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

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

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

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

by Jill Bialosky


    Qualifies for Free Shipping
    Check Availability at Nearby Stores

Related collections and offers


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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525657095
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/04/2020
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 1,123,772
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

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 Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Harvard Review, and The Paris Review, among others. She coedited, with Helen Schulman, the anthology Wanting a Child. She is 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.

Table of Contents

Prelude 3

Part I.

I There she is, the woman who once inhabited 7

II Even the rats will not emerge in the whiteout- 8

III It was snowing in St. Petersburg … 9

IV Together we circled 10

V Of the childless mother 11

VI After the wind tore up 12

VII Each season with its privileges 13

VIII We can't see anything but ice 14

IX & in the mornings sometimes awoke so cold 15

X We were told there were things hidden from us 16

XI In Iowa City, the restaurant 17

XII Why I thought I needed to rent a third-floor attic 18

XIII Once a bird flew in, its wings 19

XIV Faith turned on the milkman who delivered 20

XV Because she believed (she was like this) 21

XVI From my window on the third floor 22

XVII I knew by then 23

XVIII Like a flock of dispossessed 24

XIX Some cultures believed … 25

XX If someone was kind enough … 26

XXI Beneath a canopy 27

XXII Those long afternoons we trudged 28

XXIII Washing dishes, occasionally looking out at the wood 29

XXIV & so we looked for patterns … 30

XXV Trees breathe in oxygen … 31

XXVI We wanted him 32

XXVII Pollen, like sperm to humans … 33

XXVIII In tree pose, otherwise known as Vriksasana … 34

XXIX Under microscope, magnifying glass 35

XXX We kept our heads down 36

XXXI Should sleep come 37

Part II.

XXXII Like just awaking 41

XXXIII Suicide isn't an issue that can simply be … 42

XXXIV Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas … 43

XXXV Every April a requiem, a re-awaking of dawn, the same chorus 44

XXXVI A summer in which my mother's mind 45

XXXVII Marriage of trees 46

XXXVIII Because her mother was sleeping the sleep of the quiescent 47

XXXIX Daffodils, survivors, of the cruellest month 48

XL When he was small 49

XLI The boy who arrived 50

XLII Like the snap of a branch 51

XLIII Because it was Christmas & I was home 52

XLIV Turquoise plates extremely rare, as the orange footed 53

Part III.

XLV Because the Nile River ran red with blood 57

XLVI Because gods are threatening to tear down branches 58

XLVII Friends take turns 59

XLVIII What I saw were naked women … 60

XLIX Another spray of violence 61

L What are words when they meet the action 62

LI Fire is 1/60 of hell, honey is 1/60 of the manna, Shabbat is 1/60 63

LII Pollen is everywhere 64

LIII Pretty, pretty robin! 65

LIV Hustling her new book on NPR, a marriage counselor 66

LV Snow of childhood 67

LVI In Yoga class the teacher says 68

Part IV.

LVII To avoid the perils 71

LVIII I don't know if I was still in dream 72

LIX A pigeon flew overhead 73

LX Once we name it … 74

LXI Metamorphized into trees 75

LXII What if it is those who survive … 76

LXIII The wife of a friend 77

LXIV This family did not return to the city in which the fire started 78

LXV Because the only way 79

LXVI An iPhone buzzes 80

LXVII In basements, backseats of cars 81

LXVIII I was washing dishes in the sink 82

LXIX We can see the window she peered out 83

LXX Listening to Symphony Hall 84

LXXI One winter, years later, after the transmission blew 85

Part V.

LXXII The monarchs are born. They are smaller this year. 89

LXXIII Butterflies sometimes mate as soon as the male emerges 90

LXXIV In Baddha Konasana, otherwise known as butterfly pose, we sit up straight 91

LXXV Because vines glue to the tree's 92

LXXVI Beneath the soil is an underground system of roots … 93

LXXVII Truth is destiny, says 94

LXXVIII In Warrior One, Virabhadrasana … 95

LXXIX Every year we wrap gilded rhododendron 96

LXXX A drawer of junk jewelry, combs 8c brushes 97

LXXXI And by came an Angel who had a bright key 98

LXXXII Because we did not know 99

LXXXIII The Yoga teacher says we are all unique 100

LXXXIV The winter where the sparrows quieted, in which the snow 101

LXXXV Just like the turning of the clock, ticking away of time 102

LXXXVI In 1939 Jews reached the landmark population … 103

LXXXVII During the blackout, we were alone … 104

LXXXVIII Paul Celan, a Romanian-Jewish poet growing up in the shadow 105

LXXXIX Flail, snap, struggle 106

XC I don't know if they were weeds or flowers … 107

XCI The mind turns inward 108

XCII What of those unable to sleep … 109

XCIII (thoughts, you torment me) 110

XCIV Destiny is bigger 111

XCV Raining, raining, raining, raining 112

XCVI By the pool 113

XCVII The night was dark, no father was there 114

XCVIII Black milk of daybreak we … 115

XCIX Look, here come the cranes … 116

C In which women 117

CI Once due to disease … 118

CII In the primal woods (abandon all hope 119

CIII & relief flooded my fears (breathe) & brought me 120

Notes 123

Acknowledgments 126

From the B&N Reads Blog

Customer Reviews