This book-length sequence by the critically acclaimed poet is a seeker's story, revealing personal and historical traumas and how we search for understanding and meaning in their wake.
In Asylum, poet Jill Bialosky embarks on a Virgilian journey, building a narrative sequence from 103 elegant poems and prose sections that cohere in their intensity and their need to explore darkness and sustenance both. Taken together, these piercing pieces--about her nascent calling as a writer; her sister's suicide and its still unfolding aftermath; the horror unleashed by World War II; the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly; and the woods where she seeks asylum--form a moving story, powerfully braiding despair, survival, and hope. Bialosky considers the oppositions that govern us: our reason and unreason, our need to preserve and destruct. "What are words when they meet the action of what they attempt to modify?" she asks, exploring the possible salve of language in the face of pain and grief. What Asylum delivers is a form of hard-won grace and an awareness of the cost of extreme violence, inexplicable loss, and the miraculous cycles of life, in work that carries Bialosky's art to a new level of urgency and achievement.
About the Author
JILL BIALOSKY is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently The Players; three critically acclaimed novels, most recently, The Prize; a New York Times best-selling memoir, History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life; and Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir. Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, O Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, and Paris Review, among others. She coedited, with Helen Schulman, the anthology Wanting a Child. She is an Executive Editor and Vice President at W. W. Norton & Company. Her work has been a finalist for the James Laughlin Prize, The Patterson Prize, and Books for a Better Life. In 2014, she was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to poetry. She lives in New York City.
“Reading Jill Bialosky’s poems feels like taking a slow and lone journey into the depth of the human heart, yet all the while being accompanied and guided by an intimate voice. An urgent and expansive book, Asylum is a must-read for anyone who ponders over life and death and all that comes in between.” —Yiyun Li
“Jill Bialosky’s Asylum is a collection of terse forms and psalms that add up to a powerful, full-throated deliverance. Each trope captures life and death matters—a singing, a keening, within each taut, well-made release. Rather than craving a physical space, asylum is sought in language, metaphor, meditation, yoga, query, and hope. And one of the joys of reading this collection is to feel its poignancy through verbal accretion. Asylum is experimental and, at times, nearly classical, but always intently alive with lyrical truths.” —Yusef Komunyakaa