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Path, Crooked Path
John Balaban
$15.00 paperback
978-1-55659-238-6
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Path, Crooked Path
John Balaban

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 cafe 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.

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For Path, Crooked Path, John Balaban

"Not for Balaban tempests in the teapot of personal reflection. No, he is a roaming bard in a besieged world. His wry, trenchant lyrics embody the cadence of a solitary thinker walking a country road while taking measure of the axis between light and dark, life and death. Balaban considers the lonely landscapes of America's vast heartland and heartless borderland, and the absurdity, tragedy, and beauty of places redolent and riven, such as Athens, Romania, Miami, and Vietnam. Balaban marvels over plants, animals, and nature's rapid "reply to wreckage" in the wake of hurricanes. But it is humanity and its storms that concern him most as he writes of our species' love of beauty and penchant for violence with a fluent sense of history, empathy, and humor, expressing sympathy for a panhandler, admiration for an immigrant, compassion for all subjected to war, and witty disdain for those who imagine that wealth protects them. A highly regarded poet and translator of Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong, Balaban expresses a shrewd understanding of how the world works, and a clarion respect for life."—Booklist (starred review)

"John Balaban's talent is for gorgeous narrative and description, and in Path, Crooked Path, the two-time National Book Award nominee navigates classic predicaments: the one against the many, the poetic love of an unaffected world, a society helpless against its governing forces."—ColdFrontMag.com

"Peopled with poets and writers, figures ordinary and historical, his new work winds through wars and nations, starting with 'Highway 61 Revisited': 'I picked up the soldier mugged in the bus station,/ teeth kicked in, wallet taken, hitching back to base in Waco/ to his tank-repair unit readying for another Iraq war/ I knew I was on the right road.'"—Library Journal

"[N]ot to be missed."—The News & Observer

"With Path, Crooked Path Balaban confirms to all that he possesses a continuing ability to confront different topics, public or personal, filled with difficult emotional overtones or fraught with ambiguity... John Balaban carefully chronicles the crooked path of life with gratitude for those who had enhanced his journey, as well as a sense of sorrow with the loss felt by their passing. By preserving memories of the individuals and incidents that enriched his life with his elegiac lines, readers also are enriched... Thankfully, once again in Path, Crooked Path John Balaban continues to provide 'the exquisite music we long to hear.'"—Edward Byrne, Valparaiso Poetry Review

"As was Socrates, Balaban is concerned for the language the soul uses to express its life."—Denise Levertov

"Balaban expresses a shrewd understanding of how the world works."—Booklist

"[Balaban's] voice is strong; his poems are important."—Harvard Review

"[Balaban] takes risks with his heart and soul and shares the glory of it with us."—Pat Cosentino, Tapestries

"Strong, powerful poems—heartfelt."—Ellen Kort, former Wisconsin State Poet Laureate

"[Balaban's] journey is our journey, the moral urgency of our plight today—the soldier mugged in the bus station, the legless vet in the nowhere gas station, the exiled Slavic poet tossing back vodkas in Paris—is conveyed with a wry narrative lyricism, one that juggles light and dark as stops along the way... The poems encompass both our bleakest times—the goings of others—and the fugue of intertwining spirits, the charged music we long to hear."—Arts and Entertainment

"Balaban's tough-mindedness, combined with what at times can only be called a romantic sensibility, imbue his work with an honest desire to come to grips with the human condition that is rare among today's poets. This is a poet who works to make the 'charged, exquisite music that we long to hear.'"—North Carolina Literary Review

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