Those long afternoons we trudgedthrough the North Woods.Some days it was insufferable,the cold & still we traveled throughthe abyss where the Black Cherry, Pin Oak,& Red Maple were stripped of their clothes& the wind slapped our faces, the furiesblotting our eyes, no foreseeablepath in the snow & still we made the journey.Sometimes we stumbled upon morethan we wanted (how to explain a bodywith a blanket over a subway grate for warmthor the babble of the mind’s asylum, those decoratedwith gold of the privileged, those without shoes). Stillit was like an accident of joy, like a chorus gathering,like a gift from a mysterious god,it was like the unknown whisper of trees in the park’sforest. It was the shadowlife I feared.
“XXII” from ASYLUM: A PERSONAL, HISTORICAL, NATURAL INQUIRY IN 103 LYRIC SECTIONS by Jill Bialosky
Copyright © 2020 by Jill Bialosky.
Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
All rights reserved.
Jill Bialosky is the author of four acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently The Players; three critically acclaimed novels, most recently, The Prize; a New York Times best-selling memoir, History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life; and Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir. Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, O Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, and Paris Review, among others. She coedited, with Helen Schulman, the anthology Wanting a Child. She is an Executive Editor and Vice President at W. W. Norton & Company. Her work has been a finalist for the James Laughlin Prize, The Patterson Prize, and Books for a Better Life. In 2014, she was honored by the Poetry Society of America for her distinguished contribution to poetry. She lives in New York City.
"Asylum’s form—a hybrid, nonlinear series of numbered, untitled lyric poems and fragments—gives Bialosky’s lyric instincts a more epic platform, allowing her to play daringly and inquisitively with time and place . . . By turns symphonic, operatic, Dantean, intimate, timeless, and mythic, this quietly ambitious project is very much a book for the autumn of 2020."
—Lisa Russ Spaar, Los Angeles Review of Books
“As we grapple with a new normal, Jill Bialosky’s poetry might be the antidote we all need. Her new book Asylum, a compilation of prose and poetry, evokes despair, survival—and most importantly, hope.”
—Katie Couric, Wake Up Call
“Haunted by her sister’s suicide and by political and environmental collapse, Bialosky finds refuge in nature and language, all the ways ‘the mind seeks / to keep itself from torture.'”
—The New York Times Book Review