Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir

Jill Bialosky. Atria, $24 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9320-1
Bialosky (History of a Suicide) weaves 51 poems by several writers into her latest memoir, which beautifully conveys the “mystery and wonder” of poetry. Born in 1950s Cleveland, Bialosky was a toddler when her father died; though she was close with her mother and sisters, she yearned for the “tenderness and love” that she imagined a father would have provided. As she grew older, Bialosky found the tenderness she was longing for in poetry. A bookish, reserved teen, she attended college in Vermont and Ohio and then became an editor in New York (she’s currently an executive editor at Norton), holding fast to her desire to write and live an independent, creative life. As the years pass in her story, Bialosky touches on familiar themes—young love, faith, grief and loss, political issues, sexuality—and intersperses vignettes from her life with the works of Robert Frost, W.H. Auden, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Sharon Olds. Readers will learn about how the “personal and communal” aspects of poetry intertwine for her, and will also discover how poems resonated with the author at specific times in her development (e.g., the loneliness of childhood is recalled in a poem by Rilke; as a new mother, Bialosky finds joy in Sylvia Plath’s “Nick and the Candlestick”). Bialosky also includes some fascinating facts about the poets themselves (Robert Louis Stevenson loved The Arabian Knights; Emily Dickinson saw the publication of only 12 of her 1,800 poems). Bialosky’s memoir is equally an enjoyable learning experience and an intimate rendering of a poet’s passion for words. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 07/11/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4516-9321-8
Hardcover - 279 pages - 978-1-4328-4382-3
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