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BOOK REVIEW

'Intruder: Poems' by Jill Bialosky

A poet's considerations of the longing at the core of all human experience.

April 12, 2009|Bernadette Murphy

Jill Bialosky's powerful third book of poetry, "Intruder" (Alfred A. Knopf: 84 pp., $25), is sharply perceptive, reminding readers about the way life forces us to our knees while restoring us to our true selves. In haunting imagery, the poems strike chords of recognition, like the way we hold on to moments, hoping to make them last forever even as we watch them dissolve. The collection opens with "Demon Lover," in which a pair of lovers watches snow falling outside. "It won't end, she said. / Will you stay with me? / I won't leave, she said. / I must go then, said the lover."

Snow figures in these poems regularly as Bialosky limns a world in which beauty and connectedness regularly break hearts but, in that brokenness, dilation still occurs through which we're able to take in more of life. In "The Poet Contemplates the Sunflowers," Bialosky writes, "The poet likes sunflowers in the garden / where they are a part of the earth / . . . It was a mistake to take something from the soil / in which it grows and try to separate it / from the kingdom of its parenthood." In writing of these sunflowers, she tells us of knowing another as if from another lifetime: "The poet can see things he doesn't want her to see. / She knows what his body feels like and they have never touched." Bialosky spurs readers to wonder what will happen if this knowledge, like the sunflowers, were to be taken from its soil, if the door he holds the key to were to be unlocked.

Whether writing about her musician son, her husband or her garden, slumber parties or family vacations, Bialosky asks readers to pay attention and acknowledge the longing that fills so much of life. Taking inspiration from others -- reflections on great paintings or manuscripts of ancient poetry, arguments with heavy think- ers or lines taken from other poets -- Bialosky enters a hearty conversation and invites us to join in; she knits throughout this keenly live collection a visceral thread that ties the poet inextricably to her reader.

-- Bernadette Murphy

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