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Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir

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From critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and poet Jill Bialosky comes an unconventional coming-of-age memoir organized around the forty-three remarkable poems that gave her insight, courage, compassion, and a sense of connection at pivotal moments in her life. For Jill Bialosky, certain poems stand out like signposts along her life’s journey. These poems From critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and poet Jill Bialosky comes an unconventional coming-of-age memoir organized around the forty-three remarkable poems that gave her insight, courage, compassion, and a sense of connection at pivotal moments in her life. For Jill Bialosky, certain poems stand out like signposts along her life’s journey. These poems have contributed to her growth as a person, writer, poet, and thinker. Now, take this journey with Bialosky as she introduces you to each of these life-changing poems, recalling when she encountered each one, and how its importance and meaning to her has evolved over time. Witness Jill turning to poetry in dire moments to restore her faith and cope with loss; there are poems she turns to for inspiration and consolation; poems for when she is angry or disillusioned, or when she wants to see into another person’s soul. While Jill’s personal stories animate each poem, they touch on many universal experiences and life events that all can relate to, from crises of faith to sexual awakening from becoming a parent to growing creatively as a poet and artist. More than a creative chronicle of one woman’s life, Jill’s book celebrates the unique and enduring value of poetry as a means of conveying personal experience and as a source of comfort and connection.


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From critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and poet Jill Bialosky comes an unconventional coming-of-age memoir organized around the forty-three remarkable poems that gave her insight, courage, compassion, and a sense of connection at pivotal moments in her life. For Jill Bialosky, certain poems stand out like signposts along her life’s journey. These poems From critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and poet Jill Bialosky comes an unconventional coming-of-age memoir organized around the forty-three remarkable poems that gave her insight, courage, compassion, and a sense of connection at pivotal moments in her life. For Jill Bialosky, certain poems stand out like signposts along her life’s journey. These poems have contributed to her growth as a person, writer, poet, and thinker. Now, take this journey with Bialosky as she introduces you to each of these life-changing poems, recalling when she encountered each one, and how its importance and meaning to her has evolved over time. Witness Jill turning to poetry in dire moments to restore her faith and cope with loss; there are poems she turns to for inspiration and consolation; poems for when she is angry or disillusioned, or when she wants to see into another person’s soul. While Jill’s personal stories animate each poem, they touch on many universal experiences and life events that all can relate to, from crises of faith to sexual awakening from becoming a parent to growing creatively as a poet and artist. More than a creative chronicle of one woman’s life, Jill’s book celebrates the unique and enduring value of poetry as a means of conveying personal experience and as a source of comfort and connection.

30 review for Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    In Poetry Will Save Your Life, Jill Bialosky—a poet, novelist, memoirist, and editor for W.W. Norton—charts her life via the poems that have meant a lot to her. Each short chapter deals with a certain aspect of Bialosky's life (falling in love for the first time; her parents' divorce; her own experiences with motherhood, her working life, etc.) and includes poems that remind her of that particular time, or that helped her through that particular time. The goal seems to be to show how vital poetr In Poetry Will Save Your Life, Jill Bialosky—a poet, novelist, memoirist, and editor for W.W. Norton—charts her life via the poems that have meant a lot to her. Each short chapter deals with a certain aspect of Bialosky's life (falling in love for the first time; her parents' divorce; her own experiences with motherhood, her working life, etc.) and includes poems that remind her of that particular time, or that helped her through that particular time. The goal seems to be to show how vital poetry is, how it's not some rarefied ivory-tower genre but something that we can relate to in our day-to-day lives. As a lover of poetry, I'm totally on board with this idea. I just wish it had been better executed here. The memoir element was hit or miss for me. The sections dealing with Bialosky's childhood are simplistic and rather shallow; it isn't until she moves into the events of her adulthood that the book gains some depth and really begins to work. The chapter on 9/11, for example, and the one on her experiences with motherhood, were extremely moving and made me wish she'd gone back and applied that same level of skill and insight to the earlier chapters. Of course, the poems she chose to feature also made a difference; if you can read "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" without being moved, I'm not sure I want to know you. Nonetheless, the poetry element was also probably the weakest part of the book. Bialosky presents each of the poems she's chosen and then explicates it, but the explication is so basic it's almost insulting to the reader. She explains things that are obvious, quotes back lines that we literally just read without adding any further insight to them, and never delves any deeper, even for poems that clearly have a lot of layers. It got so I'd read a beautiful poem and immediately dread the facile interpretation that I knew was going to follow. Bialosky also sometimes does a bafflingly poor job of connecting the poems to her actual life, which is odd because... that was kind of the whole point of the book. I'm not entirely sure who this book is for. In a perfect world, this would be a great book to give to anyone who is curious about poetry but intimidated by it, but in reality the book seems too simplistic for a lot of adults to embrace wholeheartedly. I think it would be good for high school students—for them, this wholly unintimidating look at poetry might be just what they need to make them poetry lovers for life. Sadly, I can't really recommend it for anyone else.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alarie

