Bindweed

Macmillan, 1986

Bindweed, winner of this year’s Walt Whitman Award for a first book of poetry, was judged by Anthony Hecht, and it is easy to see how Balk, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, bested the field of 1000 submissions for the prize. Balk proves observant, eloquent and evocative in lyric as well as narrative forms, balancing her themes of death and discovery with such delicacy as to remind us that the first entails the latter and vice versa. The “Young Widow” sequence in particular is reminiscent of Poe’s claim that the highest subject for poetry is the death of a beautiful and beloved young woman. Set against the harsh landscapes of the north, these elegiac poems are tender and haunting. They convey in quiet ways the full human experience of incomprehensible and inconsolable grief.
—Library Journal