ALTHOUGH HE HAS been publishing verse and various genres of prose since the 1970s, creating a distinguished body of writing, the Armenian-American writer Peter Balakian remains something of a well-kept secret. The politics of literary reputation are always fickle, but in Balakian’s case the relative neglect of his work is especially puzzling. Few American poets of the boomer generation have explored the interstices of public and personal history as deeply and urgently as has Balakian, and his significance as a poet of social consciousness is complemented by his work in other genres. The Burning Tigris, his study of the Armenian genocide and America’s response to it, is perhaps the most definitive account of this tragedy in English. Balakian is also the author of a memoir, The Black Dog of Fate, a work that interweaves recollections of a Cold War childhood spent in suburban New Jersey with an examination of the genocide’s impact on Balakian’s own extended family.