    Poetry lovers will agree that poetry can bring comfort and joy, but save your life? That dramatic title seems an exaggeration until you read about Bialosky’s life. While everyone experiences troubles and loss, she’s had enough for a whole neighborhood. I especially love memoirs by writers. Not only are they better written than your average tell-all memoir, but you get to see how a writer emerges. It’s amazing how many women authors have a Jo March moment in their youth. Write what you know! That Poetry lovers will agree that poetry can bring comfort and joy, but save your life? That dramatic title seems an exaggeration until you read about Bialosky’s life. While everyone experiences troubles and loss, she’s had enough for a whole neighborhood. I especially love memoirs by writers. Not only are they better written than your average tell-all memoir, but you get to see how a writer emerges. It’s amazing how many women authors have a Jo March moment in their youth. Write what you know! That’s one lesson Bialosky didn’t need, but as we watch her grow into a poet and editor, we get a different perspective. We get to read the poems most meaningful to her at each stage of her life. The chapters are short: perfect for taking a breather and savoring each poem. She relates a stage or incident in her life and presents a poem or two or three that helped her through. She shares so many of my favorite poems that she also evokes my memories. I have only one criticism of the book. Too often Bialosky paraphrases the poem to be sure we understand it. Clunk! It’s not only a bit insulting of readers’ intelligence, but slows the pace. The fewer times when she talks about the poets’ lives, their philosophy about poetry, and what triggered the writing, or tells us what a poem means to her personally, the explication adds interest.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Poetry resonates with Jill through all the difficult times of her life, including the death of her father and loss of her babies.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    I had problems getting into her life stories for the most part. There were several interesting poems. I liked the idea behind the book: writing a memoir with famous poems to go along.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    Two stars only because of a few great poems – although I'm tempted to subtract even those icons because Biolosky included over-digested chestnuts from Frost, Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson. But a one-star slap in the face for me, for buying this book without reading a page. I was hoping, I suppose, for something along the lines of Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn or Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, something to idle away an hour or three. Instead I got a pros Two stars only because of a few great poems – although I'm tempted to subtract even those icons because Biolosky included over-digested chestnuts from Frost, Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson. But a one-star slap in the face for me, for buying this book without reading a page. I was hoping, I suppose, for something along the lines of Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn or Edward Hirsch's How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, something to idle away an hour or three. Instead I got a prosaic, inferior version of My Life With Bob, an unmemorable memoir sprinkled with poems like currants in a savorless scone.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Larry Smith

