Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir by Jill Bialosky


“The world is changing, but we seem to be living in our own little stagnant capsule, where everything depends upon the illusion of well-being. I feel a revolution happening inside of me too, but at the time I don’t know what it means. “

Jill Bialosky, author of books such as History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life, The Life Room and House Under Snow here takes memoir using poetry to share episodes of her life. The beauty lives in moments that feed upon poetry.  Or does poetry feed upon the moments? It’s a unique approach to sharing one’s memories, some tragic, others humiliating, but all about loving, questioning, trying to find meaning. Just why do we turn to poetry? How can a few lines encompass an entire state of being, of feeling? Poetry is often an island we find ourselves on after the shipwrecks in our lives, and there are many. It can be a friend whose shoulder you cry on, a curious companion hungry for revelation wondering at the marvels of being alive, as much as the voice of grief or first love.

I am much reminded of an English teacher that taped quotes and poetry lines all over his classroom. This induced a feeling of euphoria for me, particularly in that moment in time when I was ‘coming of age’ myself, and the world could seem both beautiful and terrifyingly brutal. Those words made me feel less alone, whether they had the bite of sarcasm or a spirited push towards courage. Bialosky takes poetry that was meaningful to her. With Musée Des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden, she finds a bridge that expresses the dreadful grip of tragedy, the weight of grief in her own life. Yet, poetry is a solitary endeavor, we peck at it and eat what gives us sustenance. Much like any art form, we experience poetry differently from the next person. Poetry can be the cry of the lonely, a plead for the guilty, a roar for the proud… it is fluid and each person has a different perspective than the next. This memoir is an outpouring of an emotional journey and yet it is fluid itself. If you love exploring poetry with a kaleidoscope of one’s life and how much poetry meant to them, this is perfect for you. I particularly think these are some of the best lines written about suicide. “I don’t understand it or know what to do with it. I’m angry. Not at my sister, but at all I don’t understand of the human psyche and the forces that unwillingly impinge upon a life. I don’t know what to do with this knot of fury.” What comes first, the poem or the experience? If you are remembering a poem after something pivotal has happened in your life, was the poem something like a premonition,  portending the future? Or are we simply fishing for meaning in order to organize the mess all of our lives are, to find a semblance of order ? Why do certain images or words brand themselves in our mind returning only after such a moment has passed? Who has the authority to say? Poetry for Bialosky has been a companion, as it is for so many of us.


Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Atria Books

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