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Walking in on People (Able Muse Book Award for Poetry) Paperback – August 5, 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars 14 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"With her first full-length collection, Walking in on People (Able Muse), Melissa Balmain stakes her claim to membership among our best writers of light verse. Light verse is a misleading term. Most of Balmain's poems are not light in the sense of frivolous or superficial. They often raise serious topics, but they do so with a wonderful sense of humor. ... If you are wanting to convert someone who thinks reading poetry is only a slight improvement over visiting the dentist, get him or her this book." - Expansive Poetry Online

"Balmain's poetry could be characterized as equal parts Dorothy Parker, Alexander Pope and Tom Lehrer." -

From the Back Cover

Walking in on People grabbed me with its very title, and it never let go. Poetry these days is rarely so entertaining, so beautifully crafted, so sharp of eye, yet so wise and warm of heart. Melissa Balmain keenly perceives faults in people and in our popular culture, with piercing wit but never bitterness. Don't miss the wonderful "Lament," on what it takes to write a best seller, or "The Marital Bed," a love poem with naturalistic detail. She really commands her art. Indeed, I think any poet who rhymes lobsters and Jersey mobsters deserves to have an equestrian statue of herself erected in Bangor or Newark or both.
X.J. Kennedy (final judge, 2013 Able Muse Book Award)

Melissa Balmain's poems add to the rhythmic bounce of light verse a darker, more cutting humor. The result is an infectious, often hilarious blend of the sweet and the lethal, the charming and the acidic.
Billy Collins

So many of the poems in Melissa Balmain's triumphant debut lodge themselves in that Frostian zone where they are hard to get rid of. They recur in the mind in moments of hilarity and pathos, of exaltation and mortification, and they never let us go.
David Yezzi (from the foreword)

Accessible and entertaining poetry doesn't often prevail over the grim personal memoir in poetry contests, but this time the judges were smart. They went for Melissa Balmain's stylish and always metrically perfect wit. You can relate to this poetry if you have ever: longed to save the restaurant lobsters from their fate, lost your lover to his electronic devices, faced the fact that babies are ugly and toddlers suppress your genius, or (of course) walked in on people in all the wrong places. With diverse forms, inventive rhymes, the right word always chosen and a sense of humor always in evidence you really have no excuse not to buy this book.
Gail White

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Able Muse Press; 1st edition (August 5, 2014)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 102 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1927409292
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1927409299
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 5.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.98 x 0.24 x 9.02 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    5.0 out of 5 stars 14 ratings

About the author

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Melissa Balmain is a writer, teacher, and recovering mime. She edits Light, America's longest-running journal of comic verse, now free online at

Her books include Walking in on People (Able Muse Press, 2014), chosen by X.J. Kennedy for the Able Muse Book Award; and The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy-Tale Reboots for Adults (Humorist Books, 2021). Poet Laureate Billy Collins has described her work as "an infectious, often hilarious blend of the sweet and the lethal, the charming and the acidic." Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten has called it "extremely irresponsible."

As a journalist and humorist, Balmain has traveled widely and written on subjects ranging from popular culture to parenthood, from cattle ranchers to collies that surf. Her memoir, Just Us: Adventures and Travels of a Mother and Daughter (Faber and Faber, 1998), is about the days when she was free to run off with her mother and mush sled dogs or hike with llamas--also known as the days before she and her husband became parents of two.

Balmain's poems and prose have appeared in many anthologies, and in such publications as The American Bystander, American Life in Poetry, The Hopkins Review, Lighten Up Online, McSweeney's, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry Daily, Rattle, The Spectator, Success, and The Washington Post. In addition to the Able Muse Book Award, she has won national journalism honors and the Poetry by the Sea Sonnet Award; she was a finalist for the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, the X.J. Kennedy Parody Award, and the Richard Wilbur Award.

She teaches writing at the University of Rochester and lives nearby with her husband, their two children, and a pair of non-surfing cats.

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