    Though it could ring echoes of “These Are My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, author Jill Bialosky is too personal and wise to waste our time or her intention. Somehow she is able to do two or three things at once here: catalog some of the most important and memorable poems ever written, recall her life stage when these works were encountered, and finally reveal their lasting significance. Though it lacks the drive and progressive revelation of her best selling memoir, The History of a S Though it could ring echoes of “These Are My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, author Jill Bialosky is too personal and wise to waste our time or her intention. Somehow she is able to do two or three things at once here: catalog some of the most important and memorable poems ever written, recall her life stage when these works were encountered, and finally reveal their lasting significance. Though it lacks the drive and progressive revelation of her best selling memoir, The History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life (2011), it does weave together personal disclosure and a fiction writer’s sense of story with a poetic attention to detail. Bialosky years as a poetry editor for Norton Publishing pay off with her sharp recall and grasp of some of the poems that have helped her and others to survive. As the book declares, “Poems offer signposts of the significant moments in a life—sexual awakening. leaving home, the loss of a parent and deaths of a child, the joys of motherhood, a sister’s suicide, a mother’s aging, the day in New York City when the Twin Towers fell.” Bialosky maintains a conversational style while opening her sharp mind and caring heart. Her suburban life is placed against the inner city poverty on a youthful field trip through Cleveland’s downtown. All of it capped by two moving poems by Langston Hughes. Her grief over the loss of her sister is tied to the poems of W. H. Auden’s “Musee Des Beaux Arts” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” Time and again she proves her thesis of survival through the arts. But it is not a work of an essayist but one of a person who believes in the power of art to connect us in our shared humanity. For this we must be grateful.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A very surprising blend of memoir and literary analysis. Bialosky illustrates the story of her life - her father’s death when she was small, growing up with her mother (trying desperately to remarry) and sisters, becoming a working woman in the 80s, marriage, losing a sister and first two children - with the poems that found her over the course of her life. She provides some basic analysis or interpretation of each poem so even those new to reading poetry don’t have to worry. A lovely book about A very surprising blend of memoir and literary analysis. Bialosky illustrates the story of her life - her father’s death when she was small, growing up with her mother (trying desperately to remarry) and sisters, becoming a working woman in the 80s, marriage, losing a sister and first two children - with the poems that found her over the course of her life. She provides some basic analysis or interpretation of each poem so even those new to reading poetry don’t have to worry. A lovely book about the power and love of words.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike Good

    This book likely won't astound a contemporary poetry reader with its analysis or its selections, yet it does so much to communicate poetry as a vital force to a general audience. A book about poetry not aimed at grad students and poets-in-progress is really admirable and well-executed here, and I enjoyed reading it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sweere

    It's thoroughly disappointing to see a writer of such prestigious history and success in the literary world produce such a poor-quality book. Though this is the first of Bialosky's work that I've read, this piece leaves me with no desire to sample anymore. Strung together with some strong poems by other writers, the author's impersonal, surface-level anecdotes are a poor excuse for memoir, and often feel overly forced in order to accent a specific poem. The organization is sloppy, the writing st It's thoroughly disappointing to see a writer of such prestigious history and success in the literary world produce such a poor-quality book. Though this is the first of Bialosky's work that I've read, this piece leaves me with no desire to sample anymore. Strung together with some strong poems by other writers, the author's impersonal, surface-level anecdotes are a poor excuse for memoir, and often feel overly forced in order to accent a specific poem. The organization is sloppy, the writing style cliché and unengaging, and the prose following the presence of individual poems is reminiscent of a grade-school-level book report. I was drawn, as it seems many people are, by how poetry interacts, heals, and enriches our daily lives, but this work comes off as lazy writing and a passionless failed attempt. Not worth the read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caille

    While I thought that the concept of the book, i.e. linking poetry to different parts in the authors life, and using it as a tool for the memoir, was interesting, I had a hard time getting through the book. I found that the order of the chapters made little sense, the book would go from a story about childhood to one about adult hood, and back to childhood, without any link between the stories to explain the ordering. The concept is very interesting, and could make a great book, however, in this While I thought that the concept of the book, i.e. linking poetry to different parts in the authors life, and using it as a tool for the memoir, was interesting, I had a hard time getting through the book. I found that the order of the chapters made little sense, the book would go from a story about childhood to one about adult hood, and back to childhood, without any link between the stories to explain the ordering. The concept is very interesting, and could make a great book, however, in this particular case it fell flat for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris Roberts

    I foresee, in the days, an intellectual and cultural suicide perpetrated on poetry readers, verse is for funerals and Renaissance Fairs, poetry falls all over itself to impart what it can't. Verse, unrehearsed, I'm that planet, poetry's sole purpose is the subjugation of the poet's identity via commercial forces. Publication is self-murder. Chris Roberts, Patron Saint of Nothing

