Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spending time with Colgate's Peter Balakian

Friday night, my wife, Ellen, and I had dinner with Peter Balakian, poet, professor and proponent of human rights. I first met Peter 11 years ago while his daughter was at an Armenian summer camp which my wife directed. Peter and Ellen went on to organize the 85th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide at the New York Public Library - a gathering of great writers and thinkers the likes of Vartan Gregorian and Robert Pinsky.

Peter has a new book of poems out titled Ziggurat. As stated in the Armenian Weekly, "as a young man in the late 1960′s, Peter Balakian was a mail runner in downtown Manhattan, working in and around the building site of the World Trade Center as the towers slowly took shape and began to fill with people and businesses. And, like so many others, he watched in mute horror on September 11 as they fell. In his long poem “A-Train/Ziggurat/Elegy”—which forms the centerpiece of his new book, Ziggurat—he weaves the story of their rise and fall into a complex personal and cultural account of life and loss in New York in the final decades of the 20th century."

At dinner we spoke of his books, his children, the Armenians, and writers. Peter used to teach and coach football at a prep school in NJ too, which lead me to ask him to come to MPH to read. He said he would, but I remembered it would be wise to get on his calendar now - he is a busy guy, and a true poet too boot. We'll see!

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