"Enduring a childhood of loneliness and dislocation, he retreated into the “wonderful world of books.” Jill Bialosky on Langston Hughes
"I’m grateful for my books, my deep infatuation with literature, and my poems, however nascent. I’ve come to see that the only thing now worth holding on to is the collection of verse accumulating on my desk and in my drawer. They don’t often amount to much, but when they do I sense it something alive and crackling, like the sound of stepping on twigs in the woods. In the absence of love, I cling to my work. Literature is the only thing that I can count on; it won’t desert me." - Jill Bialosky
Poetry Will Save Your Life by Jill Bialosky is a deeply felt memoir told through the poems that helped the author cope with and understand the seminal events and rites of passage of her life, from adolescence to motherhood and beyond. She talks very openly about events that caused her great pain and shows how poetry literarily saved her life.
When I first began The Reading Life nearly eight years ago I planned to focus on literary works focusing on people who lead Reading centered lives. I have gotten happily very side tracked but I always like to return to this theme. I wonder what forces, influences, factors lead a person to prefer reading above all activities. I have seen in the posts of lots of book bloggers (the world's greatest
readers) references to lonely isolated childhoods in which they retreated from an environment they did not like, from feeling odd and out of place, to books. Many of these children grew away from reading as they worked, had families, etc but some of us did not. We resented our jobs as wasting our Reading time and some of us did become near Life time isolates, wanting to be left alone to read.
Jill Bialosky talks about being lonely and feeling out of place as a child. She found a salvation in poetry. There are forty three poems featured, most published in full. Bialosky talks about events in her life and how they helped her relate to the poem and conversely how the poems helped her cope with the suicide of a beloved sister, marriage, becoming a mother, the death of her father, and the attack on the World trade centered. Among the more famous poets featured are Robert Frost (I found her comments on his perhaps most famous work, "The Road Not Taken" helped me overcome the view I formed of Frost decades ago), Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens and Sylvia Plath. She also talks about English language poets I have not read and works in translation by writers who I think will be new to most readers of her book.
Poetry Will Save Your Life can be read slowly savoring the poems and relating your own life experiences to those of Bialosky or devoured in a very pleasant evening. Either way I think you will enjoy this book.
Jill Bialosky is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and The Atlantic, among others. She is the author of three novels, most recently, The Prize, and a New York Times bestselling memoir History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life. Jill was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to the field of poetry in 2015. She is an editor at W. W. Norton & Company and lives in New York City.