  12. 5 out of 5

    Antonia

    A rather grandiose title, eh? I have mixed feelings about this one. I thought the concept was interesting — part poetry, part memoir. It’s a great way to introduce someone who doesn’t normally read poetry to some of the most famous and moving poems in English. But most people who like poetry already know these poems (e.g. "The Road Not Taken," "Richard Cory," "We Real Cool," "The Snow Man"), often by heart. There’s nothing wrong with putting them in front of us again. But I’d have to agree with t A rather grandiose title, eh? I have mixed feelings about this one. I thought the concept was interesting — part poetry, part memoir. It’s a great way to introduce someone who doesn’t normally read poetry to some of the most famous and moving poems in English. But most people who like poetry already know these poems (e.g. "The Road Not Taken," "Richard Cory," "We Real Cool," "The Snow Man"), often by heart. There’s nothing wrong with putting them in front of us again. But I’d have to agree with the Goodreads reviewer who suggested that this book might be most appropriate for high school students. (Well, maybe. See below.) There were enough mistakes, misquotes, typos, and grammatical oddities to make me rather cranky (“off of,” crèmes in the bathroom, rather than creams — maybe a little crème fraîche?). I often didn’t agree with Bialosky’s interpretations of the poems, though what they mean to her is obviously okay. I was also irritated by Bialosky’s writing about events of long ago in the present tense. Yes, I know that present tense lends a sense of immediacy. It’s fine in some fiction. But this is a book in which the author is constantly moving back and forth between the present and the past. So it’s annoying to find the past discussed in the present tense. And it made for some pretty awkward sentences. For a lively and engaging book on reading poetry (that’s also grounded in personal experience), try Matthew Zapruder’s marvelous Why Poetry (note: no question mark).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erin English

    Part memoir, part poetry, part analysis. This book is perfect for anyone who doesn't really like or understand poetry, but wants to give it a second chance.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Mcbroom

    After suffering tragedy in her life, Jill Bialosky uses her favorite poets and poetry to get her through the struggles.

  15. 4 out of 5

    bklyn mike art

    loved this mix of important poems in the context of works that find you at just the right time in life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    TheDailyAMG

    Poetry categorized into a life. A wonderful mix of story-telling, highlighted by the greatest poets of our lives. I thoroughly loved this concept!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Jill Bialosky draws the epigraph for her ninth book, "Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir," from the poem "Dedication" by Czeslaw Milosz, which asks: "What is poetry which does not save / Nations or people?" As her superlative title suggests, Bialosky organizes this memoir around 52 poems by such poets as W.H. Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson and many more that she believes answer Milosz's question admirably, in My review for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty... Jill Bialosky draws the epigraph for her ninth book, "Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir," from the poem "Dedication" by Czeslaw Milosz, which asks: "What is poetry which does not save / Nations or people?" As her superlative title suggests, Bialosky organizes this memoir around 52 poems by such poets as W.H. Auden, Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson and many more that she believes answer Milosz's question admirably, in that they are "both personal and communal" and "remain a sustaining source of comfort." She uses these poems to make sense of crucial moments, from the death of her father when she was 2 to decades later when she's living in Manhattan during the September 11 attacks. Subsequently, this is a delightfully hybrid book: part anthology, part critical study, part autobiography. For years, Bialosky explains, "I've flagged poems in individual volumes or anthologies with paper clips and Post-its. I have Xeroxed poems and stuck them on my refrigerator." http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diana Raab

