Using poetry to shed light on the worst of memories, including genocide (via PBS Charlotte)

JOHN YANG: Now: how a writer is coming to terms with his family’s own traumatic past, and how his use of poetry’s distinct style helps him grapple with history.

Jeffrey Brown has our profile.

And we should warn you, viewers may find some of the images disturbing.

JEFFREY BROWN: Peter Balakian grew up amid the security and postwar economic boom of New Jersey’s suburban American life. He played football and worked as a stock boy in Manhattan. He also early on became a reader and writer of poetry.

PETER BALAKIAN, Winner, 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry: “The day comes in strips of yellow glass over trees. When I tell you the day is a poem, I’m only talking to you and only the sky is listening.”

JEFFREY BROWN: It would lead to encounters with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and over the years seven collections. The latest, “Ozone Journal,” just won the Pulitzer Prize.

But from his grandmother beginning at an early age, Balakian heard occasional hints of a darker family history set in Armenia. And he began to explore a past that remains fought over to this day, the expulsion and killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. Many members of Balakian’s family died. Others, like his grandmother and aunts, survived after a horrific flight on foot.

Balakian would write about these events in history titled “The Burning Tigris” and in a family memoir, “Black Dog of Fate.”

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PBS Charlotte | Peter Balakian

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