids. You see the window you built where you placed your hands and broke your turquoise jars and saw the stones of scalding yellow where the steam had burned things back to where your private lust and your longing for history were colorless, and the blood of the dianthus was gone. You see your life rise and slide away like steam, feel a goat-tongue lost in a mountain wet you down. June-tree New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 . Copyright © by Peter Balakian. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from June-Tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 by Peter Balakian All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. x
New Poems
Photosynthesisp. 3
The Treep. 5
Yorkshire Dalesp. 6
Killary Harborp. 8
In Armenia, 1987p. 10
Lowlandsp. 11
Night Patiop. 14
Ellis Islandp. 18
Train to Uticap. 19
The Children's Museum at Yad Vashemp. 23
Harpert, Revisitedp. 24
Parable for Vanished Countriesp. 26
Jade Boatp. 27
From Dyer's Thistle (1996)
August Diaryp. 31
Physiciansp. 37
My Father on the Berengaria, 1926p. 41
World War IIp. 42
The Oriental Rugp. 47
Duck 'n' Cover, 1953p. 53
Flat Sky of Summerp. 54
Rock 'n' Rollp. 57
Saigon/New Jerseyp. 58
Out of Schoolp. 59
First Communionp. 60
Woodstockp. 61
Last Days Painting (August 1973)p. 62
Post Vietnamp. 65
American Dreamingp. 69
Mandelstam in Armenia, 1930p. 73
Geese Flying Over Hamilton, New Yorkp. 74
The Backyardp. 76
A Toastp. 77
My Son Stares into a Tulipp. 78
Morning Newsp. 80
The End of the Reagan Erap. 82
In Churchp. 83
A Letter to Wallace Stevensp. 88
After the Survivors Are Gonep. 91
Oceanp. 92
From Reply from Wilderness Island (1988)
The Creasesp. 95
Night Blue Fishing on Block Islandp. 97
Thoreau at Nausetp. 100
To Arshile Gorkyp. 102
Camille Claudel, Some Notesp. 104
Poppiesp. 107
Parts of Peoniesp. 109
Domestic Lamentp. 110
A Version of Paolo and Francescap. 112
I Wish Us Back to Mudp. 114
Blood Pudding, Antigua, W.I.p. 115
Fish Mouthp. 118
A Country Housep. 120
Mussel Shellp. 121
Jersey Bait Shackp. 122
From Sad Days of Light (1983)
The History of Armeniap. 125
Road to Aleppo, 1915p. 128
Post-Traumatic Shock, Newark, New Jersey, 1942p. 129
The Claimp. 131
Granny, Making Soupp. 140
Three Museum Offerings (Native American Artifacts at the Whitney)p. 145
That Is Why This Day Passes Like a Thousand Liliesp. 147
The Rise in the Nightp. 149
Seferis Returning to Smyrna, 1950p. 151
For My Grandmother, Coming Backp. 153
From Father Fisheye (1979)
After We Splitp. 157
Winter Revivalp. 158
A Sequence of Wind Between Seasonsp. 159
Graham House, April '76p. 160
Approaching the Summer Solsticep. 161
Letting the Fog Inp. 164
To Hart Cranep. 165
Robert Lowell Near Stockbridgep. 167
"My Mother Is a Fish"p. 168
Father Fisheyep. 171
Words for My Grandmotherp. 172
The Field of Poppiesp. 173
Notesp. 175
Acknowledgmentsp. 177