    Once in a while you pick up a book that is a surprising gem. For me, this was one of those books. Bialosky, an esteemed poet, has collected poems that identified certain pivotal moments in her life. "Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful," she says (p. 112). In this book, she presents a famous poem, shares the poet's message, and tells what resonated with her. Some of Bialos ky's stories are very powerful, and many really resonated with me. In her Once in a while you pick up a book that is a surprising gem. For me, this was one of those books. Bialosky, an esteemed poet, has collected poems that identified certain pivotal moments in her life. "Being a poet sometimes puts you at the mercy of life, and life is not always merciful," she says (p. 112). In this book, she presents a famous poem, shares the poet's message, and tells what resonated with her. Some of Bialos ky's stories are very powerful, and many really resonated with me. In her chapter on motherhood, she writes, "Perhaps we turn to poetry because it can fathom and hold the inexplicable, the gasp between words, the emotional hues impossible to capture in everyday speech or conversation" (p.180). Poetry Will Save Your Life should be read by all poets and lovers of the written word. It's a book to keep on the bedside table, and can be read bit by bit and ingested like a daily vitamin because each page offers so many ideas to reflect upon.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Before I discuss my review on this book, I feel like I should tell you how I first came upon it... I lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer in July and it has been beyond crippling to say the least. Reading has always been my outlet when things get tough, so my therapist suggested that it might be a good idea to reasearch different books that may help to guide me through the grieving process and that is exactly what I did. Jill Bialosky’s escape from life’s many struggles and tribulations is through po Before I discuss my review on this book, I feel like I should tell you how I first came upon it... I lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer in July and it has been beyond crippling to say the least. Reading has always been my outlet when things get tough, so my therapist suggested that it might be a good idea to reasearch different books that may help to guide me through the grieving process and that is exactly what I did. Jill Bialosky’s escape from life’s many struggles and tribulations is through poetry. It is through reading and connecting with the verses of others that she learned to write poetry herself and became an author. People have found so many ways to deal with suffering, pain, loss, etc. but this is the first time I’ve seen a poet write a book about being inspired by other poets. I just had to read it. Plus, the cover——if I had seen it in any store I would have gravitated right to it! It has always been very difficult for me to judge a book that is based upon someone else’s life. Who am I to put a star-rating on the experiences of others? That would be like me writing a novel about the multitude of losses I’ve experienced and a reader not being able to connect with it, or being bored by it and give my book a 1 Star. In my opinion, that is not fair. How I chose to judge this particular book was the following : Did the title and description fit the subject matter of the book? Absolutely. Was the writing done well, easy to follow and creative? Yes. Did this book make me think about things differently, help me to learn something new, or keep me entertained? 100% yes. The only part that did cause me some trouble was that the poems themselves were hard to hard to interpret. ( I don’t read much poetry) I don’t know if it was my lack of previous knowledge/reading of poetry that made it hard to see how the situation could be bettered by those words? Nonetheless, I couldn’t connect Jill’s story with the poem at times, if that makes sense. I decided on 4 Stars. Some moments that really stood out to me were the following: “Stand by a window at night on the middle floor of a high-rise in an urban city and watch the lights go on and off in the apartment buildings across the street. Each building contains a set of mini compartments, and in each compartment resides a person...perhaps a man and a woman, or college roommates. A family with young children. Or an elderly person and her aide. A pair of lovers. Some of the windows are easier to see through and others are more opaque. In each small compartment, people tend to their daily rituals. They make love, drink, eat, and sleep. Curled into the cushions on a couch, they cry from bereavement or a broken heart. Or out of loneliness. Sometimes, on a hot day when the windows are open you can hear strangers arguing or laughing. In these rooms, babies are conceived; people get sick and even die; someone might take his own life. Imagine in each of these small spaces, poems are taking shape, poems written from the experiences that occur inside and outside those rooms. Experiences that are both common and unique and a part of everyday living. Poems are made from the lives lived, borne out of experiences and shaped by solitary thought.” The above is SUCH a powerful and relatable statement that I felt it all the way to my core and got chills. For all anyone knows, you or your actions could be the subject of someone’s poem at anytime. Another powerful part of this book was something that could also hit home for me...nothing is ever what it seems AND you never know what someone else is going through. “ ...a wealthy and educated gentlemen who is admired by his community is walking through town dressed in fine clothes, no one suspects that he will take his own life...Reading it I’m reminded of how deceptive outer appearances can be.” Yet again I was moved by Jill’s words when she said “When I come across the poems by Langston Hughes, I remember my own sense of bewilderment and shame, and worse my gratitude, for nothing more than the accident of being born into white privledge.” Wow! Just, wow! It breaks my heart that this is the world that we STILL live in today, when racism STILL exists. While I can’t symathize because like the author, I’m a white woman, I can say that I am disgusted by how anyone is treated unfairly or not equal because they are different. Jill speaks of her mother dating man after man and she “Watch[es] her looking into the mirror making that face that isn’t her face...” This is also a rough reminder that it is a rarity that women feel naturally pretty in the world that we live in, which is a damn shame. We do all kinds of things to ourselves to look and feel more like what is deemed “attractive.” I connected with so many other sections of her stories as well, but if I kept going this review would never end. This book was definitely enjoyable and emotional and I would recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    Poetry Will Save Your Life A Memoir by Jill Bialosky Atria Books Biographies & Memoirs Pub Date 11 Jul 2017 I am reviewing a copy of Poetry Will Save Your Life through Atria Books and Netgalley: This book reminds us of what it is like to fall in love with Poetry. The author talks about falling in love with poetry, while in fourth grade reading The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, the poem that first started my love for poetry as well. She talks about the parallels in her life and the poem. She goes Poetry Will Save Your Life A Memoir by Jill Bialosky Atria Books Biographies & Memoirs Pub Date 11 Jul 2017 I am reviewing a copy of Poetry Will Save Your Life through Atria Books and Netgalley: This book reminds us of what it is like to fall in love with Poetry. The author talks about falling in love with poetry, while in fourth grade reading The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, the poem that first started my love for poetry as well. She talks about the parallels in her life and the poem. She goes on to talk about Gwendolyn Brooks poem We Real Cool seared through her memories. She goes on to talk about Star, the poem by Jane and Ann Taylor the nursery rhyme is based on takes her back to loosing their Minitature black poodle that sadly was never found. She goes on to talk about reading poems from A Child's Garden of Verses. She talks about how Robert Louis Stevenson's Poem The Shadow spoke to her, as well as The Swing! I Wandered As Lonely as Cloud by Williams Woodworth reminds her of the son reflecting off her Son's hair. Langston Hughes Poem Shame reminds her of how blessed she was and I Too reminds her of that as well. And she goes on to tell ofHow Psalm 23 speaks to her of the spirit of her ancestors! She talks of My Child Blossoms Sadly by Yehuda Amichai, the poet had immigrated to Palestine with His Orthodox Jewish Family while Germany was under Hitler's evil reign. She talks about Have You Prayed, reminds her of praying for her loved one's. Wallace Steven's The Snowman reminds her of winters in Cleveland Ohio. Stopping by the Woods On a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost took her back to the memories of sitting in front of a black and white television set as a Girl of six, learning of JFK's assasination! She talks about how Ars Poetica reminds her to push beyond boundaries. 1 January 1965, by Joseph Brodsky reminds her f feeling awkward around the adults and not understanding the passion about being Jewish. Childhood by Rainer Marie Milke reminds her of the importance of appreciating Childhood. Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden reminds her of when she is in fifth grade and her Mother announces that she is married, but husband and wife do not always get along, and often her Mother is left alone while her stepfather spends all night out. Emily Dickinson's Poetry speaks often of the feeling of adolescent girls. My Papa's Waltz reminds her of the Hope they found after her Mothers Fourth pregnancy, hope for a new beginning, but it also reminds her of the longer periods of time her stepfather is away! Sylvia Plath Poppies In October reminds her of her Mother slipping into depression. Sympathy Paul Laurence Dunbar reminds her of the 1970's The Vietnam War. Bright Star by John Keats and A Blessing by James Wright reminds her of first love. Taking The Hands by Robert Bly and Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond by E.E Cummings Speaks of Friendship! Songs of the Last Act by Louise Bogan speaks of love and Marriage. The author goes on to talk about her youngest sister taking her life at the age of 21, by then she is thirty one married, an editor and poet, pregnant with her first child and she's blindsided by this loss. Musse Des Beaux Arts by W. H Auden and One Art by Elizabeth Bishop speak to her in this time. Tulips by Sylvia Plath and Walking in the Blue by Robert Lowell speak of Suicide and remind her of the pain of loosing her sister. In this book we are reminded that poetry speaks to us in life, if we just take the time to reflect on it. I give Poetry Will Save Your Life five out of five stars! Happy Reading!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ “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 moment via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ “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. Lovely. Publication Date: July 11, 2017 Atria Books

