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Selected Reviews

Lesley Wheeler reviews Upcycling Paumanok in Kenyon Review

Stephen Kampa reviews Upcycling Paumanok in Birmingham Poetry Review

Excerpt: “Balbo’s self-appointed task is twofold: to bear witness to all that we stand to lose should we fail to remain faithful to memory and to acknowledge that despite our best efforts the memory of all that must be lost is the most we can hope for outside the possibility of a miraculous final intervention….The thematic thread of memory, however, is only one particular thread in a book richer and more various than the foregoing might suggest. Balbo’s political commitments, for example, animate several poems…Balbo also makes room in the book for meditations on relationships both past and present, and some of the loveliest moments come in his poems of domesticity….Throughout Upcycling Paumanok, Balbo shows himself to be a careful craftsman with a knack for using fixed forms in thematically expressive ways.”

Maria Serena Marchesi reviews Upcycling Paumanok in Italian Americana

Excerpt: “In his latest collection of poems Balbo deals with the painful issues of the human condition in a quietly hyper-realistic language made stronger by the elegance of understatement….From everyday images–a B movie, snow in a war zone, a sick bird, ‘a slice of wedding cake/[…]saved for someone dead’ (‘The Woods’)–the tragic quality of small things emerges….In ‘The Poseidon, Capsized,’ eternity and the afterlife acquire immediacy and poignancy through the metaphor of the audience blinded by the lights at the end of a B-movie, with the masterstroke of the colloquial opening: ‘But, really, who knows what takes place beyond/the final reel.” …On the other hand, the dead’s urge to communicate with the living, together with the sadness of its impossibility, is to be found in ‘The Ghosts at Ground Zero,’ which could be termed a dramatic polylogue where the voices of the dead melt into one collective voice as a powerfully symbolic rendering of a collective tragedy. No room for elegy or for easy Spoon Riverisms, here…’


Angela Alaimo O’Donnell reviews The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems in Valparaiso Poetry Review

Lucas Jacob reviews The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems in Studio

Estella Lauter reviews The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems in Verse Wisconsin


James Matthew Wilson reviews Lives of the Sleepers in Pleiades

Image Update reviews Lives of the Sleepers

Excerpt: “Throughout Lives of the Sleepers, Ned Balbo finds the critical moment when cause engages effect–when life, beyond our control, tips into a kind of living death, or adoration seizes us with a blind grasping after the beloved until, suddenly and mysteriously, we are brought back to our senses. Guided by ancient mythology, Balbo creates a netherworld of human longing stretching from classical poetry to the scientific age….Lives of the Sleepers leans on such masters as Dante, Virgil, and Petrarch–not to mention the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Alfred Hitchcock is also thrown in for good measure.)… Balbo’s affection for moments like Beatrice finally hearing Dante’s plea for her help, listening ‘past the music of the spheres–/that slow celestial humming–for his voice,’ makes the classical contemporary….The Christians in the title poem, persecuted by Rome and sealed away like first century Rip Van Winkles, awaken into an unfamiliar world. There they face the gravity of their loss–the stripping away of the familiar….Lives of the Sleepers is a search for places of emergence, from past into present, fear into hope, sleep into waking–or, as it may happen, back again into the realm of dreams.”


Melanie Jordan reviews Galileo’s Banquet in Crab Orchard Review

Excerpt: “In his first book, Galileo’s Banquet, Ned Balbo uses the heavens as a mirror to reflect personal and human misgivings while still making redemption and forgiveness appear possible…Balbo won’t let us find futility, not even in the painful excavation of what appears to be his own shrouded adoption….Balbo refuses to progress simply from the heavens to his personal ghosts. He re-expands to a diverse set of material, culled from pop culture, history, art, and the traditions of verse. His agility with forms is complemented by his constant use of questions; we get the sense that these poems are questing themselves in a ‘banquet of constellations’ so vast they can only know some of the answers…”

Sam Schmidt reviews Galileo’s Banquet in WordHouse

Excerpt: “Galileo’s Banquet, winner of the 1998 Towson University Prize for Literature for a Maryland writer under 40 and 1998 co-winner of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House annual competition, is unfashionable in the best sense. It teaches some fine lessons which run counter to how most poetry is being written today. One lesson is the value of ‘the interesting’ as poetic material, the strangely cool energy of an enquiring mind. Another is the power available to the poet who avoids ‘self expression’ in his work (although many of Balbo’s poems are deeply personal). And then, by no means lastly (this list could be extended), he handles meter and rhyme as they should be handled, so naturally we almost forget their presence.”

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