Empires, John Balaban’s 8th poetry collection, moves around the globe through time, alighting on key moments of cultural change and personal revelation. From Ancient Ionia, to Viking traders on the Volga, to Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware, to a Romanian poet in Paris waiting for the Nazis to take him away, to the rubble of the World Trade Center, to a train ride through Dixie after the election of President Barack Obama, Balaban looks at moments of imperial shift. With the attention of a documentary filmmaker, and in deeply lyrical spells of longing and marvel, he considers the world in its innate beauty and complex ugliness. Balaban’s genius—as a world-renowned poet, translator, and activist—is in naming what binds us, connecting the dots of history.
“In a way that few poets do, John Balaban truly roams the globe—and the centuries. He has his eye on empires, yes, but also on moments when different slices of history collide… His capacious poems enlarge our eyes on the world.” —Adam Hochschild
“In these poems, John Balaban plumbs the recent and ancient past. His generous spirit and technical brilliance cast a very bright light. Empires is luminous work.” —Elizabeth Farnsworth
“Written with a storyteller’s verve, this collection entertains as it provokes and will appeal to may readers.” —Library Journal
“Balaban expresses a shrewd understanding of how the world works, and a clarion respect for life.” ―Booklist, starred review
“Balaban juggles all of these angles with elegance and poise, without falling prey to exoticism, or orientalism, or whatever one calls it when a writer distorts another culture through the prism of his own limited, and limiting experience.” ―Prairie Schooner
“His journey suggests a moral urgency—the soldier mugged in the bus station, a legless vet in the nowhere gas station, the exiled Slavic poet tossing back vodkas in Paris—and is conveyed with wry narrative lyricism, juggling light and dark. The poems encompass both our bleakest times and the fugue of intertwining spirits, charged music we long to hear.” ―Artcetera, Nevada Arts Council
“Balaban’s language is lyrical and lovely, lifting us beyond the morass of our complicated lives, instilling in our hearts the hope of an exalted existence here on earth.” ―W.S. Merwin