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    An English professor at the University of Pittsburgh irked me once when he didn't care for the way I ended a poem about the decay and eventual death of a relationship. I thought the piece was pretty darn fabulous because of all that twenty-something angst he objected to in my closing line. Professor Oakes urged a revision, telling me: "Paula, poetry is about survival." All these years later, reading Jill Bialosky's "Poetry Will Save Your Life," I have to admit, Professor Oakes was right. In her b An English professor at the University of Pittsburgh irked me once when he didn't care for the way I ended a poem about the decay and eventual death of a relationship. I thought the piece was pretty darn fabulous because of all that twenty-something angst he objected to in my closing line. Professor Oakes urged a revision, telling me: "Paula, poetry is about survival." All these years later, reading Jill Bialosky's "Poetry Will Save Your Life," I have to admit, Professor Oakes was right. In her beautifully written and unique memoir, Bialosky tackles important themes and relationships that touch every life: family, depression, envy, shame, death, passion, imagination, terror, discovery, marriage, faith, danger and wonder, to name only a few. As her coming-of-age narrative unfolds, she matches each of these themes with the poems that guided her and gave her hope as she grew into adulthood. Bialosky shares work by Louise Gluck, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, Robert Bly, Elizabeth Bishop, Czeslaw Milosz, W. S. Merwin, and many others, that helped her to make sense of her life transitions and tragedies, and, ultimately--as my wise professor pointed out all those years ago--find a way to survive. A highly original and moving work.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Bialosky, a writer who has long been enchanted by poetry, takes an unusual approach to memoir in this book. She pairs short passages about her own life with poems that she connects with those times. She begins with nursery rhymes and Robert Frost and moves through the poetic cannon to the more challenging poems of Plath, Auden, Audre Rich, Denis Johnson, and others. After each poem, she offers information and interpretation of the poet and the poem. In many cases, these are poets to which I neve Bialosky, a writer who has long been enchanted by poetry, takes an unusual approach to memoir in this book. She pairs short passages about her own life with poems that she connects with those times. She begins with nursery rhymes and Robert Frost and moves through the poetic cannon to the more challenging poems of Plath, Auden, Audre Rich, Denis Johnson, and others. After each poem, she offers information and interpretation of the poet and the poem. In many cases, these are poets to which I never paid much attention, but the poems take on new meaning here. The snippets of Bialosky’s life are intense. She has gone through some hard stuff, but she doesn’t wallow in it. Instead, she reaches for a poem. As she writes on the last page, “[poetry] gives shape to those empty spaces within us that we have no words for until we find them in a poem.” My only quibble, a little one, is that the memoir scenes are written in present tense, and that feels awkward. You can’t read this book quickly, but it’s worth taking the time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bridgid Cassin

