Peter Balakian ESB ’69 is the recipient of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for a collection of poems called Ozone Journal (University of Chicago Press, March 2015). The Pulitzer Board, which announced its 2016 winners in April, describes Balakian’s book as featuring poems that “bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty.”
The volume’s title poem centers on Balakian’s experience excavating bones of victims of the Armenian genocide with a TV crew and weaves in other parts of his life. In its commentary about Balakian’s work, the Pulitzer Board writes, “In the dynamic and sensual language of these poems, we are reminded that the history of atrocity, trauma, and forgetting is both global and ancient; but we are reminded, too, of the beauty and richness of culture and the resilience of love.”
Balakian is director of creative writing and director of the Center for Ethics and World Societies at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, where he is also an English professor. He is the author of numerous books, including The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, a New York Times notable book and bestseller. His memoir, Black Dog of Fate, won the PEN/Albrand Prize and was a New York Times notable book. Balakian has been honored with a number of distinguished awards, prizes, and civic citations, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and an Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance.
Balakian has also appeared widely on national television and radio programs, including 60 Minutes, ABC World News Tonight, Charlie Rose, and Fresh Air.
To the delight of the Dwight-Englewood community, Balakian returned to campus in November of 2013 to participate in a writer’s workshop, an event featuring distinguished alumni that was one of many highlights of the School’s celebration of its 125th year.
Balakian is not D-E’s only connection to the Pulitzers this year. Another winner in the Letters, Drama & Music category is Lin-Manual Miranda for the Broadway hit musical Hamilton, which was produced by Jeffrey Seller, father of Middle School student May Lehrer-Seller ’21.