Path, Crooked PathBook - 2006
"Balaban's emotional range is impressively wide and deeply human--by turns compassionate and angry, somber and humorous, earnest and ironic. His voice is strong; his poems are important."-- Harvard Review
Guided by an acute moral urgency, Path, Crooked Path opens on Highway 61 and keeps moving across America and throughout the world. Juxtaposing his experiences in eastern Europe and southeast Asia against contemporary life in the United States, Balaban illuminates the humor and hypocrisy that often percolates when individuals are thrust into the mix of cultures. Whether driving past Bush's Texas ranch, sitting at a café in Vietnam, or trading swigs of vodka with a Bulgarian exile, his poems look beyond the personal to help make sense of an often chaotic world.
From "The Great Fugue"
...I am playing The Grosse Fugue, hearing
the faded voices of those good people
who did not want to see me falter, but took me in,
schooling me in an intertwining of spirits
that like music can fill a room, that is a great fugue
weaving through us and joining generations
in charged, exquisite music that we long to hear.
John Balaban is the author of a dozen books of poetry, prose, and Vietnamese translations whose accolades include two National Book Award nominations, the Lamont Award, and the William Carlos Williams Award. His translation Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong was featured on NPR's Fresh Air . Balaban teaches at North Carolina State University and lives in Raleigh.