    A disappointment, at best. True, this book suffers from comparison, and I’ve just come off reading a lot of other (better) poetry texts. It skews more closely to memoir than poetry, but it does include a lot of good examples and classics in the text. The problem is that these poems are framed by short memoir pieces and some cursory analysis that is at times clumsy or at worst (depending on your judgement) plagiarized. The review in The Tourniquet Review explicates these passages more clearly, so I A disappointment, at best. True, this book suffers from comparison, and I’ve just come off reading a lot of other (better) poetry texts. It skews more closely to memoir than poetry, but it does include a lot of good examples and classics in the text. The problem is that these poems are framed by short memoir pieces and some cursory analysis that is at times clumsy or at worst (depending on your judgement) plagiarized. The review in The Tourniquet Review explicates these passages more clearly, so I won’t revisit them here, but even if that didn’t bother me, I found some really sloppy copywriting in the text, such as at the link below. This really took me by surprise in a book by someone with so many credentials. https://imgur.com/a/wDSg7 There are some really beautiful parts, but I could not recommend this book even in part.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Darci Morosko

    I really enjoyed the format of this book; it’s a memoir that jumps through different stages of the author’s life using poetry to add depth or provide another layer. As her life story unfolds I found myself remembering certain poems and when I read them...how I felt...what gravity they lent in certain moments...she shared lines of poetry and wrote of the detail or emotion a poem invoked and how it affected her at various stages of her life. I loved the concept. I wonder if it would be worth the v I really enjoyed the format of this book; it’s a memoir that jumps through different stages of the author’s life using poetry to add depth or provide another layer. As her life story unfolds I found myself remembering certain poems and when I read them...how I felt...what gravity they lent in certain moments...she shared lines of poetry and wrote of the detail or emotion a poem invoked and how it affected her at various stages of her life. I loved the concept. I wonder if it would be worth the venture to do the same with song lyrics and poetry... poetry and music speak to all of us and everyone has a story to tell. Set aside time to read this and truly explore the poems she shares. Reminds me— poetry sets free the disconsolate demons as easily as the buoyant beasts, let’s loose emotion in a simple twist of winding words on a crisp white page...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Norb Aikin

