By Melissa Balmain
In Melissa Balmain’s Walking in on People, the serious is lightened with a generous serving of wit and humor, and the lighthearted is enriched with abundant wisdom. She shows us how poetry can be fun yet grounded in everyday challenges and triumphs, with subjects ranging from the current and hip (Facebook posts, online dating, layoffs, retail therapy, cell-phone apps, trans fat), to the traditional and time-tested (marriage, child-rearing, love, death). Through it all, her craft is masterful, with a formal dexterity deployed with precision in a showcase of forms such as the villanelle, ballad, triolet, nonce, and the sonnet. It is little wonder then that Walking in on People is the winner of the 2013 Able Muse Book Award, as selected by the final judge, X.J. Kennedy. This is a collection that will not only entertain thoroughly, but also enlighten and reward the reader.
Walking in on People grabbed me with its very title, and it never let go. Poetry these days is rarely so entertaining, so beautifully crafted, so sharp of eye, yet so wise and warm of heart. Melissa Balmain keenly perceives faults in people and in our popular culture, with piercing wit but never bitterness. Don’t miss the wonderful “Lament,” on what it takes to write a best seller, or “The Marital Bed,” a love poem with naturalistic detail. She really commands her art. Indeed, I think any poet who rhymes lobsters and Jersey mobsters deserves to have an equestrian statue of herself erected in Bangor or Newark or both.
— X.J. Kennedy (Judge, 2013 Able Muse Book Award)
Melissa Balmain’s poems add to the rhythmic bounce of light verse a darker, more cutting humor. The result is an infectious, often hilarious blend of the sweet and the lethal, the charming and the acidic.
— Billy Collins
So many of the poems in Melissa Balmain’s triumphant debut lodge themselves in that Frostian zone where they are hard to get rid of. They recur in the mind in moments of hilarity and pathos, of exaltation and mortification, and they never let us go.
— David Yezzi (from the foreword)
Accessible and entertaining poetry doesn't often prevail over the grim personal memoir in poetry contests, but this time the judges were smart. They went for Melissa Balmain's stylish and always metrically perfect wit. You can relate to this poetry if you have ever: longed to save the restaurant lobsters from their fate, lost your lover to his electronic devices, faced the fact that babies are ugly and toddlers suppress your genius, or (of course) walked in on people in all the wrong places. With diverse forms, inventive rhymes, the right word always chosen and a sense of humor always in evidence—you really have no excuse not to buy this book.
— Gail White
Melissa Balmain is a writer, teacher, and recovering mime. She edits Light, America’s longest-running journal of light verse. Her full-length poetry collection, Walking in on People, was chosen by X.J. Kennedy for the Able Muse Book Award. Her new, shorter collection is The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy-Tale Reboots for Adults, illustrated by Ron Barrett (Humorist Books). Balmain's poems and prose have appeared in such places as the American Bystander, American Life in Poetry, the Hopkins Review, McSweeney's, the New Yorker, the New York Times, Poetry Daily, Rattle, and the Washington Post. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has described her work as "an infectious, often hilarious blend of the sweet and the lethal, the charming and the acidic." Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten has called it "extremely irresponsible.”
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