Poet and translator John Balaban is the recipient of many honors, including the Academy of American Poets’ Lamont Prize, a National Poetry Series Selection, the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award, and two nominations for the National Book Award. His books of poems include After Our War, Words for My Daughter, Locusts at the Edge of Summer, and, most recently, Path, Crooked Path. A conscientious objector in Vietnam during the war who worked to bring war-injured children medical care, Balaban’s poetry combines the personal experiences of war, nature, and family life with the landscapes of other poets across history and continents. W.S. Merwin writes: “Balaban’s gift for language has been wholly devoted to his need to face directly and mine sense from the bewilderment and anguish being implicated in the history and suffering of our time.”

The author of two novels and two books of nonfiction, notably Remembering Heaven’s Face: A Story of Rescue in Wartime Vietnam, Balaban is also one of the preeminent authorities on Vietnamese literature. He returned to Vietnam after the war to record Veitnamese folk poetry, which are collected and translated in Ca Dao Vietnam, and his Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hõ Xuân Hu'o'ng brings alive the voice of an 18th-century Vietnamese concubine and one of modern Vietnam’s most beloved poetic voices. The spare, nuanced language of these translations allows the poems to retain the playful rhythm and frequent double entendre essential to their effect.

Balaban served as president of the American Literary Translators Association, and currently teaches English and serves as poet-in-residence at North Carolina State in Raleigh.


Poems by John Balaban

On Sharing a Husband
(By Hồ Xuân Hương)

Three-Mountain Pass
(By Hồ Xuân Hương)

A Note to Hayden Carruth from Miami

Van Gogh




    Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2006