    Very enjoyable and informative. Easy to read in short spurts...the "memoir told through poems" format lends itself to a simple formula: personal anecdote, poem, synopsis/personal relation. While I'm not familiar with Bialsosky's work herself, her use of other poets to tell parts of her own story mean occasional introductions to other poets I've yet to read. Sad at times and (obviously) reflective very often, the only fault I can find with this book (which almost feels like I'm unfairly nitpickin Very enjoyable and informative. Easy to read in short spurts...the "memoir told through poems" format lends itself to a simple formula: personal anecdote, poem, synopsis/personal relation. While I'm not familiar with Bialsosky's work herself, her use of other poets to tell parts of her own story mean occasional introductions to other poets I've yet to read. Sad at times and (obviously) reflective very often, the only fault I can find with this book (which almost feels like I'm unfairly nitpicking) is the personal intros before each poem. They almost lack emotion and read very sterile and straight-forward...and for me that makes things a little more difficult when it comes to trying to fill in certain gaps or dot-connecting sometimes you think you might need. Still, it's an excellent book, and one I might find myself returning to every so often.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have never read a memoir until now, and let me say, I loved it! Poetry has always been a sore genre to me. I didn't really understand it and I thought that all poems had to rhyme. Because of this, I have protested to not write poetry. Although, this book has changed my view on poetry. I've realized that poetry doesn't have to make sense. Unlike stories, poetry captures a single moment in time. They tell of feelings and quick thoughts, not long narratives and complicated plots. So, yes, I really I have never read a memoir until now, and let me say, I loved it! Poetry has always been a sore genre to me. I didn't really understand it and I thought that all poems had to rhyme. Because of this, I have protested to not write poetry. Although, this book has changed my view on poetry. I've realized that poetry doesn't have to make sense. Unlike stories, poetry captures a single moment in time. They tell of feelings and quick thoughts, not long narratives and complicated plots. So, yes, I really really really enjoyed this memoir because it was so personal. It connected to poetry in a beautiful way and you could really tell that she is passionate about what she does. This book has inspired me to just write. Write without any hesitation or over thinking.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    "Nevertheless, for a decade, not a day goes by when I do not think about him or wish things could be different. I wonder, why do we love who we love? Why does love die? There is a fierce irrational attachment between us. I can't stand to think of him upset or hurt, and the thought of him with someone else is unbearable..." "I'm grateful for my books, my deep infatuation with literature, and my poems..." "What mysteries lie in togetherness?" "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / The "Nevertheless, for a decade, not a day goes by when I do not think about him or wish things could be different. I wonder, why do we love who we love? Why does love die? There is a fierce irrational attachment between us. I can't stand to think of him upset or hurt, and the thought of him with someone else is unbearable..." "I'm grateful for my books, my deep infatuation with literature, and my poems..." "What mysteries lie in togetherness?" "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in." - Robert Frost "...poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words." - Robert Frost "...the dark moment comes, it goes." - Robert Lowell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christy Woolum

    I can't remember how I learned of this book, but I bought it and put it into my bag to read on a quiet vacation. It was a perfect choice. Being a lover of poetry and memoir, I was pleased how Bialosky did such a superb job of connecting memoir pieces of her life to selections of poetry that had an impact on those pieces of life. I really loved this unique way to combine the genres. Not only did I enjoy or reenjoy many of my favorite poems, but also loved getting a peek into the window of her lif I can't remember how I learned of this book, but I bought it and put it into my bag to read on a quiet vacation. It was a perfect choice. Being a lover of poetry and memoir, I was pleased how Bialosky did such a superb job of connecting memoir pieces of her life to selections of poetry that had an impact on those pieces of life. I really loved this unique way to combine the genres. Not only did I enjoy or reenjoy many of my favorite poems, but also loved getting a peek into the window of her life. I am glad I bought this copy, but I will reread the poems as standalones again. Now I want to read other books by this author.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Merle

    An interesting way to relate your personal life story to poems. Bialosky writes each chapter in this book about different stages and experiences in her life. In each instance she uses a poet and their poetry to relate to her frame of mind and emotions in those circumstances. It is interesting that there is a poet and poems to fit all different situations in life. When you are happy or sad, about marriage and loss of a pregnancy and even suicide. Though looking at the book as a whole, there are m An interesting way to relate your personal life story to poems. Bialosky writes each chapter in this book about different stages and experiences in her life. In each instance she uses a poet and their poetry to relate to her frame of mind and emotions in those circumstances. It is interesting that there is a poet and poems to fit all different situations in life. When you are happy or sad, about marriage and loss of a pregnancy and even suicide. Though looking at the book as a whole, there are more poems about the unhappy experiences in life than the happy ones, or do we just look for something to fulfill us when we are down?

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