the recording work of his mentor, Milman Parry, and the guslar singersin the former Yugoslavia. Some scholar literate in Vietnamese is goingto deal with my collection one day, but first it has to be preserved in aform that can be shared with scholars. It’s going to the Harry RansomCenter too.
WALPOLE: You grew up in a housing project that you describe inyour memoir as “rough” and “rife with violence” and “a coalburningramshackle mess.” That seems a most unlikely place for a poet to emergefrom.
BALABAN: You seem to think that Lacey Park, that “ramshackle mess”where you and I both were raised, was a surprising place for poetry tospring up, but any place is a surprising place. I think the sources of poetry are mysterious, wherever.
WALPOLE: How did books—reading—figure into your development as awriter?
BALABAN: There was a library in Hatboro, an old sort of eighteenth-century colonial building with great columns out front. As soon as youwalked in, you could smell the books. My older sisters had gone to thatlibrary and were allowed to take out books. I walked the couple of milesto it as a little kid and tried to take out books, but of course anyonewould be skeptical of giving books to a little kid. My responsible sistershad library cards, though, so I was plausible, and I remember the nicelady who let me take out one book. I brought it back the next day. It wassomething like James Michener’s South Pacific. She asked me questionsabout it, thinking I hadn’t read it because I returned it so soon, but I hadread it cover to cover and could tell her about it, so she let me take outmore and more. Finally I could take out any number I wished because Ialways returned them early. I looked at everything in that library. Evenbooks that she explained were in Latin.
WALPOLE: Did you write much poetry in college?
BALABAN: At first I was going to major in the classics. I went to LincolnUniversity, an all-black school except for me and a couple of others. Iwent because it was cheap and near my home and there was this brilliant