UNA Writer’s Series showcases Pulitzer Prize winning poet

Peter Balakian, an author, poet and translator who won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for his recent book “Ozone Journal,” spoke about his works Thursday morning at the UNA Writer’s Series in the Guilloit University Center Performance Center.

The English Department, Alabama Humanities Foundation, and Alabama State Council on the Arts sponsored the event, which included a book signing and a writer’s workshop in the Stone Lodge at 4 p.m., said the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Carmen Burkhalter.

More than 300 people attended the event that was open to both the community and UNA students and faculty.

“The humanities matter because they help us to better understand our world and the human experience,” Burkhalter said.

Balakian’s first reading was an excerpt from his 1998 memoir “The Black Dog of Fate.” The next reading, “For My Grandmother Coming Back,” was a poem from his 1983 book “Sad Days of Light.”

Balakian then read from his most recently published and award-winning collection, “Ozone Journal.” He read “Pueblo, Christmas Dance,” “Joe Louis’s Fist,” “Home” and “Here and Now.”

“Lyrical language is the most primal part of the human voice and its utterance,” Balakian said. “It comes to us always as language music, and because of its compressive form and ability to get stuck in your ear. (Poetry) should be read every day.”

Junior Jackson Latham said his English class is studying the book, and he was excited to hear Balakian speak.

“I thought it was really neat to see a Pulitzer Prize winning author,” he said. “He was very engaging and had a lot of interesting stories to tell.”

A brief Q&A session followed the reading where Balakian answered questions on topics from climate change to his graduate school career.

Balakian closed his session by encouraging students to see the upcoming movie “The Promise,” which focuses on the Armenian Genocide Balakian referenced in many of his works.

“It’s the first major blockbuster about the Armenian Genocide, and I hope it will bring some facts about it to light for everyone, he said. “I hope (everyone will) get to see it.”