Peter Balakian (Armenian: Փիթըր Պալաքեան, born June 13, 1951) is an Armenian American poet, writer and academic, the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of Humanities at Colgate University. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2016.
Balakian was born in 1951, in Teaneck, New Jersey to an Armenian family and was raised in Teaneck and Tenafly, New Jersey. After attending the Tenafly Public Schools, he graduated from Englewood School for Boys (which since merged with other area schools and is now known as Dwight-Englewood School). He earned a B.A. from Bucknell University, and M.A. from New York University, and a PhD, in American Civilization, from Brown University. He has taught at Colgate University since 1980. He is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English and director of Colgate's creative writing program. He was the first director of Colgate's Center for Ethics and World Societies.
Balakian is the author of seven books of poems, including, most recently, Ozone Journal (2015). His other books are Father Fisheye (1979), Sad Days of Light (1983), Reply From Wilderness Island (1988), Dyer's Thistle (1996), June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000 (2000), Ziggurat (2010), and several fine limited editions. His poems have appeared widely in American magazines and journals such as The Nation, The New Republic, Antaeus, Partisan Review, Poetry, AGNI, and The Kenyon Review; and in anthologies such as New Directions in Prose and Poetry, The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, Poetry's 75th Anniversary Issue (1987), The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry and others.
Balakian's memoir Black Dog of Fate (1997) was winner of the PEN/Albrand Prize for memoir and a New York Times Notable Book. The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (2003) received the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and New York Times and national best seller. Balakian is also the author of Theodore Roethke’s Far Fields (Louisiana State University Press, 1989). His essays on poetry, culture, and art have appeared in many publications including Ararat, Art in America, American Poetry Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the American Quarterly, American Book Review, and Poetry.
Balakian was co-founder and co-editor (with Bruce Smith) of the poetry magazine Graham House Review, which was published from 1976 to 1996. He is the translator (with Nevart Yaghlian) of Bloody News From My Friend by the Armenian poet Siamanto (Wayne State University Press, 1996). Balakian's prizes and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, 1999; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 2004; PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir, 1998; Raphael Lemkin Prize, 2005 (best book in English on the subject of human rights and genocide); New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Award, 1998; Daniel Varujan Prize, New England Poetry Club, 1986; Anahid Literary Prize, Columbia University Armenian Center, 1990, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in Poetry for Ozone Journal, 2016. According to the Pulitzer board, Balakian's work "bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty." He is also a recipient of the Khorenatsi medal. 2016 he was awarded Armenia's 2015 Presidential Award for significant contribution to the process of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Four fine limited editions of Balakian's poems have been published by The Press of Appletree Alley (Lewisburg, PA). Translations and editions of Balakian's books appear in Armenian, Bulgarian, Dutch, German, Greek, Russian, and Turkish. Balakian has lectured widely in the United States and abroad and has appeared often on national television and radio.
- Father Fisheye (1979)
- Sad Days of Light (1983)
- Reply From Wilderness Island (1988)
- Dyer's Thistle (1996)
- June-Tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974–2000 (2001)
- Ziggurat (2010)
- Ozone Journal (2015)
- Theodore Roethke's Far Fields (1989)
- Black Dog of Fate, A Memoir (1997) (translated into Armenian by Artem Harutyunyan, 2002)
- The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response (2003)
- Vise and Shadow: Essays on the Lyric Imagination, Poetry, Art, and Culture (2015)
- His book
- Bloody News From My Friend, by Siamanto, translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian, introduction by Balakian (1996)
- Armenian Golgotha, by Grigoris Balakian, translated by Peter Balakian and Aris Sevag (2009)
- Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, preface by Robert Jay Lifton, introduction by Roger Smith, afterword by Henry Morgenthau III. (2003)
- Declaring Generations, linoleum engravings by Barnard Taylor ( 1981)
- Invisible Estate, woodcuts by Rosalyn Richards (1985)
- The Oriental Rug, linoleum engravings by Barnard Taylor (1986)
- The Children's Museum at Yad Vashem, illustrated by Colleen Shannon (1996)
(all from The Press of Appletree Alley, Lewisburg, PA)
- Poetry on Record, 1888–2006: 98 Poets Read their Work (Tennyson, Whitman, Yeats, through Modernism to present. Four-CD set. Balakian reading "The History of Armenia”