Too Much Breath


In stock

Poems by

Martin Balgach

Poetry chapbook, 36 pages, cover price $11

ISBN: 978-1-59948-461-7

Release date: March 4, 2014



Martin Balgach webMartin Balgach
Martin Balgach’s writing has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Cream City Review, Fogged Clarity, Phantom Limb, Rain Taxi, and Stirring, among other journals. He holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, works in publishing, and lives with his wife and son in Colorado. More of his work may be found at

Most poets are satisfied to be motivated by the certainty of memory, even by the stories that are “hiding / in the jowls of our dead.” But Martin Balgach in his very wise Too Much Breath knows memory is something we have to fight with our vision of an unknown future which is why he says in one poem “I want to be inside things I’ll never know.” The result is a perceptive and engaging poetry marked by paradoxes where he wants “to lose everything I’ve never had.” The stakes are that high: the loss even of loss. At once philosophical and heart rending, this is a terrific book that pulls the curtain away from our easily satisfied nostalgias to reveal unsettling truths. But it never ends there, nor does a poetic quest like his end there, for Balgach is the real thing, and his poetry is a life’s work, as William Matthews once quipped, for a poet who can imagine, in the face of such loss, how eventually his “old heartbeats / vibrate to the stars.”

—Richard Jackson

The poems in Too Much Breath seem spoken from the eye of a hurricane of both the world’s and the self’s making, a vantage point that promises no easy abidance of strife. But somehow the Hericlitean notion that justice IS strife is summoned, embodied, blooded, and set about to walk and think and feel and wonder in a verse commensurate to the energies it cannot live without. Martin Balgach combines an eastern European visionary temperament with gritty American experience, not by pattern, but anew, poem after poem, to remind us that poetry is, yes, of our earth, but that this is exactly why it can take from the celestial, for as his wonderful poem “Warmth” says on behalf of the sun, “We are kept alive by a star.” This is a terrific  debut.

—William Olsen

The Paces

When everything is in my eyes
I push words against my lips

Then in my palms
a child plays with daylight

A magician
poofs a rabbit out of smoke

But I still know
that time is the shy kid
in a fistfight
over lost love

No one wins
and everyone walks away
angry as catapults

So here I go
into the aromatic paces
pulling raindrops
through the noses of bulls


The subversive gurgle of a baby’s giggle
is stuck in my head

I want to lose everything I’ve never had

But the answers of the hours
only apply to the daylight

It is spring
and before the leaves bloom
I will pretend to be
a fox in his den
singing the rust-toned tunes
of solitude

While everyone is making babies
I feel the head-locked hurt
of this world
hanging over me
like a broken hymn

and I can’t imagine
loving life more
for these breaths are going
to drive me to death

as I feel the yellow chalk light
of another sad song

nothing competes
with the commingled sunshine

We are kept alive by a star

Shut Windows

I know what’s out there—

a million blades of grass
trying to be pretty

a gazillion leaves
singing the falsetto massacre of fall

stupid streetlights and tragic old people

plenty of pavement
showing me where to go

somewhere I’m sure a cloud
is posing as a pigmy

and there’s enough sunshine
to get me drunk

but I’m here with my coffee cup
every window shut

every possibility as far away
as any possibility should be

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