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Jill Bialosky's first collection of poems is an exceptional one--moving, very accomplished, marked by an unflinching realism and a sharply observant eye combined with great technical skill. Childhood and adolescence shattered by a father's death and the struggles of a mother to raise her daughters are among its concerns. The poems have a dignity and magic that are quite distinctive.
Just when it was becoming fashionable to admit having been raised in Cleveland, Bialosky's collection comes along to quiet the urge. In this first book, Ohio is a bland winterscape of fatherlessness, sister-worship and making out with men of questionable background. That this joylessness doesn't reach cathartic heights is due to the poems having, in the most literal sense, too much heart. There is a "reckless heart," a "lost heart," a "cold heart" and a "breaking heart"; stars that are like "burning hearts," "light like a bleeding heart," a heart as wild as "horse hooves," a face that is the "halves of a heart," a doll missing her heart and a "heart of patience." While Bialosky demonstrates a clear and discerning eye, establishes fine rhythms and fashions smart line breaks, the impact of her work, focusing mainly on loss--of father, of sister, of child--is blunted by a uniformity of tone and a lack of unique and potent imagery.