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  • Written by Jill Bialosky
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  • Written by Jill Bialosky
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List Price: $12.99


On Sale: September 05, 2012
Pages: 96 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49143-5
Published by : Knopf Group E-Books Knopf
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Jill Bialosky follows her acclaimed debut collection, The End of Desire, with this powerful sequence of poems that probes the subterranean depths of eros. Gerald Stern has called Bialosky “the poet of the secret garden, the place, at once, of grace and sadness,” and here she enters that garden again, blending the classical with the contemporary in bold considerations of desire, fertility, virginity, and childbirth. Written against the idealizations of romantic love and motherhood, she tells of the loss of one child and the birth of another, the fierce passions of life before children, the seductions of suicide, and the comforts of art. Throughout, she braids and unbraids the distinct yet often inseparable themes of motherhood, love, and sexuality. “When he comes to me,” she writes,

half-filled glass
in his hand, wanting
me to touch him, I hear
you stir in your crib. I know what your body      
  feels like.
The soft skin of a flower, not bruised, not yet
  in torment . . .

Subterranean is the moving and intimate account of the emergence of a female psyche. Like the figures of Persephone and Demeter, who appear in various forms in these poems, Bialosky finds a strange beauty in grief, and emerges from the realms of temptation with insight and distinction.

From the Hardcover edition.


A Child Banishes the Darkness

The child presides over our lives like the
Blinding presence of tall white pines. In the
Low room she hovers; she is the dark un-
tamed place, like a thicket in a neglect-
ed wood where I fall to after each new
loss, the unforgotten dream buried like
a small toy under layers of frozen
un-raked leaves. She is the hidden secret
we don’t talk about because there is noth-
ing left to say. So much snow on the roofs
of tall buildings, along the cobbled streets,
in the eaves, and on the narrow bridge and
in the quiet palm of the newborn trees.
Nothing left to fear. All the earth is calm.


She did not know when it would happen
or how it would overtake her
or whether she would allow herself.
All I know is that she could not take it anymore
lying day after day underneath the hollow tree, waiting,
consumed by a kind of fire,
wondering if there is a type of love
that saves us or whether there was more
to the world than the familiar paradise
of her mother's complicated and vivid garden.
She smelled nectar in the labored-over
chrysanthemum and amaryllis,
but could not taste it.
I know if it were a flower it would have bloomed
in the cumulus overhead
void of volition and sin,
translucent as the filmy underside of a leaf.
If it were an animal she would have followed it,
but it was amorphous as feeling, weightless as dust,
turbulent as an entire undisclosed universe
radiating from the inner core beneath the earth
and, still, she longed for it.
Restless, she wandered from the elm
to the school-yard to smother an intensity
she could not squelch or simmer.
The wind swooned. Cement cracked. Deep into the underbelly
light traveled, no one in sight but his immense shadow,
and then a figure appeared out of the imagined dream
and matched it. So powerful, not for who he was
but for how her mind had magnified him
like a bug underneath cool glass,
every antenna and tentacle aquiver.
No sign of where she had been
or who she came from. Only knowledge
that it would never be re-created
except by this: putting words down on a page
and that she had forever compromised
the joy of summer for a dismal, endless winter.
And as the field of force gathered,
raping every last silvery bough,
tantalizing each limb,
she forgot even the feel of herself.
When it was over she felt moisture. Rain.

From the Hardcover edition.
Jill Bialosky

About Jill Bialosky

Jill Bialosky - Subterranean

Photo © Marion Ettlinger

Jill Bialosky is the author of the poetry collections The End of Desire and Subterranean, and her poems have appeared in journals such as The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly. She is also the author of two novels, House Under Snow and The Life Room, and is an editor at W. W. Norton. She lives in New York City.


"Jill Bialosky slips Persephone's pomegranate seeds into her own poet's hand, then dives deep in Subterranean, locating fragments of girlhood and womanhood to assemble into a mythic underworld collage. If Beatrice herself were a suburban American girl who preceded Dante on his journey, these lyrics might be what she would tell us. You never get to heaven without the descent, as she, the Greek gods, and Jill Bialosky know very well--and we come to know through this alluring, surprising second volume of poems, where this poet comes into her own."
--Molly Peacock

"These wonderful poems call to us at first with their lyric surfaces. But the music of their language is really thin ice and not far underneath is the dark, chill power of the book's true themes: sexuality, regret, the loss of children, the tainting of childhood, the nature of erotic pain. It is rare that a reader can be enchanted and endangered at the same time. This is a book of splendid and disturbing ambition."

--Eavan Boland

"Bialosky takes certain essentialities--spring and winter, suffering and desire, the surface life and the sweetly subtle pull of the life below--and makes them achingly local. The poems in SUBTERRANEAN reveal one woman's psychic territory, lucidly and passionately mapped."
--Kim Addonizio

"Jill Bialosky's second book of poems, SUBTERRANEAN, is an advance in psychic depth and expressive eloquence beyond her distinguished THE END OF DESIRE. Her new work fully establishes her voice: poignant, perilous, overwhelmingly aware of the extent to which our lives, inner and outer, are deflected by contingency, and by drives of love and death that govern us."
--Harold Bloom

From the Hardcover edition.

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