POETRY

Empires

Copper Canyon. Sept. 2019. 88p. ISBN 9781556595707. pap. $17. POETRY
COPY ISBN
“Our generation has gradually learned the great art of living without security,” says Stefan Zweig in an epigraph to this generous and approachable new work from Balaban, a multi-award-winning poet (e.g., Path, Crooked Path), novelist, and translator of Vietnamese poetry. (He is also a founder and director of the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation.) It’s an appropriate quote, for in the first part of the book, Balaban makes poetry of unsettled history, traveling from the Chang dynasty (“soon enough there would be only wind/ shushing its sad music”), ancient Greece (“My poetry recited along the Aegean/ when we heard the brass trumpets of the Asian tribes”), and Vietnam (“my taxi/ would turn a corner, stirring up a memory of some dis-/ tant encounter”) to 9/11 (“refrigerated trucks/ filling with human debris”) and a return trip from Barack Obama’s inauguration, as his train passes near a North Carolina town where in 1970 “a black GI was shot to death.” The book then moves on to portraits, including Taos art gallery owner Tally Richards and translator Elling Eide, and then a sort of ars poetica (“The Uses of Poetry,” “Finishing up the Novel After Some Delay”), and other scenes and landscapes that make for a grand tour.
VERDICT Written with a storyteller’s verve, this collection entertains as it provokes and will appeal to many readers.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

TOP STORIES

LIBRARY EDUCATION

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COMMUNITY FORM

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT

Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.