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The strongest collection yet from this widely praised poet is about the central players in our lives, our relationships over time—between mother and son, mother and daughter—and how one generation of relationships informs and shapes the next.
The opening sequence, “Manhood,” looks at the insular world of baseball, shedding light on the complexities of gender, boyhood, and coming-of-age. The poet captures the electrifying, proud language of baseball talk, channeling the tone and approach of the young men she observes as a mother, and bringing poignancy and deeper understanding to the transaction between herself and the young men she sees growing into adulthood. “American Comedy” is a sonnet sequence about the absurdities and realities of modern domestic life, while figures in literature are the players in “Interlude.” The final section, “The Players,” becomes a forceful and searing revelation about the legacy of generations. Exploring the nature of attachment on many levels, The Players brings us Jill Bialosky at her best, in poems that find a new language to describe the rich and universal story that is modern motherhood.
Bialosky (Intruder), an editor at W.W. Norton, pens a heartfelt ode to the American suburbs and countryside as she explores the complexities of interpersonal, particularly familial, relationships. The book's opening sequence, "Manhood," uses baseball terminology to explore the systems and behaviors that surround boys as they grow to be men. Much of the collection concerns itself with time, not only the way its passage changes space "They are tearing up fields where horses graze/ for designer mansions" but also how it transforms the way we see our loved ones and ourselves: "One of us joined a support group/ or is leaving the marriage." Through it all, Bialosky presents language that feels as personal and measured as a mother penciling her son's height on the kitchen door frame. In "After the Storm" she writes: "The sun makes everything sharp. I pick up/ a seashell and it crumbles. My mother/ is frail. She forgets. Everything is covered/ with Post-its." Whether its time to "jump in for one last dangerous swim" or just listen as the "cool sea rumbles," Bialosky isn't afraid to acknowledge life's transience or its beauty, and she excels at both.