House of the Night Watch

Tara’s first collection, House of the Night Watch, is winner of the 2016 Many Voices Project prize in poetry through New Rivers Press (Minnesota State University Moorhead).

Of the collection, poet laureate of Missouri, professor, and contest judge Aliki Barnstone writes:

“Tara Ballard’s opulently beautiful book guides her readers through the glories and tragedies of the people of the Middle East with such vivid language that we profoundly feel sensations; we can ‘taste each / syllable’ on the ‘tongue / like horseradish, like honey.’ In her witnessing, she never takes sides, though she exposes the consequences of those who do.

Unafraid of the necessary work of weaving together binaries, her poems make one fabric of the region’s lyric and spiritual traditions and its present day realities of refugees, NGOs, peacekeepers, minefields, and surveillance.

Ballard’s work carries on C.P. Cavafy’s legacy as a documentarian and ‘poet-historian.’ Like Cavafy, she speaks in the voices of individuals in the hands of their historical moment, subject to their leaders’ often unwise and destructive agendas. We hear their full-throated voices singing vulnerability and courage, love and grieving. House of the Night Watch is a book we urgently need, one that gives us hope that one day we will wake up to peace.”


“House of the Night Watch, were it an academic paper, might have a long subtitle like ‘Becoming an American poet in an ancient land with a deep history of strife and allegiance, violence and silence.’ But that would be an inadequate introduction to poems of great beauty, tenderness, shock, and love that echo, if not utter, the ordinary/extraordinary daily lives of the poet’s neighbors, wherever she finds herself. And she finds herself, as women usually do, in a kitchen – her own or a neighbor’s – a garden, a classroom, or a house of prayer, from which she must see, smell, hear, and taste life and death as most of us never will.  Few first books face such challenges. Few first-book poets grow into such mastery in them.”

Linda McCarriston, author of Eva-Mary and Talking Soft Dutch


As the title suggests, the speakers of House of the Night Watch are always watching, and listening too. With lyrical deftness, imagistic texture, a willingness to cross and consider borders, and perhaps most importantly, a self-awareness in that crossing, Tara Ballard reminds us to not take our own sight, and its capacity, for granted. With the aid of poets such as Yehuda Amichai and Naomi Shihab Nye, and others, Ballard reminds us that poetry allows us to speak with those who are both near and far. ‘We too wish to believe,’ concludes one poem, and by the end of this collection, I didn’t just wish—I did.”

Tarfia Faizullah, author of Registers of Illuminated Villages and Seam