Book Review: Poetry Will Save Your Life

The world is full of poetry. The air is living with its spirit; and the waves dance to the music of its melodies, and sparkle in its brightness.

– James Gates Percival

PoetryWillSaveYourLife by JillBialosky.jpg

It was the end of May last year, and I was found meandering through Barnes and Noble, gift card in hand, on a hunt for a book that would speak to me in my time of need. On the rows of shelves, I sought solace between the pages of a book, an escape from the hell storm brewing in my personal life, hoping for a kindred soul in the form of a writer who knew sorrow to the depths I had been called to endure. When I feel desperate for story, sometimes, my mindful vacation is encouraged by a fictitious tale that engrosses my thoughts with its humor and lightheartedness. Other days, only a story about the truth of suffering turned into full-stop joy will suffice. On this particular late-Spring afternoon, poetry was my aim and focus.

Quietly and in a pensive mood, I scanned the relatively concise collection of poetry editions that my local bookstore procured, fingers touching the spines, contemplating the titles and author, noting the classics with a nod to memory and verse of my youth while considering titles of new, taking note of those that might fit what my literary heart was seeking. It wasn’t long before the jewel-toned spine of Jill Bialosky’s poetic memoir halted my desperate pursuit. Never had I considered a masterful marriage between poetry and memoir; yet my midday discovery proved its merit.

Immediately, I found an overstuffed chair and cracked the spine of Poetry Will Save Your Life. After reading through the Contents, Preface and first chapter, I knew I had to finish this book. There, I made the judgment that Bialosky’s words would stay with me for a long time, much as the poetry of my youth has never deserted me, verses of significance replaying over and over again in my mind—and my gut-reaction was correct: Poetry Will Save Your Life is indeed, a balm to the soul. Her insights on the poems and poets she includes are richly revealing; her thoughtfully chosen personal memories, a storied walkabout with poetry. The entire text invites a moving and beautiful symmetry, while offering a uniquely sound introduction to poetry for novices, that likewise, sparks restoration of awe for avid readers of the genre. Bialosky’s lyrical, magical prose has left an indelible mark on my sensitive soul, and I dare say, will touch the heart of anyone lucky to read this incredible work.

 

Poetry has given me more sustenance, meaning, joy, and consolation than I could hope for in this life, and in return, it is my hope that this book might open the door to poetry for others.

– Jill Bialosky, from the Preface, Poetry Will Save Your Life

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