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In this haunting, beautiful third collection from Jill Bialosky, the poet examines the intrusion of eros, art, and the imagination on ordinary life.
The lover who whispers “Is it still snowing? . . . Will you stay with me?” in the first poem reappears throughout the book in different guises—sometimes seemingly real, at other times as muse, doppelgänger, or dream. In “The Seduction,” as the lovers stand to watch a house fire— “gorgeous, dazzling, / the orange and reds of such ruin”—the poem, like the book itself, becomes a study in the nature of reality, selfhood, and the different levels of consciousness we inhabit. Evoking Penelope and Odysseus and Orpheus and Eurydice, Bialosky asks us to consider the instability of the self and the myriad forms it can take through art, in poems that are sexy, dark, and at once cool and emotional. The creation of the observing mind is paramount here; whether the lover goes or stays, the poems remain.
In Intruder—her most mesmerizing gathering of poems yet—Bialosky has captured not only the fleeting truths and pleasures of passion but also its mysterious dangers.
Don’t be afraid. Come closer. It’s bath time. The boy’s in the tub, Father’s shaving, Mother is dressed in her evening wear: black silk slip, high heels, leaning on the tub’s edge.......
Look into Mother’s eyes. What truth do they belie?
from “Saturday Night”
More self-assured and powerful than her first two, this third book of verse from Bialosky (The End of Desire) modulates between restrained happiness and unpredictable sorrow, beginning by observing her grade-school aged son, proceeding through troubles in a longstanding marriage and returning time and again to her sense of poetic mission. A dead friend, remembered in "Snow in April," shows Bialosky "the torment one sees in those who have the need// to understand, to discover, to know, to transcend// the landlocked self." Her lines suggest persistent debts to Louise Gl ck, whose cadences echo perhaps too strongly throughout these poems. Bialosky is also a novelist and an editor at Norton; these poems show both a storyteller's gift for implicit narrative and a sophisticate's sense of the other arts, with a sequence of short poems based on paintings by Eric Fischl, along with unrhymed sonnets, a skillful sestina and a handful of titles beginning "The Poet..." (for example, "The Poet Discovers the Significance of the Old Manuscripts"). Bialosky's book ends up undeniably personal, confirming her in the most serious of all her vocations: the setting down of a tumultuous inner life into clear, shared words.