– BY MAT T ZENCE Y –
For poet, essayist and Armenian genocide scholar Peter Balakian ’73, this spring was what you might call a career moment. He published two books — Ozone Journal, his seventh
book of poetry, and Vise and Shadow: Essays on the Lyric
Imagination, Poetry, Art and Culture, containing more than
two decades of his essays. Meanwhile, the world media
clamored for his views on the 100th anniversary of the
genocide against Armenians in Turkey, a holocaust whose
victims included most of his mother’s family.
A professor of humanities and English at Colgate
University, where he has taught since 1980, Balakian came
to international prominence with Black Dog of Fate, a 1997
best-seller about his Armenian heritage and what happened
to his family during the genocide (a monumental crime that
the Turkish government steadfastly denies to this day). In
2003, he took a more comprehensive look at that brutal
chapter of history in The Burning Tigris: The Armenian
Genocide and America’s Response.
As the world marked the centennial of the genocide,
(generally understood to have started on April 24, 1915),
Balakian was much in demand.
He published commentaries in the Los Angeles Times,
The Guardian and Salon.com, did many media interviews,
including National Public Radio and CNN, and lectured
at universities across the country. “The past six months
have been almost overwhelming,” he said in August.
Though on the road frequently, he continues to teach
full time. “I’m happy to say I’ve not missed a class, though
one does have to reschedule classes from time to time,”
Despite the challenges of juggling the many demands for
his limited time, he says, “The outpouring of coverage for
the Armenian genocide 100th anniversary worldwide has
been heartening and stresses the need for Turkey to come
to terms with it.”
Peter Balakian ’73 sifts through the desert sands to quash
denialism of the Armenian genocide a century ago.