cover image SUBTERRANEAN


Jill Bialosky, Author . Knopf $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-375-41314-8

This second collection follows 1997's well-received The End of Desire and comes bespangled with impressive encomia from the likes of Harold Bloom, Eavan Boland and Molly Peacock, praising Bialosky's voice, her "dark chill power" and the volume's "mythic underworld collage." The End of Desire touched many readers in the way that poets like Boland and Linda Pastan have, conjuring a modern-day woman trying to make empowering sense out her emotions in the face of mysterious world processes and dangerous, if desirable, others. The poems here, which alternate between long blank verse and skeins of short, dimeter tercets, follow a tried-and-true formula: a parade of natural phenomena—weather, sun and moon, physical desire—is sorted and measured until some perspective is achieved. The "she" of most of these poems (relieved on occasion by a fresh "I") ransacks a store of conventional emotions looking for wisdom, but finds mostly turbulence and weightlessness radiating from an "inner core" that nonetheless can crack cement and make the wind swoon. The poems work this ground with manic insistence, and, despite the fervid effort, harvest insights that are curiously banal: "The snow/ is wet/ like rain.// It will not/ stick/ or accumulate." Nonetheless, there is much here of topical interest—losing one's virginity, miscarriages, first love, motherhood—that will please the reader looking for candor about emotional frailty and conflicted love. (Dec.)

Forecast:Bialosky is a highly regarded editor at W.W. Norton and the co-editor of Wanting a Child, an anthology of reflections on parenthood. With this book's impressive blurbs, arresting jacket (which sports an Edward Steichen portrait) and status as a finalist for the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets, it should generate plenty of attention.