Asy­lum: A per­son­al, his­tor­i­cal, nat­ur­al inquiry in 103 lyric sections

Jill Bialosky

  • From the Publisher
January 13, 2020

This book-length sequence by the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed poet is a seek­er’s sto­ry, reveal­ing per­son­al and his­tor­i­cal trau­mas and how we search for under­stand­ing and mean­ing in their wake.

In Asy­lum, poet Jill Bialosky embarks on a Vir­gilian jour­ney, build­ing a nar­ra­tive sequence from 103 ele­gant poems and prose sec­tions that cohere in their inten­si­ty and their need to explore dark­ness and sus­te­nance both. Tak­en togeth­er, these pierc­ing pieces — about her nascent call­ing as a writer; her sis­ter’s sui­cide and its still unfold­ing after­math; the hor­ror unleashed by World War II; the life cycle of the monarch but­ter­fly; and the woods where she seeks asy­lum — form a mov­ing sto­ry, pow­er­ful­ly braid­ing despair, sur­vival, and hope. Bialosky con­sid­ers the oppo­si­tions that gov­ern us: our rea­son and unrea­son, our need to pre­serve and destruct. What are words when they meet the action of what they attempt to mod­i­fy?” she asks, explor­ing the pos­si­ble salve of lan­guage in the face of pain and grief. What Asy­lum deliv­ers is a form of hard-won grace and an aware­ness of the cost of extreme vio­lence, inex­plic­a­ble loss, and the mirac­u­lous cycles of life, in work that car­ries Bialosky’s art to a new lev­el of urgency and achievement.

Discussion Questions