"[Balaban] has thought about America and the American Vietnam War, and his reflections and his art have transformed a fine adventure story into a very fine novel--a Conradian novel, with a Conradian theme of integrity, a novel rich in language of action and of description, which is used to achieve the Conradian aim 'to make you see.' And see we do..." --John Updike, The New Yorker


Now available in audio and e-book platforms

Like Family

Eleven poems for friends (Red DragonFly Press, MN, 2009).

Guided by an acute moral urgency, Path, Crooked Path opens on Highway 61 and keeps moving across America and expands outward to the world. Juxtaposing his experiences in eastern Europe and southeast Asia against contemporary life in the United States, Balaban illuminates the humor and hypocrisy that often percolates when individuals are thrust into the mix of cultures. Whether driving past Bush's Texas ranch, sitting at a café in Vietnam, or trading swigs of vodka with a Bulgarian exile, his poems look beyond the personal to help make sense of an often chaotic world. Included are several translations.


"Balaban's emotional range is impressively wide and deeply human--by turns compassionate and angry, somber and humorous, earnest and ironic. His voice is strong; his poems are important."

--Harvard Review

"Quite simply one of the most beautifully written books ever published about Vietnam." --Chicago Sun-Times


"John Balaban's Remembering Heaven's Face is the best book I have read about Vietnam and 'Vietnam' in a long time." --Jonathan Mirsky, The New York Review of Books


"Balaban tells his remarkable Vietnam story in an exceptionally well-written and moving book, Remembering Heaven's Face--a memoir that easily stands with the best eyewitness accounts of the nation's longest and most controversial war. Few other writers have evoked the physical world of South Vietnam as well as Balaban does in this book." --USA Today

"PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. - By the time Copper Canyon Press was ready to publish 'Spring Essence: The Poetry of Ho Xuan Huong,' the project was something more than a book, for it entailed the preservation of the fading calligraphic way of writing Vietnamese..."

--The New York Times


"...I had heard Balaban read his translations of [Ho Xuan Huong's] poetry--alongside the Vietnamese originals. I was struck by the music he had recreated. ... John Balaban has done a remarkable job of bringing these poems to life in English."

--American Poetry Review

Winner of the Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams award.


"Both luminous and interior, and hovering on the tropes of the ancient and modern idioms at once, John Balaban sings the cadences of need and want, rich with leaps of grace, in a supreme narration of righteousness and loss..." --The National Book Award Foundation


"Balaban's free verse sometimes sidles up to meter, but its rhythms are closer to those of prose, and so are its virtues--clarity, detail, a frank, unpretentious voice. ... Balaban's Locusts at the Edge of Summer is a late-century American odyssey." --Poetry

"This graceful book by a Lamont Winner is a powerful testimony to hope. ... A 'hunger for words pure as clear water' inspires Balaban to make his own music--accessible poems in common speech--and also to find solace in nature ... Recommended." --Library Journal


"There could not be a more timely winner in the National Poetry Series ... The apparently simple narratives are deeply emotional and accessible. Balaban's translations of Bulgarian and Vietnamese poets alternate with his own fine work in this excellent collection." --American Library Association Booklist

"Ca Dao are a treasure of our national literature. John Balaban has translated this collection of them with delicacy and skill while respecting the original rhythms."

--Lê Thanh Khôi, University of Paris



"[Balaban] found Vietnamese antiquity, by chance, in Ca Dao, the oral poems of Vietnam, the living artifacts of a cultural tradition that goes back at least two thousand years." --Trần Văn Dỉnh, War, Literature, & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities

"What a good idea this series is! And John Balaban and Nguyen Qui Duc are excellent literary tour guides to contemporary Vietnamese fiction."--John Barth



"These stories convey something of the Vietnamese soul--its yearnings, its fears, its capacity for warmth, generosity and compassion, and its kinship with America. What a delight." --Robert Olen Butler

Out of Print Titles

Winner of the Lamont Poetry Selection.


"The anguish and pity that striate his poems make this the most compelling poetry we have received from that war. ... Balaban's poems are at once natural-sounding and strongly crafted..." --The Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin

"... [Balaban] sets out, hitchhiking across plains and mountains, passing from HoJos and Exxon stations into the desert, with a keen eye for all around him and a longing for wild places. These highly descriptive poems paint landscapes ..." --Publisher's Weekly



"Balaban writes with great technical success of a rich subject matter. ... His nature poems rank with the finest being written today. ... These poems will excite and stir readers, and should be in most poetry collections."

--Library Journal

"Adventures of a toad, a mouse, and a young water snake as they set out to rescue a mouse carried off by a hawk."

--Boston Public Library's "Booklists for Kids"