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Walking in on People - Poems by Melissa Balmain


Richard Fox (not verified)

I have loved what I have read of this book. The world (and its poets) STILL make me weepy, crazy, hopeful, etc.

xo Richard

Jaime Reyes (not verified)

I pre-ordered Walking in on People months ago. I've been waiting for it impatiently. Now that its attractive orange and black paperback has arrived, I haven't felt an iota of buyer's remorse. On the contrary, I'm as delighted as I guessed I would be with Melissa Balmain. Over the years I've read several of her verses in Light Quarterly--now simply known as Light--which she's been editing since the death of its brilliant founding editor John Mella in 2012.

Her debut book collects 56 poems funny and resonant enough to establish her as one of the very best humorists since such stalwarts as Ogden Nash and Richard Armour, not to mention Dorothy Parker, Wendy Cope, and that irrepressible bard of light versifiers X. J. Kennedy. But don't take my word for it. Here's a Balmain 12-liner:

Bird in the Hand

It doesn't caw or hunt or fly.
It can't peck anybody's eye
or even grow a single lousy feather.
One-clawed, no match for any tom,
it's stranded on a leafless palm,
regardless of the season, time or weather.

Yet what's the bird that, all alone,
sticks up for you when gibes have flown
and you don't care to verbalize or linger;
when someone's mocked you to your face
or cut you off or swiped your space--
what bird? The one that moonlights as a finger.

Move over, Lord Byron and Alexander Pope: Walking in on People is a pleasant alternative to a super tanker-load of "serious poetry" that fills the pages of journals too respectable to mention here. For anyone who takes Marianne Moore's canonical line about poetry at face value--"I, too, dislike it"--Balmain is someone to LOL with. What's not to like about her satiric doozies about marriage, childbearing, hypochondria? She can handle a sonnet, a villanelle or a triolet as masterfully as she deploys iambs and anapests. She's a jill-of-all poems except those that are boring.

If Phyllis McGinley won a Pulitzer Prize for her light verse collection Times Three, Balmain deserves the accolades of poets like Billy Collins and David Yezzi, let alone Kennedy, who selected Walking in on People as winner of the 2013 Able Muse Book Award. Balmain has been on the scene for quite a while now, or I could say, with Whitman, that I greet her at the beginning of a great career.

High fives and fist bumps to Melissa Balmain. Be the first one to buy her first book!

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