Ned Balbo is one of the most gifted critics of popular culture writing today. His criticism, however, appears not as journalism but as poetry. He ranges widely through contemporary American life, while remaining in touch with one of the great breeding grounds of the American dream — the Long Island suburbs, where he grew up. There the nightmares are as vivid as the dreams. Read “The Case Against Standardized Testing” for a taste of the evil potential in a walk home through the neighborhood. Here in Upcycling Paumanok is the vital history of one of the crucial American places.

— Mark Jarman

A formalist with a fine ear for the colloquial, Balbo is primed to notice wonderful quirks of language. From what the unimaginative might dismiss as ephemera — board games, nineteenth-century newspaper articles, fabulously trashy movies of the ’70s, real estate-ese — he plucks gems of American vernacular and polishes them with his mordant wit. Balbo is also unafraid of examining subjects closer to the heart; his meditations on romantic love, parenthood, and friendship demonstrate how formal shapeliness weds the many shapes of feeling.

—V. Penelope Pelizzon

Ned Balbo is a wizard of the workaday, revealing in a “parcel of suburbia” signs of our humanity and of the beauty that ennobles it. Some of these poems remind us “that awe is possible, today, / and should be shared, or taught,” while others—several of them recalling Balbo’s Long Island childhood — are achingly elegiac: “all of us who bear our memories and mysteries/ throughout our lives, will make our own departures, / bound or solitary, in due course.” Balbo does not shy from the question: Has the dream died that gave rise to America’s suburbs? In this splendid collection, their abiding hopes and disappointments are still gorgeously alive.

— David Yezzi


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Ned Balbo’s The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems received the Poets’ Prize and the Donald Justice Prize. He is also the author of Lives of the Sleepers and Galileo’s Banquet. He has held fellowships or residencies at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The recipient of the Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Award, and co-winner of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize, he holds degrees from Vassar College, the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poetry, prose, and translations appear widely. He is married to poet-essayist Jane Satterfield and currently teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University.